Earlier this year, Codemasters announced that it had been selected by the English and Australian cricket boards to develop a game for this year's Ashes. We saw the Xbox 360 version last month and were impressed with how Brian Lara's successor was shaping up. We recently got our first look at Ashes Cricket 2009 on the Nintendo Wii, and we're pleased to report that Nintendo fans can also expect a high-quality delivery from the first cricket game to grace their consoles.
The Wii version is being developed by British team Gusto Games, and while it doesn't deviate too much from Transmission Games' Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions, it has been tweaked to match the Wii's control scheme. The basic controls for both bowling and batting are very straightforward. A flick of the Wii Remote swings your bat, while button modifiers allow you to perform soft, defensive, chip, or big shots. If you require greater control, then you can take aim with the D pad. Shaking the nunchuk makes your player run, and as a nice touch, you'll hear the batsmen's calls in the remote's speaker. A meter indicates how confident your player is, and the more confidence you have--which makes the meter's "sweet spot" wider--the easier batting will be. Conversely, getting struck by the ball will shake your confidence and make things harder.
Unleashing your bowler on the pitch is also easy and rewarding. When the bowler is about to release the ball, you flick the remote to perform a successful delivery, and this moment can also be assessed on a bowling meter. You can shine the ball by rapidly flicking the remote up and down, and a mid-bowl twist of the wrist will perform a spin bowl. If you don't know Flintoff from Panesar, fret not, because all bowlers can produce tricky deliveries using reverse swing and seam attacks. Performing three successful bowls will earn a "perfect" ball, which, when bowled, reduces the batsman's timing window. You can leave fielding completely up to the AI, choose from five presets, or drag and drop players to precise locations, and you can also choose which end to throw the ball to. From our brief time with Ashes, we found the controls easy to get the hang of, and while the game might lack the depth that some players crave, at least it shouldn't bamboozle newcomers.
Ashes Cricket 2009 boasts a tutorial mode, exhibition matches, one-day internationals, Twenty20s, and test matches, including The Ashes. In addition to regular cricket, there's a Double Wicket mode, which makes a return from Brian Lara International Cricket 2005. This tip-and-run game is suited to quick sessions and is limited to six overs and two batsmen. The aim is to chalk up as many runs as possible, and while batsmen can't get bowled out, you lose five runs for every action that would normally result in the loss of a wicket. It certainly looks like it'll be a fun addition, and there's also a two-player variation where both players take turns as a batsman and a bowler. Ashes also features a "scenarios" mode, which offers various challenges for each of the included international sides: Australia, England, New Zealand, India, Pakistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka, and West Indies. There are seven challenges for each team--56 in total--and they include such goals as getting a wicket within 20 runs or holding out until lunch.
Fully licensed Australian and English sides are included in Ashes, complete with player and kit likenesses, while other teams will feature unlicensed look-alikes. The Wii version features fewer stadiums than the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions, but it has all five official Ashes 2009 venues and five international locations, including the Melbourne Cricket Ground and Sabina Park. The game features a broadcast-style presentation, and all of the menus and in-match graphics are well suited for the pomp and circumstance of The Ashes.
For more on Ashes Cricket 2009, read our Xbox 360 hands-on, as well as our interviews with the developers and Australian captain Ricky Ponting. We also plan to bring you more of the game on all formats, so stay tuned for more cricket coverage over the summer.