Cricket Through the Ages Review — Not Quite QWOP For Bat

5.5/10

What would be a fun experience through a variety of brief minigames is let down by having a control scheme that is too simple. By trying to distill the formula of other similar games too far, Cricket Through the Ages shows all the cracks that oversimplification can create. It can occupy the few minutes it's made to, but little else.

As an American, it is my patriotic duty to never understand the game of cricket. Thankfully, Free Lives’ Cricket Through the Ages doesn’t try to teach it to you — though it does get dangerously close. What it does instead, however, is let you play a bunch of minigames (some of which are loosely based around the vague idea of cricket) with one button. Sometimes two if the game is feeling a bit wild and you’re playing solo.

The core gameplay of Cricket Through the Ages is that, by pressing a button (any button on your side of the keyboard), your ragdoll-like character will rotate their arm in a circle. If they are holding a ball-like object, you will let go when you release the button. If you are holding a bat-like object, you will keep holding onto it as it spins around, like a deadly helicopter blade, capable of knocking out your opponent. Pressing those same buttons also does little leg motions that are kind of like walking so that you can move.

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With this premise established, you will begin Cricket Through the Ages by playing what I can only assume to be a bastardized version of Cricket, wherein the pitcher is trying to knock down a set of wickets behind the batter, who, themselves, is trying to hit the ball far enough to get points. As the game progresses, other rules get added, like getting a point as the pitcher for knocking down the wickets, or as the batter for bludgeoning the pitcher with your bat. It’s all very sophisticated.

Later iterations see you taking these mechanics into far-flung settings like World War Two and the Olympic Games, using variations on the same arm-spinning, single-button-pushing mechanics to toss grenades, climb walls, and shoot arrows in order to best your opponent (or work with your ally, depending on the game). It’s all very hectic, very fast-paced, and very silly. You will end up falling on your face or hilariously whiffing your intended tasks as often as you will actually succeed at them.

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But, here’s the thing: it just doesn’t feel great. It’s a gimmick, the kind of thing you’d see in a flash game on NewGrounds in the late aughts. In fact, it is similar in many ways to a particular flash game: QWOP. For those unfamiliar, QWOP was a browser-based test of patience in which you used the Q, W, O, and P keys to move a runner’s leg joints in order to get him to the finish, while avoiding falling over. Cricket Through the Ages is like that, but it boils the… um… “complexity” of mashing 4 buttons into the “elegance” of mashing 1 button.

This is not a change for the better.

Ultimately, the game ends up being more frustrating than engaging. Its mechanics are skimmed down to the point of some games feeling either like random chance, or — at best — mildly amusing challenges. And, while the goofy tone does do some justice to this, that can only carry it so far.

There is a reason QWOP was played in intervals of five or ten minutes at a time, and why Bennett Foddy (creator of QWOP) added a lot more precision when he made Getting Over It, a masterpiece of whatever this surreal subgenre is. As another example, One Finger Death Punch, another game played entirely with two buttons, adds complexity in the ways it plays with reaction time and limited decision-making. Even Mount Your Friends at least gives you control over all 4 limbs.

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All this to say that, where all those other games give the player something to engage with, even if they are silly and gimmicky, Cricket Through the Ages lacks that on a core gameplay level, making an hour-long experience where you just have to press one button somehow feel like a slog. And its fun tone doesn’t excuse its dull design. While teeing up against a friend can be fun for a few minutes, even decapitating your rival with a croquet mallet can only be fun for so long with such bare-bones gameplay.

Keeping a game simple can be a recipe for success, but oversimplifying it can turn what would otherwise be a fun experience into a boring one. Unfortunately, that’s where Cricket Through the Ages ends up. We’re going to give this one a 5.5 out of 10, cause Cricket Through the Ages is all, well, crickets.


This is a transcription of our video review, which you can watch here:

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Graves
Graves

Graves is an avid writer, web designer, and gamer, with more ideas than he could hope to achieve in a lifetime. But, armed with a mug of coffee and an overactive imagination, he'll try. When he isn't working on a creative project, he is painting miniatures, reading cheesy sci-fi novels, or making music.

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