Let’s be clear: on the high-end platforms, The Ashes 2009 requires mastery of some fairly complex controls. To bat, you’ll need to choose your stance with the left bumper and trigger, use the left stick to control your shot direction, then use one of three face buttons to choose a defensive, attacking or overhead shot, which you’ll then need to time perfectly before remembering to press Y to start your batsmen running. To bowl, you need to select a delivery using the left and right bumpers and the face buttons, then position the bounce with the left stick and hit a face button again to deliver, again with split-second timing. The tutorials do an excellent job of taking you through all this, but there’s quite a lot to get your head around straight off, and it will be an hour or so into the game before you really get the rhythm of the timing.
The upside of all this complexity is that you can’t fault The Ashes 2009 for lack of detail. Whether you want to spin, swing or just a bowl really fast, the game bends over backwards to let you have your way, and there’s a similar level of accuracy to the batting. Fielding is mostly automatic, but the game allows you to select different layouts with a quick flick of the left stick. What’s more the new mechanism for catching – a sort of slowmo quick-time event with a decreasing red to green to red circle indicating your chances – is brilliant, ensuring that a fielding player must keep on their toes in the gaps between deliveries.
The Wii version is more instantly playable, but here there’s a slight disappointment in the controls. While the lack of MotionPlus support is understandable so soon after the peripheral’s release, the game doesn’t really go far enough in delivering a lifelike cricket feel using the regular Wii controls. While you can bowl properly if you like, a quick flick of the remote works just as well, and you actually adjust the speed of your delivery using the A and B buttons, not by flicking harder or faster. It’s a similar story with batting. There’s no sense that you’re affecting the angle or speed of the shot with the remote – it’s all a question of timing. This might make the game easier to pick up and more practical as a sofa-based activity, but you can’t help but feel that The Ashes 2009 is slightly missing the point of the whole Wii experience.