Cricket. The Queen’s Game. Batball Classic. Whackasphere. Kneepad Chess. Bashem McWicket. All very authentic names for the sport and that authenticity extends to Cricket Through the Ages, one of the charming, under-the-radar offerings made extremely easy to check out thanks to Apple’s ridiculously valuable (for the consumer, at least) Arcade service.
I took a trip to London nearly a decade ago and had a very brief love affair with the game of cricket. The Ashes, the annual series of cricket matches between Australia and England, was all over TV at the time. Baseball’s deliberate nature owes a lot to cricket, but cricket has such a different energy than baseball. There’s a gravitational pull to cricket even as I struggled (and still struggle) with its complicated scoring method and rule set. You don’t need to have this appreciation for cricket to enjoy Cricket Through the Ages, but the game is clearly the product of people who believe the earth revolves around the sport.
Cricket Through the Ages tells the not-completely-accurate history of cricket, from cavemen avoiding dinosaurs and Dark Ages horseback fights to a hyper dystopian future where we’ll carve each other up with light sabers for sport. No, this isn’t an accurate facsimile of cricket, but rather a retelling of the world where cricket is everything and everything is cricket.
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This game didn’t give me a heightened understanding of the rules or actual history of cricket, but rather an understanding of its most dedicated fandom. It’s a game crafted with love and a noticeable wink, made all the more effective by the game’s narrator, Pierre Malherbe, who oscillates between reverent and sardonic when explaining how, for example, it’s all the Queen’s fault that soccer became more popular than cricket in England.
How does Cricket Through the Ages actually play? Well, think of WarioWare-style one-acts in rapid succession where the goal is (usually) hitting a ball to score points or throwing a ball past the batsman. This simple conceit is mixed up every so often with bowler vs. bowler, batsman vs. batsman, and other flipped scripts. One of my favorite variations is the AI bowler will sometimes have a 50lb weighted ball and the batsman will have to find the sweet spot, otherwise it’s sure to hit the wicket you’re guarding. It’s a game informed by its physics, too, which feel weighty and fun without being super punitive.
There’s a randomness to the proceedings. Don’t go into Cricket Through the Ages thinking you’ll never be faced with an unfair outcome. The bowler, for example, can always keep running at you before the game resets. Even if the ball misses the wickets, the bowler can still run into the batsman and force an out by tackling him into the wicket. The batsman, of course, can thwack the bowler upside the head and end the round.
The main narrative mode that introduces you to the mechanics and overall vibe will take 15 minutes to complete, but the mode it unlocks starts a chain of new modes that change the stakes, including a goal-based soccer mode and a Nidhogg-esque ground control game that puts World War I at center stage. You can play Cricket Through the Ages solo or with a friend on the same device, which I haven’t tested yet because I’ve had the flu for the past four days.
No one will touch my phone with me.
Cricket Through the Ages is available now on Apple Arcade from Devolver Digital. They provided the screenshots and some information about the game’s narrator for this piece.