Batsman against bowler. The thud of leather against willow. The clatter of yet another English wicket falling.
Yes, the 2014 T20 cricket world cup in Bangladesh gets underway in earnest this week, so why not get in the mood for it by having a slogabout on one of the many cricket game apps.
But wait! There’s a lot of dross out there – some of it as bad as the current England batting line-up. So, in act of unparalleled selflessness, we’ve spent the past three weeks playing nothing but cricket games in order that we can guide you towards the best of them. Read on to find out what they are…
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5) Cricket Unlimited
The Play Store and App Store are stuffed with cricket games which look great but don’t play very well, and Cricket Unlimited is one such example. Your batsman is fixed in place and although you can swipe in any direction to send the ball thataway, the lack of foot movement makes it feel a bit samey. It’s also too easy: just press the Power Boost button before a shot and you’re pretty much guaranteed a boundary. Bowling is similarly flawed - you choose the power, pitch and direction of a ball, but there’s no distinction made between bowling type.
Odd decisions abound too – CPU players attempt crazy runs, blatant LBWs are turned down and in one game, J.Ruahut (there are no real player names here. Presumably that’s Joe Root) was given out stumped despite not having moved from the crease. Still, there are plenty of game options available and it’s a decent enough way to pass 10 minutes. Just don’t expect it to hold your attention for much longer than that.
Stuff says ✭✭✭✩✩
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4) IPL Cricket Fever 2013
IPL Cricket Fever 2013 is one of about a dozen cricket sims made by IndiaGames, and frankly we can't see much difference between them all. Still, this is probably the pick of them, bringing the razzmatazz of India's IPL to your mobile in some style. So you get cheerleaders, a multitude of modern flamboyant shots such as the scoop and the helicopter and more ads than a Saturday night on ITV. Seriously, you have to skip two before the game even starts.
Once it does begin, you get a fairly good game, with a reasonable amount of batting and bowling control, nice graphics, genuine player names and even rudimentary commentary at key moments. Unfortunately, a few key flaws cost it dearly. When batting, there seems little relationship between the shot you play and where the ball ends up - even Chris Gayle would struggle to hit some of the shots that are possible here - and when bowling the CPU runs itself out about once an over. And while you can earn power-ups to boost your speed and six-hitting ability, the constant demands for in-app purchases begin to grate quite quickly.
Stuff says ✭✭✭✩✩
3) International Cricket Captain 2012
ICC is the only game here that really nails the most important thing about cricket: stats. It's a management sim rather than an arcade smackabout – think Football Manager not FIFA - so you’ll spend your time in it organising training, picking squads and setting tactics. And to do all that, you'll want to immerse yourself in the numbers. Lovely, lovely numbers. Within the game you’ll find all-time averages for almost every professional player alive, meaning you could happily spend hours looking at it without actually starting a game. And what happy hours they’d be.
Once you drag yourself away from the stats and start playing, you have the option of skipping through matches or following them via text updates, with key moments presented as TV-style highlights. And although you’re not technically controlling the players, you can have a major impact on the on-field action by setting batting and bowler aggression levels and positioning fielders. Alright, so £4.99 is on the pricey side – especially given that all of the other games here are available for free, albeit most of them in Lite form – but what price many contended hours spent geeking out over averages? Just one question - can we have ICC 2014 now please?
Stuff says ✭✭✭✭✭
2) World Cricket Championship
Looking for a realistic arcade cricket game? Then WCC is pretty much your only choice. You get full control over your batting, with footwork, shot selection and timing all coming together in the way they should - hitting and hoping is very much a last resort. A clever confidence meter that builds up the longer you're in also plays a major role; attempt an ambitious shot too early in the innings and you'll soon be trudging back to the pavilion.
Bowling isn't quite so rewarding, but you still get plenty of control over the deliveries and there's a real thrill when you send down three dot balls then tempt the batsman into chasing a wide one. Or at least we got a thrill from it. Maybe we've been playing a little too much app cricket lately.
The graphics are slick and detailed, animation is excellent and the whole thing has a quality, well-produced feel, with commentary, replays and the ability to edit player names. But be warned - it's hard. Stupidly so at first. Persevere, though, and you'll be rewarded with an entertaining, playable cricket sim that gets almost every aspect of the game right.
Stuff says ✭✭✭✭✭
1) Stick Cricket
The Twenty20 of the cricket apps world, Stick Cricket shows tradition and realism the door and welcomes in big-hitting fun for a thrill-a-second party. Gameplay is simple: you control an endearingly angular stick figure with the sole aim of chasing down the opposition’s total. They fire down deliveries; you smack them towards the boundary. And that’s it – no bowling, no fielding, no running, no appeals, no fancy replays. Nothing except the ball whizzing towards you and the bat sending it skywards. Well, if you can hit it – timing is everything here, and it’s all too easy to miss the cherry altogether or whack it straight down a fielder’s throat.
A variety of game modes (including a really tough World Cup sim) keep it fresh, and there are in-app purchases to add more. You can also buy new bats to improve your timing – although we’d steer clear of the slightly overpriced £20.99 SC Elite Limited Edition. So essentially it’s a one-trick pony – but a really exciting pony that you won’t tire of riding.
Stuff says ✭✭✭✭✭