Cricket is like the spaghetti western of sports: what it lacks in lightning-fast thrills, it makes up for in slowly creeping suspense. With Don Bradman Cricket, developer Big Ant Studios has attempted to take this classic calculating core and convert it into a robust and exciting digital experience for Sony's super system. But does the Aussie developer hit it for six, or will it be walking off with a duck?
At its heart, this outing is a cricket simulation game – and in that regard it succeeds admirably. The moment-to-moment gameplay does a very good job of capturing the atmosphere and fun of the sport, while the presentation cleverly replicates the feel of a live cricket broadcast. Using relatively simple inputs, the title affords you almost complete control over how you play, making for an exciting and strategically satisfying experience.
What's more, it makes several concessions if you just feel like hitting the ball around. For instance, if you don't have the patience to wait through endless innings in order to have your turn at the stumps, the game will thankfully simulate the rest of the match, letting you skip ahead to the action. These little touches are emblematic of a game which has clearly been designed in a very careful and meticulous way.
However, easily the most impressive aspect of this cricketing caper is its multitude of modes, as well as its diverse customisation options. With a remarkably robust and lengthy career mode, several online playlists, and a tour mode which allows you to recreate famous cricketing seasons, you're unlikely to run out of things to do. It also features a surprisingly deep character creation tool, and a mode which allows you to design your very own tours.
Make no mistake, though, this is definitely a cricket game for people who are already acutely acquainted with the ancient athletic activity. With no meaningful explanation of the sport itself featured within, you're likely to find yourself lost in a sea of ducks and run-outs if you don't know the difference between a bouncer and a boundary.
Speaking of explanations, the title's tutorial is severely lacking. As mentioned earlier, the controls themselves are relatively straightforward, but the lack of any vigorous tutorial system – combined with a minimalistic HUD – means that the early-game hump can be a bit difficult to surmount. There are several different practice modes, but these still don't alleviate this central problem that the game doesn't do a terribly good job of explaining itself.
It also doesn't help that the title's menu system is about as intuitive and user-friendly as an M.C. Escher painting, with the multitude of options simply being presented in garish lists. If you do decide to fearlessly dive into the menus in order to access the title's more complex modes, we strongly advise bringing along some rations and a change of clothes.
This lack of polish unfortunately carries through to its presentation as well, with the graphics being fairly underwhelming for the most part. To be fair, there's certainly nothing functionally wrong with the visuals, but some rough textures – as well as distracting crowd effects – stymie the otherwise seamless experience.
Similarly, the dynamic commentary – while almost always responsive and appropriate – quickly becomes painfully repetitive. Indeed, you'll soon grow tired of hearing the exact same voice clip explain that the ball has flown past a badly beaten batsman to the keeper. As for music, the game features a collection of inoffensive acoustic rock tracks which play over the many menus. This soundtrack does a serviceable job of setting the tone, but is mostly forgettable.
Don Bradman Cricket is an incredibly competent cricket simulation game. With a slew of modes, countless customisation options, and numerous clever design choices, it provides an accurate and fun digital version of the popular sport. Shoddy menus, poorly implemented tutorials, and an overall lack of visual and audio polish certainly diminish the experience, but not enough to stop this sporting sojourn from being worth taking out for a spin.