A good range of game options offered by Brian Lara means there is something to keep you interested from your first attempt to 50 hours later when you've finished creating the ultimate ‘career player'.
The mechanics of the batting and bowling are both very good and take some time to master. And there is also a fairly significant gap between the difficulty levels so as soon as you've mastered how to slog everyone out of the ground on ‘village' mode you'll find things a lot tougher on ‘county' mode. Timing is the key to batting but you must also make sure you pick the right shot otherwise you'll be dollying the ball up for catches and never make a boundary. The useful timing indicator bar shows you the accuracy of your last swing, but you will also need to master using the left analogue stick to pick out gaps in the field if you want to rack up some boundaries. The greater the ability of the batsman the better their timing so they are more likely to play a decent shot. But there are several bowling variables which you will need to account for so it's not as simple as pressing X or O at the right time.
It will take some time before your bowling will be up to the standard of Glenn McGrath and you'll probably spend the first few hours using the bowling guide in the manual. It's a fairly simple but very effective bowling method incorporated by BLIC, with the emphasis more on choosing the right position and type of movement you want rather than how quickly you can bash a button. Trial and error is the best way to experiment with the different bowling styles, so expect to get smashed out the ground a lot before you perfect your strategies.
The ability of both batters and bowlers is also controlled by their confidence level, this is determined by how well they are playing and some bowls can only be made when confidence is at a peak whilst a batsman is more likely to play a boundary stroke when he is on top form and flying high.
The fielding technique is just a simple ‘stop the bar on the line' so there is definitely room for improvement. Your only throwing option is to the wicket keeper which is a bit frustrating as there are times when you would like to easily run out a man heading for the bowler's end. You can't aim directly at the stumps either, which is a bit disappointing.
The graphics aren't anything to get excited about but they don't take anything away from the game. The sprites are more like caricatures than accurate representations of the real-life sportsman, but there's no harm in that. However, they did a good job of getting the Umpires beer-gut large enough to be true to life. There's a good choice of stadiums from around the world as would be expected but on my version there were Palm Trees in the background at Trent Bridge so I think there might be a few little bugs that have been overlooked. Once again, nothing that affects the wonderful gameplay. The movement of the batsman and bowlers is very slick and Swordfish Studios have done well to make it look as genuine as possible. They've also hit the right spot with the inclusion of cut scenes for 3 rd Umpire, Hawkeye and taunting by the bowler's.
The sound effects and commentary are also up to scratch. Gower and Agnew keep things ticking over but just as they start to get on your nerves for being a bit repetitive Tony Greig will kick in with a little bit of wisdom or propose a debate which will keep you entertained.
There are lots of different game modes to work your way through but I found it more interesting to start on the ICC tournaments as they have the proper names. It's a shame these aren't carried through to the normal One Day Internationals or Test Matches but you can't have everything. There are classic photographs to be unlocked and building up your own ‘career player' will keep you happily occupied for a long time. But you will probably still be playing this game with your mates next year having late night slogathon matches!
The answer to my original question in the opening paragraph is “yes”. If you're a cricket fan you'll definitely enjoy what BLIC has to offer and even if you're just a fan of sports games this will give you a hearty challenge as the variety of difficulty levels will keep things demanding as it becomes more of a strategy game once you mastered the basics.
Not much else to say, just a parting note on the Ashes:
COME ON ENGLAND , give the convicts a good pasting!
8 out of 10