Big Bash Boom Review
Bobble-headed players, flaming pitches and bowlers throwing actual pies: Big Bash Boom is certainly cricket like you’ve never seen it before. Yet although this NBA Jam-inspired take on Australia’s favourite summer sport is a personality-packed blast to play, its anaemic feature set and premium price makes it a weaker value proposition alongside developer Big Ant’s more robust release, Ashes Cricket.
Big Bash Boom is a turbocharged take on Twenty20 cricket,
Featuring the fully licenced teams, squads and stadia from the 2018/19 BBL and WBBL competitions, Big Bash Boom is a turbocharged take on Twenty20 cricket that strips the minutiae out of the sport to make it as fast-paced as possible. LBW appeals and fielding are automated, while varying pitch and weather conditions are done away with entirely, and although some of the sports’ subtleties remain – you still need to know the difference between bowling an off cutter and an outswinger, for example – it’s otherwise cricket as a Cornetto; no boring bits.
Big Bash Boom’s cartoon-ish presentation really pops, with team-specific pyrotechnics that trail a freshly-hammered hookshot into the second tier of the stands, goofy player-triggered celebration dances lifted from Fortnite and other corners of pop culture, and a dad joke-dispensing commentator that seemingly has a pun to make for each and every run you take.
It’s not all just surface level smoke and mirrors, either. Hitting boundaries or bowling tidy overs fills your special meter, allowing you to employ a randomly allocated power-up for a timed advantage over your opponent, although some are more useful than others. For example, getting a 2x multiplier for your next shot as a batsman can potentially earn you 12 runs off a single stroke, which has the capacity to turn a game on its head. On the other hand, the bowler’s ‘flaming pitch’ ability, which prevents batsmen from running between the wickets, is rarely beneficial when your opponent is far more inclined to swing for the fences rather than try and nurdle the ball for a quick single.
The use of these super powers is spectacular, but not particularly strategic.
Furthermore, it’s a curious decision to only give the player a short window of a few balls to activate an earned power-up; if you don’t use it in that time you lose it and the meter depletes to near-empty. I would have preferred the option to hang on to them and deploy them at more opportune moments, like keeping the 2x batting multiplier in my back pocket during a run chase for some last-over heroics, or saving the bowling speed-boost for an over of pace rather than spin. As a result the use of these super powers is spectacular, but not particularly strategic.
Although Big Bash Boom has charm to spare in terms of its special effects and animations, there are some areas of the presentation that come up a bit D’Arcy Short. There are no instant replays, either automatic or manual, which means you’re unable to properly relish a wicket or scrutinize close decisions. There’s also no option to adjust camera angles, and in single-player (or online) batting is viewed from behind the batsman, which is less than ideal when facing spin since the wicketkeeper is up to the stumps and obscuring your view of where the ball is pitching.
This level of corner cutting is frustratingly evident in all facets of Big Bash Boom. You can take your favourite team through the full 2018/19 schedule of the BBL or WBBL, playing matches adjustable in length from one over a side up to a full twenty, but outside of that you’re limited to one-off casual matches played locally or online. And despite the game’s box stating that it’s “fun for the whole family,” Big Bash Boom only features support for two-players at a time, which is disappointing.
Earning enough coins to buy new gear is more of a grind than an innings from Alastair Cook.
While there are no tools for creating a player, team, or tournament, there are at least a number of customisation options available for the licensed players, like bucket hats and viking helmets that can be bought with in-game currency earned during matches. This certainly incentivises repeat play, but evidently earning enough coins to buy new gear is more of a grind than an innings from Alastair Cook. I played a full season of the BBL (albeit in five-over form) and by the time I was posing for a team photo with the trophy I had earned 11,915 coins, still 8,085 coins short of the game’s asking price for a wacky watermelon helmet.
Roughly half of the gear and player celebrations can’t be bought, instead they’re unlocked by completing certain tasks. However, the game keeps those tasks secret, which makes earning them feel somewhat arbitrary. Presenting them to the player as challenges would have likely made the hunt for them more compelling – take a wicket with Carlos Braithwaite to unlock the triple dab, perhaps – but instead I found myself wanting to unlock Brett Lee’s ‘start the chainsaw’ wicket celebration with no idea how to go about getting it.
To be fair to developer Big Ant, it has a good track record in terms of supporting its games post-launch, and a lot of these criticisms could well be remedied in the months ahead. But for now, Big Bash Boom is a bit like Mitchell Marsh; it has enormous potential to entertain but it’s not quite yet the finished article.