Ricky Ponting 2007 Pressure Play (otherwise known as Brian Lara Pressure Play for gamers in the UK) is the first appearance of Codemasters' long-running cricket series on the PSP, although the UK-based company has handed over development reins on this game to Australian development house IR Gurus. Pressure Play is, in essence, a stripped-back version of the console games released earlier this year and features a similar gameplay style but with far fewer match options packed into it.
Codemasters' International Cricket games in 2007 focused almost exclusively on the one-day form of the game, with the main gameplay mode being the ICC Cricket World Cup held in the West Indies earlier this year. Pressure Play for the PSP similarly focuses on the World Cup, with all of the official teams, player names, and uniforms included. Sadly, all of the other modes included in the console version--such as test matches, Twenty20 games, and the ICC Champions Trophy--have been left out, making for a pretty meagre experience once you get bored of reliving the ICC Cricket World Cup. The gameplay of the International Cricket 2007 games were already pretty bare mode-wise, but Pressure Play is even worse, meaning its long-term appeal is severely restricted. Thankfully, Pressure Play also features a two-player multiplayer mode via wireless, allowing you to extend your gameplay with any friends who may also have the game.
IR Gurus' main new addition is the Pressure Play mode, a series of tasks that challenges you to complete various scoring, fielding, or bowling objectives. Pressure Play is designed for short bursts of play and will take from one minute to half an hour or more to complete. Some of the tasks include having to score a set amount in a limited number of overs, restricting an opponent's run rate, or reliving famous moments in cricketing history. Unfortunately, there are only 16 Pressure Play challenges, which don't really add much to the overall longevity of the game. Granted, some of the challenges will take a lot of practice to complete, but once they're done, there's really no incentive to play through them again.
That said, the core gameplay mechanics of the console versions have made it fairly intact into Pressure Play, which means it's a pretty fun cricket game to play. It's definitely more arcadelike (particularly at the lower difficulty levels), with boundaries and sixes coming from almost every hit. For those wanting more realism, the game's test difficulty will provide some decent challenge, particularly when batting and timing effective shots becomes exponentially more difficult. Control-wise, Pressure Play is once again much the same as the console versions. When batting, you decide on the direction of the shot via the PSP's analog stick or D pad, with the X button used for a ground shot and circle for a lofted hit. Fielding is even simpler: Every time a fielder throws back to the pitch or is in a position to make a catch, a sliding meter appears. If you press the X button when the meter hits its sweet spot, the catch will stick or the throw back to the wicketkeeper will be more precise. Bowling is a little more complex: You need to press X to start a bowler's run-up, with the analog stick used to decide the pitch point of the ball. Once the run-up has started, you can then choose what type of delivery will be bowled using one of the PSP's four face buttons. Veterans to the series will feel right at home with Pressure Play's controls because the game is easy to pick up and play but should please those looking for a fast-paced game.
Pressure Play sports some decent visuals, with player animations looking quite smooth and natural on the pitch. However, close-ups are a different matter, with players featuring slightly oversized heads in relation to their bodies. And while the game generally runs smoothly, it does suffer from some horrendous frame rate slowdowns during fielding, which make the players look like they're actually moving in slow motion. It doesn't actually affect gameplay too much, but it does so enough to be annoying. As for audio, Pressure Play here is as stripped-back as its games modes--there is absolutely no match commentary whatsoever. This means that you will spend the majority of your time listening to ambient crowd noises while in Pressure Play games.
Ricky Ponting 2007 Pressure Play is a decent first attempt at porting the International Cricket series onto PSPs, but there's very little here to sustain your interest for long. Try this one before you buy.