by William Thompson
previewed on PC
A Big hit
When you ask people of my generation what their favourite basketball game is, the answer is invariably NBA Jam. Whether you were a basketball fan or not, NBA Jam was a fun, easy to play arcade version of the sport, full of insane power-ups and known for the large oversized heads of the basketball stars of the day. Big Bash Boom aims to recreate the same simple, enjoyable gameplay within the cricketing format of Australia’s Big Bash League. We were lucky enough to get the opportunity to head on down to Big Ant’s Melbourne offices and get a hands-on with the game that will be released on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and our favourite here at Hooked Gamers, the PC (via Steam).
Right from the outset, Big Bash Boom has that NBA Jam vibe, with company CEO Ross Symons even mentioning that NBA Jam had been an inspiration. The Big Bash League is not all about big hitting and big wickets, but is about the full spectacle of fireworks and theatrics within he stadium. This flows through in Big Bash Boom as the sixes feature a trail of colour, batsmen who have some weird and wonderful celebratory dances after hitting a maximum, and fielders who wear a range of crazy hats in the field.
Big Bash Boom is fully licensed from Cricket Australia and features all teams and players from the BBL and WBBL. It beats playing as Adam Gilchurch in my old favourite Ricky Ponting International Cricket. All players have been subjected to Big Ant’s facial capture procedures and their likenesses are wonderfully accurate. It was a pleasure to be able to quickly identify each of the players. Even the women (who in most sports games get the rough end of the stick) look like their namesakes. Well, apart from the NBA Jam style oversized heads. Favourites such as Glenn Maxwell or Elise Perry are just as recognizable as the up-and-comers D’arcy Short, Jake Lehmann and Holly Ferling.
As well as all the players, Big Ant have captured all the stadiums featured within the BBL 2018/19 fixture, including Perth’s new Optus Stadium, and Melbourne’s newly renamed Marvel Stadium, each full of cheering fans. I was also pleasantly surprised to notice that the developers have shortened the boundaries for the WBBL games. When I pointed this out, I was informed that all the rules of BBL have been adhered to, with the exception of the power-ups.
The power-ups are pretty cool and add to the arcade feel of the game. When bowling or batting, good performances, such as sixes and fours when batting, are rewarded with an increasing power meter at the top of the screen. Once the meter is full, players can activate a power-up. Batsmen get bonuses such as double points, whilst the bowlers get abilities such as Extreme Speed. These bonuses last for up to four deliveries and it can be fun when they pay off.
Controlling the game
Cricket games have often been cursed with difficult control schemes, which have taken the enjoyment out of the game. Big Bash Boom has been made to be fun, and the controls implement a rather basic (especially on the easier difficulty settings) setup that allows anyone to pick up and play. When handed the controller after an initial show of the game, it took me just three deliveries to get the timing right and smack a ball to the fence. OK, so my next shot went straight to the fielder at Deep Mid-Wicket, but I was at least in the groove. Batting is simply a matter of selecting a shot type, aiming where you want to hit and then swinging lustily at the right time. Bowling is similarly easy. Bowlers get to select which type of delivery to bowl, where to bowl it and then attempt to pitch at the right length. The higher difficulty levels require more precise timing, but the controls are the same.
Along with the zany celebration dances, the crazy hats and range of outrageous cricket balls (you can bowl with a pie – something Australian bowlers have been doing too much of recently), Big Bash Boom features commentary from Pete Lazer. He has some great dialogue, often belittling players for their inept play, but in a humorous tone. The game also features some great music too, including local Melbourne band The Living End. With all the action going on the field and the fireworks off it, the game always has something entertaining happening.
Players will have the chance to play in 3 over short games as well as 5, 10 and 20 over formats and can be played single player (across three difficulty levels), local multiplayer or online. For fans of Aussie cricket, this is a game to look out for at the end of the month (releases November 29). And for those who aren’t cricket fans, Big Bash Boom could turn you into one…just like NBA Jam turned me into a basketball fan.