Let's face it; cricket is a bit dull really. Yes, we might all get a bit excited when there's a test match, especially against the Aussies, but that soon subsides (usually once we've been thrashed) and then we toddle off in search of something more interesting to occupy our time, like looking for patterns in the wallpaper. Even the organisers of the game recognise the tedium, which is why they've come up with ever more compact ways of reinvigorating the game, cutting back from full-on tests to one-day internationals, limited overs matches and, most recently, 20-20 games. Whilst this shortening is welcome, Blast'Em Cricket suggests they haven't gone nearly far enough. Eschewing any pretence to simulating the game, Blast 'Em offers instead a fun reaction and timing challenge and adorns it with the name and image (but not much else!) of our latest sporting hero, all-rounder Andrew 'Freddie' Flintoff (if you don't know the name think modern-day Ian 'Beefy' Botham, pre-charity walks and shredded wheat adverts).
Cast as a digital version of the giant cricketer, you have to face a series of 'overs' which consist of cricket balls and, um, arrows being fired in your direction. The game is viewed from a side-on perspective focusing on the batsman, so you see wickets and the crease but not much else. When the arrows pass near the bat you need to press the corresponding direction on your phone pad and when a ball appears you need to press the fire-button to hit it. Its reminiscent of the dance-mat rhythm games available for console or at your local arcade. Manage to time your button-presses right and you'll get a score (the closer to the prime spot the better), manage to clear all the arrows successfully and then strike the ball and you'll hit a 6, clearing the ball out of the ground. Manage that and you'll receive a light hearted image showing just how far your ball has travelled, maybe into the scoreboard, the stands or even a plane! More importantly, you'll also fill up a bat-shaped meter at the top of the screen. Keep this bar filled above the required target when the strict time limit runs out and you'll clear the level, unlocking the next. Each level is named after a cricketing nation (from the frankly appalling Canada and Holland to the smug world number ones – the Aussies) and gets accordingly trickier with arrows and balls coming thicker and faster.
And that's about it to be honest. There's a separate 'hit 'em for 6' version of the game which essentially asks you to get as high a score as possible within a limited number of increasingly quick overs, but once you've played this a couple of times and unlocked most of the levels in the main game there's not that much reason to come back, especially as the speed starts to ramp up to frustratingly unforgiving levels. The addition of some variation, maybe an opportunity to bowl somehow or a multiplayer option could have added extra depth and made this an essential purchase. As it stands it's undeniably a fun and refreshing short-term challenge, but has about as much longevity as England's middle order against Australia.