Previews

Hands on with Michael Vaughan Pro Cricket '08

Another season at the top for mobile's favourite cricket franchise?

Hands on with Michael Vaughan Pro Cricket '08

'The bowler's Holding, the batsman's Willey,' said the commentator, before falling off his chair. Actually, there's some doubt as to whether this unimprovable blooper was ever actually made on air, but it says something about cricket that one of its greatest contributions to the world, real or otherwise, is not some macho accomplishment, but the greatest pun of all time. It's a gentleman's game.

That's why we don't understand it.

Of those more likely to comprehend this ancient ritual of runs and duckies, sports game publisher Player One is surely the most obvious candidate, having released three very creditable games in the last three years with the endorsement of a man called a Michael Vaughan.

While the previous three were very capably developed by Distinctive Developments, who can also boast FIFA 08 and Metal Gear Acid 3D in its library, the reigns have been passed for this fourth outing to the equally capable Shadow Light Games, the team behind Ronnie O'Sullivan 2008 and Table Tennis Star.

On first impressions, the difference is striking. While lacklustre looks arguably let the previous Michael Vaughan games down, the latest edition has Shadow Light's typical high sheen. Pre-rendered graphics share the screen with real-time 3D, and the game's cameras are positioned so as to reproduce the look of television coverage as closely as possible, replays and all.

And the improvements aren't only aesthetic. Michael Vaughan Pro Cricket '08 is built on a whole new code base, and the timings of the batting and bowling have also been refined, so that, in principle, it feels a lot more fluid.

I certainly didn't have any complaints when I recently had the opportunity to play it. There are several different ways of bowling and batting, all accessible by tapping or double-tapping the '2', '4', '6', and '8' keys, and despite being immediately accessible it appears to have plenty of depth. You can tailor your bowling style to the batsman in front of you, for instance, and fast bowlers even have bouncers at their disposal.

Extras like Hawk Eye are also included, and for stattos there's a broadcast style 'Score Worm' to graphically tell you how you're doing.

It seems in capable hands, then, but only an extended play will tell us whether Shadow Light Games will knock Distinctive's distinguished forerunners for six or whether it'll be caught out for a duck on the first innings. Or something.

The game's due out in June. Click 'Track it!' to get word of our review.