Summer has begun, and for Australians, that means time to get excited about the Cricket. For the past few years one of the fastest growing forms of cricket has been Twenty20 cricket, and more specifically within Australia, the Big Bash League, or BBL. For those unfamiliar with this type of cricket, it’s a fast-paced version of the sport, designed to create lots of action, by players hitting lots of runs in a short amount of time, and becomes a bit of a rollercoaster with many games having very close finishes. It was only a matter of time before we had this translated into a video game, and here we have it, in Big Bash Boom.
When reviewing sports sim games, you generally compare it to its counterparts, but given this isn’t a full Cricket simulation, and an arcade take on the sport, the best thing to compare it to, is 2K’s recently released NBA Playgrounds 2. Unlike Playgrounds, Big Bash Boom doesn’t block players behind a paywall of micro transactions, but instead offers a host of cosmetic items to be unlocked by grinding through the game’s in game currency. These cosmetic items include, different hats, helmets, and bats for individual players, and then a host of emotes, or as the game calls them celebrations, for you to flaunt on the field after taking a wicket or hitting a six.
These unlocks are both a good and a bad thing. They are good because there are so many to unlock, but where the game struggles is where it feels like it can take hours, if not days to unlock some of the items. For example, the cheapest unlockable celebration (of approx 50) was 5000 coins. I was earning around 600 coins for a 20-minute game. If that rate was to continue it would take me around 8 hours to unlock just one of these celebrations, which seems like way too steep a price to pay for the lowest cosmetic unlock, especially when there is so much stuff to get. It would be much more satisfying for players to be earning smaller items every 2-3 games and then needing to grind out for the more premium celebrations and items. Another problem is that so many of these items aren’t even locked via the in-game currency, but instead, are locked until you complete a certain challenge or milestone. The problem here is that there are probably 100 of these challenges to complete, and you don’t get told the requirements for any of these, from a user point of view it seems like pot luck as to what I unlock. So, does the game do a good enough job to sustain your time grinding out and unlocking things?
A big upside to Big Bash Boom is that it looks great, it does a great job of replicating realistic player faces and movements. The detail in the player heads is first class. It also delivers plenty of television moments in high quality, giving you a similar experience to watching the broadcast at home. It’s also a game that doesn’t take itself too seriously, giving players unrealistically big heads and as previously mentioned, the ability to customise some items of the players appearance.
The Big Bash as a spectacle is targeted towards a younger audience, and you can see that Big Bash Boom continues to aim for that target group. The gameplay almost seems like it’s too simple. There’s very little variety in how you can go about hitting the ball, T20 is supposed to be about hitting more innovative shots in order to put the opponent on the back foot. Fielding positions are almost irrelevant as you send a constant barrage of balls over the rope. Hitting boundaries doesn’t feel as rewarding, and at times even the power ups don’t feel like they change how you play dramatically. The only useful power up was one that doubled your runs when you were batting. There was an opportunity to do more with these power ups and really build some variety into the gameplay, and even forcing you to use them tactically, but instead it feels repetitive and you can find yourself losing interest during a single match.
T20 Cricket is so action packed, but ultimately you want to highlight the big moments and given how well the game does at creating these TV like cutscenes and moments, it surprises me that there is no replay system. In Big Bash Boom sometimes if you blink you can miss what just happened. Due to the pace of the game, whenever something big happens, it happens in the blink of an eye, and when there is no opportunity to relive that moment, or even check what happened, it can really put you down if you can’t look at how amazing the runout you just created was, or the perfect delivery, or how well you hit the six out of the ground. It’s something that probably goes unnoticed, but it really does feel like a missing piece here.
The way BBB goes around this, is by instead giving you the opportunity to use one of your “celebrations” when you do something cool. This is a great idea, however, there are a ton of them, and different button combinations for each one. I felt like I had to write down the combinations of the celebrations I wanted to do, because once you were in game, there was no way of finding out if what you were doing is right. It felt like it was just missing a page on the pause menu that showed you all the possible celebration button combinations, much like a fighting game would for different combos. For a game that has such simplicity everywhere else, this seemed to be an unnecessarily complicated part.
There are only three game modes in Big Bash Boom, Casual, Tournament and Online. This is where it might again struggle to keep players interested. Other than playing in a Big Bash Tournament, which is only 9 rounds long for the Men (double for the women), there is very little for you to build towards, other than unlocking items, which as I’ve already pointed out, seem like they take forever to achieve. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a match online to check out the multiplayer experience and the one time I did, I was disconnected from that user before the game had begun.
THE NINTENDO SWITCH VERSION
Given this is an arcade sports sim, with power ups and a lesser reliance on realism, similarly to Mario tennis, it seems like a game that would be perfect for the Nintendo Switch. Which is why I couldn’t have been more disappointed with my experience on the system. There was a host of frame-rate issues, motion controls that blatantly didn’t work, or even have a controls/tutorial page to tell you if you were using motion controls properly. It was complete shambles, and unplayable. Big Ant have tweeted since launch of their plans to update the switch. At the time of review, no such update has occurred, but hopefully there’s one on the way.
It’s not often during a review we will talk about the price, but in the case of Big Bash Boom, it’s a key talking point. Especially here in Australia, it’s $89 at retail and a little more for digital. While the BBL is an Australian Domestic competition, it’s difficult to not notice that this is double the price of what international consumers are paying. This is not a full sports simulation, nor does it try to be, so why are we paying the same price as one, when it offers a fraction of the content?
THE PS4 VERSION OF THIS GAME WAS PRIMARILY TESTED FOR THE PURPOSE OF THIS REVIEW. THE SWITCH VERSION WAS ALSO TESTED. A DIGITAL REVIEW CODE WAS PROVIDED BY THE PUBLISHER (PS4) AND A DIGITAL CODE WAS ALSO PURCHASED BY THE REVIEWER (SWITCH).
Big Bash Boom offers an arcade take on T20 Cricket, but ultimately lacks the variety and content to keep users coming back. While its visuals and animations are the high point, an unsatisfying grind to progress through matches and unlock items makes it hard to recommend to anyone that isn’t a die hard cricket fan.