Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Game 407: Graham Gooch's Test Cricket

"After Nintendo Soccer, we tried to play a Commodore 64 cricket game, and boy were we in trouble."

"Because neither of you know how to play cricket?"

"Because neither of us know how to play cricket."


We tried, but I gather, in retrospect, we weren't missing a whole lot by not knowing what we were doing here, because like a lot of other computer sports games of the day, Graham Gooch's Test Cricket appears to be a pretty simplistic and barebones simulation, and more or less plays itself if you let it.


The first game published by U.K. software house Audiogenic Software, the company could be seen as a continuation of Supersoft or of Audiogenic Ltd depending on how you interpret their history. Rather than try to puzzle out which predecessor company's extensive back catalog of pre-1985 Commodore games to retrospect, I settled on neither and went straight for Test Cricket.

I did read the basic rules beforehand, which are not explained in the manual. Presumably if you're buying this game, you already know. For the benefit of readers who, like me, have only had exposure to baseball (barely 5% of my readers are from countries where cricket is more popular than baseball), I'll offer a brief, probably inaccurate summary of how it works.

The goal, like baseball, is to score more points than the other team does. Teams alternate between batting and fielding - the fielders bowl the ball in an attempt to eliminate the batter, the batter hits back in an attempt to score points for his team. But while baseball has rapid eliminations and challenging score conditions, cricket is exactly the opposite. Strikeouts are not a thing, and runners are not vulnerable; batters are primarily eliminated by striking the wicket behind them, and most professional players can score upwards of 20 runs per out. In baseball, three outs ends the half-inning and causes the teams to switch. No such luck in test cricket - the half-inning only ends once all eleven batters are eliminated, and this can literally take all day. A full two-inning game can last up to five six-hour days.

Mercifully, Graham Gooch's Test Cricket doesn't demand you play all week, as you can also play single-inning games with limited overs. Unfortunately, the shortest game is still 40 overs (240+ bowls) per side. We got bored and stopped playing after 11, long before I had my turn to bat.

I haven't even said anything about what it was like to play, and I really can't say much at all. The match is always England vs. Australia. Each player selects their team from the available roster and assigns roles, and only their names are shown - the game offers no stats to help you make your decisions. There are two modes of play - arcade and simulation - and the main difference is that in arcade mode, you control the batter semi-directly by pressing the joystick fire button to swing, and must time it correctly in order to connect. In simulation mode, this happens automatically, but you can direct the batter's strategy with secret joystick commands, and in both modes, you can cycle players in and out of the action between overs to manage fatigue. Bafflingly, only simulation mode is allowed with two players, and I can't see why. The system has two joystick controllers!

Apart from that, there's really no interactivity. You bat, if you hit correctly then you'll see a little animation of runners crossing the field, and you'll see some game stats between overs.

GAB rating: N/A. This is more of a hands-off simulator than a game you actively play, and holds zero interest to me as someone who doesn't even care about popular American sports, let alone cricket. But as a sim, it seems very limited compared to, say, SSI's Computer Quarterback and Computer Baseball.

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