Hands on with Big Bash BOOM
Getting hands-on with a game before it’s released is always something special. So being invited to the offices of Big Ant to check out Big Bash Boom had me excited. Leaving the office had me even more so.
Walking into a development house is always like having a look behind the curtain — Ross Symons is the big boss and was the one to show me the game, along with one of the developers and, after a quick tour of the studio (which is a far bigger than I thought) it was time to play the game. For those who are not aware, Big Bash Boom is the first Cricket game that is based on the Big Bash League, the version of Cricket that contains flames and rock music; given that base, you can imagine just how the game might be. One more part to note is that this is more arcade Cricket, not realistic. of you want that, you can look for Ashes Cricket, also from Big Ant — this is more in-line with NBA Jam.
The game is quite easy to pick up; when batting, you have four shot types, letting you drive the ball down along the ground, lobbing in the air, and so on, with each shot assigned to a face button on the controller. Using the left stick, you aim where you want your shot to go, and a little map at the top of the screen will give you an indication of where you are aiming. Then, you just need to wait for the play to begin. While you are at bat, you will see a reticle on the ground, for where the ball is expected to bounce, letting you line up your shot. And that’s it really, you hit the ball and get the runs you can.
One part, though, that helps sell the arcade nature of the game and lives up to the Big Bash Leagues reputation, is that if you happen to hit the ball spot on, then you can launch the ball for a 6, complete with smoke rings and other effects. The game really wants you to feel that you are in control, that you have the power, and it shows. If you mess up the timing, you might end up lobbing the ball straight up and down, so practicing is important — though if you are like me, you might find yourself hitting countless sixes. If you manage to make an awesome shot, the game will give you a chance to celebrate.
The celebrations, or taunts if you prefer, are much like the moves players can pull off after scoring a goal in FIFA; pressing a button or a series of buttons will let you act out some crazy animation. When I was watching the developer play, his celebration consisted of the two batters doing the Single Ladies dance, which was funny and quite strange; though when it was my turn, I ended up doing a taunt along the lines of what UFC fighter Conor McGregor would do, flexing for the camera. The celebrations are awarded as you play, but you can jump the queue and purchase them as well, using the games in-game currency — no microtransactions to be found. One of the taunts, I mean celebrations, I was told about, but did not see, was that if you get out for a duck, the duck will appear behind you and shoo you back to the stand, giving you a sense of shame as you are duck-marched out, something I look forward to seeing in person… just not against me.
The other part of the game that ensures you will have a blast playing it are the power ups. Now, I only got to see a few in action, but they have promised that there will be a number of them in the final game. The first one that I was witness to was the double runs power up. When activated, you get a really anime-inspired sequence, where the batter held their bat horizontally, then moved their hand along it, much like a samurai would do. Any shot that was hit while that was active, would result in double the runs, so if you landed a six, it became 12, though if you managed to get a single, then two runs would be the total. Whilst I was bowling, one of the batters activated another power up, but while I was not able to see its effect in action, thanks to my getting an LBW, I was told that some power ups will last a few balls, but some are one and done, so discovering what powers will work in the best situation adds a little strategy to things.
Swapping things around, it was time for me to get out and bowl, this requires a little more finesse than batting, but it is still quite simple. You can use one of the four face buttons to select the type of bowl you want to execute and with your left stick, you move the reticle to show where you want the ball to go. The challenge comes with the power meter — each bowling option has a sweet spot where if you get the arrow in it, you get a more powerful shot. Of course, that sweet spot is quite small and takes some practice to get it right, and whilst I might have been able to smack the ball for a six over and over again, bowling was quite a bit more challenging. Again, if you manage to get a wicket, by either bowling them out, or via a catch, the game will let you celebrate, but even if you don’t there are a host of animations that will still play out. Getting a catch and not doing anything, will see members of your team run up to each other and pat on the back and whatnot, much like they do in real life.
Speaking of real life, all of the players in the game are based on their real-world counterparts, each player had their face photographed, a lot, with all the images being combined into the faces we see in the game and while they sport the bobble-head look, there is no denying that they look real, it’s quite a juxtaposition. The other thing you will see are the mascots, from all the teams, including the Sydney Sixers’ giant 6 costume, which is just weird. Perhaps the oddest, but also coolest parts is that you can don all the players in your team, with silly and wacky hats, these range from cowboy hats, to the headdress of a Beefeater, and if you want to be really out there, the flashing bails. I asked if there was anything to crazy that the Cricket board did not want to add, but it turns out they wanted to add things like playing on the moon and other out there ideas, but it was Big Ant who dialled things back, with the decision being made to get a solid foundation first and if there is a second game, things might get even more out-there.
Playing the game on Switch is something that I am looking forward too, as we were playing on PlayStation 4, simply because the Switch will allow for a host of controller options, including motion controls. Players on Switch will be able to play in docked mode, with their Pro Controller, handheld or Tabletop, in fact the only control option the game does not support on Switch is touch screen. If you have a Switch controller, it is supported here. For the motion controls, you can just play the way you would do so in real life, swing the Joy-Con like you would a bat and you are playing the game.
While I would have loved to play some of the game on Switch, I still left the studio excited to play more. Those who know me know I am not a sports game guy, but arcade versions of sports I do enjoy. The game is being made by some real sports fans and for Australian audiences, in fact it is likely the most Australian game ever, as all of the songs included are from local bands. The game is only a few weeks away from release, but that is not soon enough for me.