What's New? (22nd July 2005)

Cricket and pirates.

When this writer got upset with EA's Cricket 2005 earlier this week it was partly on account of what seemed like depressingly unrealistic scorelines. Judging by events at Lords this week, however, wickets really do fall at a ridiculous rate where England's cricketers are concerned. Bowl-ocks!

Balls to it - Brian Lara International Cricket (PS2, Xbox, PC)

Codemasters' latest Brian Lara offering is quite different. Owzat? [... - Ed] It's extremely accessible and logically put together, but still manages to offer a degree of subtlety to those who play it for extended periods of time. Whether it turns out to be merely enjoyable or utterly great, it seems fair to say it's a cut above its main rival.

Control is simple whether batting or bowling - point and whack, basically. When you bat, you can play front foot or back foot shots or defend/edge the ball wherever you like, and the result is satisfying totals that, logically, become harder to achieve the higher the difficulty setting. Bowling is a case of choosing an area to target, opting for a straight or swinging delivery, adding some spin if you feel like it and then judging the final ball.

It can get a bit repetitive, of course, but that's kind of inherent to the sport. We're going to stick with it over the weekend to find out if the balance is right, but unlike the opening few hours of EA Cricket 2005 (or an England innings, it seems, if it lasts that long) it won't leave you thoroughly stumped.

Incidentally, for anybody wondering what it's like to have an actual cricket stump driven into your thigh, yours truly can report a mild sensation of panic, a certain amount of pain (that amount being "a lot") and an immediate urge to seek retribution. And no, this is not some sort of hilarious "Kristan just stabbed me" joke to do with the stumped pun; someone at one of my old schools really did think it would be funny to throw one pointed-end-first as I lay on the grass reading a book. A steel-tipped one. (The wicket that is. Books are made of paper and sometimes balloons.)

Of course, a better way to experience panic, discomfort and an extreme urge for revenge might be to buy EA Cricket 2005. Badum.

Seas the moment - Sid Meier's Pirates! (Xbox)

Just as well we're getting on okay with Brian Lara, really (despite his oddly named friends like Michael Vorner and Andrew Flantiff), because there's sod all else to get excited about this week (he says, cautiously refreshing BBC News Online just in case). Unless you count Sid Meier's Pirates! on Xbox of course, but that was a port of last year's PC game, so...

[Glances down list.]

Soooo we'd best take a look at that then, unless you'd like a "didn't even bother to Google it" based assessment of "Yeti Sports Arctic Adventures"? No? (Quiet, you.) Well then, Sid Meier's Pirates!, obviously apart from breaking sentences, is about going around on a pirate ship getting involved in lots of different mini-games.

What we particularly like about Pirates! is that there's absolutely no need to save your family if you can't be arsed. This is good news if, like some of our relatives, who shall remain nameless, you respond to minor terror alerts 12 hours later and use "but I was in the pub!" as a defence for not calling to check your FLESH AND BLOOD isn't suffering from a nasty case of having-to-walk-a-couple-of-extra-Tube-stops-home. Our feet may never recover from the ordeal. Not that YOU care.

You can also be a sort of virtual bigamist. At that, we should probably apologise if you just splattered hot coffee all over your keyboard. [Hillaaaary-ous. - Ed]

In addition to all the expected ship-to-ship combat, dancing, feasting, buckling of the swash and other piratey activities, the Xbox version of Pirates! also feature multiplayer battles, where you can fire cannons and ram other ships if you're that way inclined. The only sad thing is that it's not done over Xbox Live, which isn't very jolly of them.

As to whether it's worth buying - we thought the PC version was a bit repetitive, but still charming and well worth plundering if you hadn't much else to do, and liked wenches and dancing and piracy (the none ELSPA-baiting kind). In other words, we thought that it was refreshing to see something sail against the obvious wind of its genre, but sometimes depressing to have to sail against the actual wind in the game. Judging by the response from the colonies, this is much the same.

No Charlie for us

Even with all that piracy, there's still rum left to remark that Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (PS2, Xbox, Cube, PC, GBA) has been declared rather unpalatable by those who've had it shoved in their faces, while Codename: Panzers - Phase 2 (PC) is a game about tanks (seriously? No idea) and America has gone to sleep.

Meanwhile, it'd be crap of us not to point out that owners of Japanese PS2s can now get hold of We Love Katamari. And should, because it's brilliant. We spent most of yesterday wandering around with a giraffe hat on, complete with enormous neck, and the King's bulge is bigger than ever.

Speaking of enormous bulges, it's time to pad our trousers again and rejoin David Gower for some more of Brian Lara's antics. As Peter Bickle once said: "this bloke's a prime candidate for a run out: he's a bit fat and he's wearing rubber soles."

  • PAL Releases
  • Asheron's Call: Throne of Destiny (PC)
  • Brian Lara International Cricket (PS2, Xbox, PC)
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (PS2, Xbox, Cube, PC, GBA)
  • Codename: Panzers - Phase 2 (PC)
  • Crash and Spyro Super Pack Vol. 1: Crash N-Tranced and Spyro Season of Ice (GBA)
  • Crash and Spyro Super Pack Vol. 2: Crash Nitro Kart and Spyro Season of Flame (GBA)
  • Sid Meier's Pirates! (Xbox)
  • Yeti Sports Arctic Adventures (PS2)
  • Zoo Vet (PC, Mac)

  • Key US Releases
  • Bowels.

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