App of the Day: Big Cup Cricket
Test Match special.
I don't like cricket. Actually, that's not quite true - I didn't used to like cricket until I stumbled across the majesty that is Test Match Special, the BBC's long-running commentary programme that's at its best when it's discussing anything other than the game.
It's radio that's not just being beamed from whichever corner of the globe that the England cricket team finds itself at the time. It's being transmitted from another time entirely, a world of imperious pork pies and impeccably dressed portly gentlemen, and from an England that seems a thousand miles away from that which surrounds my tower block in East London.
If baseball's about the spectacle and heightening the drama of the moment when ball meets bat, then cricket's all about the pageantry, the eccentricity of an English country fair captured in an afternoon spent getting plastered in the sun.
The sport itself's not too bad either, I've since discovered, and it's been captured beautifully in Denki and Beautiful Game Studios' Big Cup Cricket. It's fitting that baseball gets the neon glitz of Homerun Battle while cricket gets the more frugal charm of this, one of the better video game takes the sport has had to date.
Resisting the urge to explore the further reaches of mobile technology, Big Cup Cricket's presented with simple, bold visuals, offering a flat-overhead look of a wicket populated by squat, saucer-eyed fictional players. Well, they're largely fictional - the England team includes cameos from Beautiful Games Studios' Roy Meredith and Denki's Gary Penn, who it turns out is a more than capable middle-order batsman.
Whereas Homerun Battle has a steel-eyed focus on the all-important moment of impact, Big Cup Cricket widens its field a little. You can bowl or bat, either discipline well-served by a series of thrusts and swipes that lend the game an incredible sense of tactility. Fielding, meanwhile, is handled by simply tapping an outfield player at the right time should the ball fly past them.
It's alarmingly simple at first, the act of batting seemingly all about placement while bowling's about going straight and true, but a handful of overs uncovers an incredible amount of depth.
Spin's achieved by curving your swipes, and it enables some devious deliveries that bounce savagely across the wicket - which in turn makes the art of batting an intense act of reading where exactly the ball's headed, and how best to get purchase on it.
Big Cup Cricket's modestly smart, too; its interface quietly lays out an incredible amount of information, the position of outfield players highlighted across the screen's edges while an incoming ball's trajectory is subtly indicated on the wicket's surface.
Through one finger alone, Big Cup Cricket manages to conjure a simulation of the sport that's more than competent; it's endlessly satisfying, making it possible to lose hours chasing the boundaries or swinging for the stumps.
And it's the perfect accompaniment to a lazy afternoon by the wireless spent with some pork pies and Pimm's, a wonderful pocket-sized slice of the most charming of sports. I love it.
App of the Day highlights interesting games we're playing on the Android, iPad, iPhone and Windows Phone 7 mobile platforms, including post-release updates. If you want to see a particular app featured, drop us a line or suggest it in the comments.