Ashes Cricket 2009likePEGI3 Developer Codemasters Publisher Codemasters Genre Sports Platform Nintendo Wii Release Out Now Now that the Aussies are packing their cases, minus one urn full of burnt wood, you're most likely going to want to stock up on memorabilia of this day in many forms. But why buy coins, DVDs and mugs proudly proclaiming our victory when you can relive the whole experience with Codemaster's take on the proceedings. Ashes Cricket 2009 comes in many flavours on the Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and PC, however I've decided to pick the Nintendo Wii version, just because it's much more fun.

I thought only batsmen had strokes...
I should take a moment to explain a crushingly disappointing note about the game; if you're tempted to buy the game on the idea that it will play something similar to that of Wii Sports' Baseball, you're heading into a world of hurt and heart-break. The swinging motion of the controller merely equates to what could very easily be pushed onto a button press. However, at least it's more fun to pretend, right? ... Right? Either way, timing is your main ally or foe, depending on how rhythmically challenged you are.

I'm no real sports buff, as older views will instantly tell you, however, even I found fun out of this game. It doesn't take long to work out how the game (of Cricket and the Ashes game itself) operates and you'll find yourself climbing the difficulty scale fairly quickly. However, if you ever wanted to let off steam and utterly humiliate the CPU, the easiest difficulty option; "Village" is right up your street. Roping in a second player is marginally more fun than playing against CPU controlled foes, however has other areas which will soon annoy and frustrate.

Fielders for instance, it's nice that Codemasters included the option to shift around your fielders if the computer doesn't just automatically adjust your fielders for maximum potential itself. However, it's a feature which really gets dull. And really, what's the point? In real life, if a fielder sees the ball coming his way, he may, I don't know... Move? Move towards the ball? I'm just guessing. No, instead only one fielder will chase the ball. One fielder, all the way. No switching priority to a fielder much closer or just another fielder moving at all. Then the AI takes an eternity just to work out who it wants to throw the ball to. In the mean time, the second human player is racking up runs like no tomorrow. Sure, both players are bound by the same useless fielding, but it is highly frustrating.

Looks great... Until you realise they haven't bowled the ball yet.
Then there's the problem of moving those fielders around. To do so, you click the radar present when you're bowling and manually selecting fielders and placing them where you need them to be. To see more of the field you have to aim at the sides of the screen. The screen moves far too slowly and the area to aim at to move the screen is so small you're more often than not just aiming off-screen. Some pre-set fielding positions would have helped a lot and aided the simulation actually feel more like a proper game of cricket.

But, now the down-ers are out of the way, let's talk about all the good points of the game. First of all, it's a lot of fun. Get two players together who know something about cricket and you've got a pretty good face-off on your hands. It's a very easy game to pick up as well. All you'll really need to know about the game is this; when batting, hold the B trigger on the Wii remote when swinging to hit 'em for 6 (get the ball to the boundary without it bouncing), press A for a defensive block. When bowling; hold B for a fast run up, hold A for a slower run up. The rest you can pretty much make up as you go along. Those who know about cricket will be heavily rewarded though, with much care and attention put into each bowling style and length of the ball when played.

Gameplay is all based upon timing and skill. Batsmen have a aiming bar, which shows how early/late a swing was for the played ball. Different bowlers mean different timing techniques have to be learnt, however the timing bar usually negates the advantage the bowler has by introducing you to a new bowling style. Hitting the ball for 6 isn't always as easy as it seems, with timing often required to be perfect to pull them off (as in real life). There's also advanced options of aiming the ball when swinging to find blind spots in the field and the ability to move the batsmen in front of the wicket. Going for runs couldn't be simplier either, just hit the ball wide and tap the B trigger to run, press A to cancel the run or dive for the crease after the run has been half completed (just be careful they are half-way). When bowling, you have time to select the range of your shot and have a timing gauge to enable you to bowl that perfect shot. You can twist the Wii Remote mid-bowl to give the ball swing and shine the ball before delivery to help that swing on its way.

Pictured: Uncanny Valley Umpire
Being Ashes cricket, the game doesn't include English county teams, only national teams. But even then you have a wide range of countries to chose from. Teams often include players no longer actually playing for that team, but are considered modern legends of the sport (another nice touch). You can take each team out for a friendly match, try a hand at different scenarios in which you have no control over what teams play and the Ashes mode itself. There's a fair bit of content for one to get through and much like all sports games, replay value is the primary factor within the game. The controls are so easy and intuitive that you can easily pick up the game after long periods of inactivity and still play to a fairly decent standard.

Visually the game is par for the course, the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 versions of the game are obviously better looking, but you won't be disappointed too much with the loss of visual awe in the game. You can clearly make out what needs to be seen, the user interface is nice and clear. The only minor down point about the visuals that could be said is the uncanny valley-look of the umpire, who looks like he was moulded out of playdough. Other players do hold a candle next to their real-life counterparts, with great detail put into each model.

Much can't be said for audio in the game, there's a large soundbank of cometary and different commentators to keep you amused during sessions, however there are a lot of voice samples which will just keep popping up over and over again. The same goes for player voices. Each team has one set of voice clips for just about every player. None of them really sound anything like the countrymen they're trying to represent, however. Pressing the face buttons or performing good throws or catching/bowling a player out will trigger a voice sample which will be played out of the Wii Remote speaker for the corresponding player.

In the end, Ashes Cricket 2009 is just a sports game. If you don't like the sport, you probably wont like this game. However, for those somewhat interested in cricket, Ashes Cricket 2009 will give you many hours of fun with friends or family. A great little game to pull out at a party or just when you're bored on another rainy summers day. But overall, the game has a great quantity of content, almost all of it is of great quality as well. Well worth a purchase and a definite rent for any cricket fan this summer.