There are many sports fans out there that are under the firm belief that they can manage their favourite team better than the current regime. That’s where the growing list of sport management simulators comes into play to help players get a glimpse of this lifestyle. Popularised by the number of Football Managers around over the years several other sports have felt that they too need managerial franchises such as Pro Cycling, OOTP Baseball, World Basketball and of course cricket. Originally developed by Chris Childs as a final year university project the game was released back in 1998, Cricket Captain 2015 is the latest version now coming from developer Childish Things.
Before staring out with this review I’d just like to point out that I’m not really a cricket fan and have very little knowledge of the sport. In fact the only cricketers I know are Phil Tufnell, Michael Vaughan and Freddie Flintoff (who kept refusing my transfer offers). To help I was forced to recruit a friend and fan of the series to explain even the most basic rules of the sport. With that disclaimer out of the way on with the review!
Starting at the top when you first start up the game you are given a series of standard settings such as difficulty, team captaincy (essentially asking if you want to manage the international team simultaneously or earn it) and of course your team (Glamorgan naturally). After these initial questions you’re going to be spending quite some time spending your team’s budget on making some contract offers and organising your squad’s annual budget. After that you’re essentially dumped straight into the crux of the game without any help or tutorials whatsoever and are expected to know straight away what to do. This can be rather off-putting if you’re new to the series or new to the genre as a whole.
Cricket Captain 2015’s UI is a pleasant surprise as the design is very minimalist yet it clearly conveys all of the information in an easy to read way. There is a great amount of depth in terms of stats. Each player has career averages, career High Scores. On top of that the new version even boosts the aggressive side of the sport which (I’m told) is seen more in modern games of cricket. During games is when the interface really stands out. Being able to view interactive HUD elements is a neat feature displaying the bounce of the last 6 bowls, the marking of your fielders and bowling patterns. The only real issue with the UI is that you can’t drag and drop like you can in other games. Instead if you want to swap a player out you need to find them, click on them, select swap out, locate who you want to switch him with, and confirm the swap. All of this leads to a very slow and tedious experience.
Match gameplay consists of two stages; the Batting innings and the Bowling innings. During the Batting innings your control over the game is fairly limited. Your only method of control is via setting batting aggression. Batting with more aggression will mean scoring runs more quickly, but will also increase the chance of the batsman getting out, so the key is to assess the match situation and to set both batsmen’s aggression levels accordingly. Bowling on the other hand gives you slightly more control. You are able to make several decisions about where your players will bowl, where the ball will bounce and which side of the wickets to bowl from. It is also possible to completely customise field placements meaning that you can spend a lot of time changing every single aspect of your bowling attack. Don’t worry if this doesn’t sound fun to you, it isn’t necessary to get into this much detail.
During games key moments will be presented as “highlights”. You can choose to view every ball in this way although this is not recommended as there are a very limited selection of animations and commentary clips or you can choose to see only boundaries or just wickets. While these animations can be a nice break from the monotonous game breakdown and visual UI highlights they’re not really great to watch and get old quick. You enter the stadium filled by a crowd of lifeless people and players and watch them perform a short series of basic tasks before one side throws up their arms simultaneously in celebration. After six or seven times you’ve essentially seen everything on offer with these. I realise that this element isn’t really the key feature of these games but is it really too much to ask for players to be a little more animated instead of running around like they have rods for spines.
One thing that you’ll come to notice quite quickly is that the game’s missing a soundtrack. Other than the quiet mumblings of the crowd, dull commentary and the team’s victory cries the entire game play out in silence although I’ve come to understand that this isn’t a major focus of these types of games. So what are the key changes made since last year’s version? This time you get the usual updated team sheets along with an enhanced Indian domestic league system and improved 3D graphics. The latter of these is the most noticeable with a “new rendering and lighting system” although those familiar with the previous game will notice the same old animations and really they’ve just added shadows and updated the textures.
If you already own a previous version of Cricket Captain it’s rather difficult to recommend this game unless you’re after up to date team statistics. However for those that are fans of cricket and don’t own a previous this is worth trying out. Once you get over the initial hurdle and get a feel for the game you’ll find an enjoyable experience that’ll steal several hours of yours time. Just don’t expect anything too flashy.
This review is based off a review code of Cricket Captain 2015 provided by Kiss Ltd.
This review was originally published on the site GamersFTW which unfortunately has now been taken down. It’s been published on my personal blog, DanielVaughanReviews, out of respect for the developers/publishers that were kind enough to give me review copy of their game.