by William Thompson
reviewed on PC
Cricket is life
Ever since I was young, I have enjoyed cricket, whether it being playing with some mates, watching on TV, or playing cricket games on smaller screen on my PC. Although fun, none of the PC cricket games can match the enjoyment of leather hitting willow in real life, but the team at ProYuga have developed a VR cricket game in the hope to change that – with iB Cricket.
At present, iB Cricket is more of a batting game than a full-blown cricket game. There is a bowling scenario, but at this point in time, it is in Beta testing and has not been fully implemented into a game structure. But having said that, the batting modes are impressive. From the tutorial to training, and then all the way through to full fifty over matches against international quality bowling attacks, there is the opportunity for endless batting.
For myself, after watching the tutorial, I immersed myself in the campaign mode. In campaign mode, players play through a series of challenges before taking part in mini tournaments, with players required to defeat a series of opponents, firstly within a group of six and then through to a semi-final and grand-final.
I found that the Campaign mode to be a pseudo training feature, allowing players to learn the skills against a variety of bowling types, starting with local league trundlers through to international quality fast bowlers who can swing it in at 150 km/h. The challenges provided in the campaign mode are quite varied as well, so it is not always a matter of trying to smash as many runs as you can. The challenges in the campaign include scoring runs in designated zones, surviving several overs without being dismissed, or scoring a required number of boundaries or singles within a period. To complete each of the levels within the campaign, players must take part in mini tournaments, with players required to defeat a series of opponents, firstly within a group of six and then through to a semi-final and grand-final. Out of all the challenges within the campaign, I found that the zone challenge was the one that took me several turns to complete, particularly when there were zones square of the wicket.
Timing is everything.
Hitting the gaps between the fielders is important, but getting the timing right will determine whether your shot just clears the square, or races along to the fence – or indeed, over it. Unlike other PC (and console) cricket games that has players hitting the shot selection button at the right time, iB Cricket requires payers to swing the controller at the optimal time and in the right direction so that they can score. Dissecting the field can be difficult at times, and taking an aerial route can be attempted, but if players do not time the shot correctly, the fielders will come into play.
For the most of my shots, the ball went in the desired (or expected) direction, particularly against the lower quality medium pace bowlers. However, there were a few times when I felt that I had perfected a beautiful leg glance down to fine leg only to hear the death rattle of the stumps and then look around to see them splayed everywhere. I also found it difficult hitting the ball to cover or pulling the ball through mid-wicket, however, the pitches and the bowler quality may have had some say in that.
Once players feel like they have built up their skills sufficiently, players can then set about playing some quick matches or online PvP matches and tournaments. The quick matches allow players to take on various opponents in a match simulation from anywhere between five overs and fifty overs. When playing against the AI (both in the campaign and in quick matches), iB Cricket comes complete with a range of difficulty settings. There are actually two versions of difficulty, one that determines the level of quality of the bowlers and fielders, and one that gives players a 'bat shield.' The bat shield effectively increases the size of the bat, which aids newcomers to cricket as well as those who need a bit of practise before reducing the bat shield as they get the hang of the bowlers and the pitch conditions.
Watching as the ball races across the outfield
Although some of the characterisations are reasonably blocky, particularly when they run right in front of you, iB Cricket does a wonderful job of immersing the player into the game. A variety of stadiums are available to play in, starting from local grounds with no crowds, through to huge stadiums packed full of cheering fans. But along with the different settings, the pitch itself can be quite varied. With a green top offering a bit of swing to the quick bowlers, whilst a dryer pitch allows the ball to spin a bit more. Each of the different pitch types offers some variation to the batting craft, with players requiring to adjust their batting tactics in the different conditions.
In addition to the stadiums and pitches – including the scoreboards which contain all the important information, the commentary helps to make the game feel like a televised event. For each delivery, players are given a run down on whether they played a nice shot or how well the bowler bowled. Although on occasions, the commentary can be conflicting. On more than one occasion the bowler delivered an inswinger, which I duly dispatched to the boundary rope, only for the commentator to advise what a lovely inswinger it was. When playing at local grounds, players can be heard cheering when taking a wicket, whilst when playing at large filled stadiums, this is drowned out by the cheering of the crowd. It is just little touches like this that increase the realism in the game.
Rolling the arm over
iB Cricket is primarily a batting game, but there is a bowling area which is still in Beta. At this point, it does a reasonable job of depicting fast bowling in the nets. Players move the controller in an up and down motion like they are running in and then swing their arm over in a bowling motion before pressing one of the controller buttons. At present, I found that in my normal bowling motion, I was bowling too many bouncers and short balls. Releasing the ball earlier than I normally would did fix things up somewhat, but it did feel unnatural.
Acknowledge the crowd
For a sport that has more than a billion fans across the world, there aren't too many cricket games available for PC let alone those with VR capability, so iB Cricket certainly scratches an itch for cricket fans. However, iB Cricket does a wonderful job of allowing cricket fans to practice the art of batting even when the weather outside is not conducive to playing. With the wonderfully captured stadiums and pitches, iB Cricket is a highly immersive batting game. This can be further enhanced with the use of a special bat attachment for the Meta controller that effectively transforms the controller into a mini bat with a full handle. This is a cricket game that will get players as close to the real thing whilst still being in the comfort of their own homes, and with the developers continuing to improve the game post-release, it can only get better.
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Lots of game types and difficulty settings
Bowling is not fleshed out (yet)