Depending on who you ask, the name Shane Warne has very different connotations. To Americans, he’s probably best known as that fat old Australian guy who plays poker and bangs Elizabeth Hurley. To Australians, he’s the bestest bowler of all time in the history of cricket yes the best ever don’t you look over there at that Muralitharan guy he’s a chucker Warnie is king. For English people, especially those who watched cricket during the ’90s and 2000s, he is the goddamned devil who ruined more summers than rain, sunburn, and the nausea caused by the concessions at the Blackpool Amusement Gardens combined.
As for me, well, my first serious exposure to cricket was the 2005 Ashes series, and even in a losing effort, and given my very-not-extensive knowledge of cricket, I could tell that this Warne guy was pretty good at what he did…I just didn’t know what kind of tosser he was off the pitch. He was so good, in fact, that almost ten years prior, someone had seen fit to get his name stamped on today’s offering, Shane Warne Cricket for Genesis (also called Brian Lara Cricket ’96 elsewhere besides Australia).
Shane Warne Cricket features a multitude of modes that would make even the most jaded video cricket fans nod in approval. You can play tests as well as limited-overs matches, with options for traditional 50-over and 20-20 formats, as well as choices like 10, 30, or even 90 overs. You can select between test whites and one-day colored jumpsuits, regardless of the type of match, and if you’re so inclined, you can turn the LBW rule off. There’s also quite a bit more than simple one-off international matches. Tournaments are available, as well as Test series, and depending on which version of the game you have, either Australian state or English county squads are on board, which is a nice little inclusion, and there’s also a handful of “classic matches” where you take over in mid-match and attempt to recreate events like Brian Lara’s 501 not out or forklifting England out of an embarrassing loss against Australia.
After you’ve finally made your way through the options, it’s time to pick your teams, the match venue, and get down to the pitch. Each region of the world has it’s own background music that plays in between the action, which is a nice little touch; England gets a rather squelchy version of “Rule, Britannia”, the West Indies gets a generic-but-catchy calypso tune, and Australia (and New Zealand, much to their chagrin) gets a rather well done rendition of “Waltzing Matilda”. Weather is also fairly realistic depending on the venue, India tends to be scorching hot and dry while games in England are more prone to clouds and rain.
Sadly, though, it ceases to maintain those jaded fans’ nodding once the match begins. Probably the first thing that will jump out at you is that every bowler has the same motion, and I don’t mean every fast bowler’s motion looks the same, and every spinner’s motion is the same, I mean literally EVERY SINGLE BOWLER runs in like a runaway truck plowing down the highway, which borderlines on just plain silly to see someone like Warne or Murali come scorching in to deliver a floaty, wobbly 40 mph leg-spinner. Bowling requires you to pick a target first, followed by how much power, swing, or spin you want by stopping an arrow that bounces in a meter, followed by a frantic button-mash to determine speed. It’s not an ideal way to handle business, but it’s not awful, and I found it to be decidedly easier than Super International Cricket’s system of trying to find the happy medium between no-balls and balls that are going to get smashed.
I’m also happy to report that fielding isn’t a game-breaking exercise in futility here. You have the option for manual fielding, although I would strongly advise against it unless you have either Jedi reflexes or divine foreknowledge, because by the time you take control of a fielder, you’ll have about two nanoseconds so head the ball off before it goes whizzing by you. Since that option’s basically out of the question, you’re left to rely on auto fielding, which does an admirably competent job of not bleeding away easy runs and botching catches. There’s still the odd drop, yes, and you’re not likely to ever see a CPU batsmen be run out, but rarely will you find yourself cursing your team for being cockfingered bastards out to throw the match (although Hansie Cronje IS in the game). It should also be noted that you can change your field layout, but more often than not, the default setup does fine, and the computer tends to play to how you bowl more than actively attacking the gaps in your field.
Speaking of which, the batting here is fairly rudimentary, A and a direction plays down on the ground, B and a direction lofts a shot, and Up and either A or B play a defensive stroke. There’s no coming down the wicket to attack short-pitched spin, but to be fair, I’ve never seen that implemented well in any cricket game. It’s not necessarily difficult to post a respectable score, but it will require a good bit of patience, as you’ll basically have to grind out a lot of singles unless your opponent picked a boffo field setup. It also seems like as you accumulate runs, your margin for error playing shots gets noticeably smaller; you might be able to get away with a bad choice of shot or a mistimed swing early in your innings and get away with it, but once you begin to bear down on a century, that same shot’s going to turn into an edge and an easy grab for the keeper, which feels odd considering batsmen tend to get more dialed in as they get set in, but it does make scoring 50 or 100 feel like an ACCOMPLISHMENT. I did feel that wickets fell quickly, but a lot of times I could understand WHY I got out, say, trying to cover drive a ball that was very wide of off and edging to slip or taking a terrible whack at an on-drive against a bouncer and edging it onto my own stumps. It’s frustrating at times, but at least here, my frustration was channeled at myself for making a stupid decision instead of the game for randomly deciding it was my turn to be out.
Since wickets do tend to fall with regularity, that also means that it is feasibly possible to get through matches, even Test matches and tournaments, in a reasonably short amount of time. I timed one Test against India and it took about two hours to complete, although it was rather low-scoring. It definitely makes the multiplayer options seem a lot more viable when a match only takes maybe an afternoon instead of an entire day or more. If you’re still a bit impatient, there’s always the autoplay feature to speed it along. An interesting feature is a performance tracker, with which you can designate players to have their stats kept up with as you play repeatedly with them. The game also maintains each team’s won-loss record also, which could be a cool feature for keeping track of a long-term rivalry with a buddy who picks a certain team.
SWC looks alright, although moreso in stills than in motion. Aside from the aforementioned universal bowling action, the scaling as the bowler comes in seems a bit choppy. When the camera pulls back to follow a batted ball, sprites go from reasonably sized to squat with a chunky running style. One bloke you’ll be seeing a lot of is the umpire, who pops up on insets to signal fours and sixes with a strange expressionless face. It’s all very unspectacular, but functional, although disappointingly, batsmen don’t fall over when plunked, even in the head. They continue to stand stoically as if nothing has happened, and that’s just not cricket. Sounds aren’t bad, although the omnipresent sound of bat on ball sounds a bit hollow, at does provide a nice crack, and the audience clapping sounds passable. Aside from that, the only other sound you’ll hear is probably the music between overs or dismissals.
If you want to understand how truly starved cricket fans are for the One Definitive Cricket Game, consider this. This was probably the best 16-bit cricket game out there. It’s not great, but it’s decent. Eighteen years later, you could make a case it’s still one of the best cricket games made, if for no other reason than it not being terribly broken somewhere. In fact, I’d say the best way to describe Shane Warne Cricket is to call it the Gary Kirsten of cricket games: turgid and unrepentently dull at times, but capable of its moments.
Actual rosters, engine that doesn’t make batting feel quite like an elaborate dice game, tons of options.
It’s not a great sign when batting might be less boring than bowling. graphics are rather bland, to be kind.