Robin Smith's International Cricket logo

There have not been too many cricket games for the Amiga and it is not hard to see why, actually. It is a quiet, contemplative game best suited to the village green, and thus does not lend itself to constant, high-speed, joystick-blasting action. But Challenge Software, true to their name, have grasped the gauntlet firmly and plunged ahead with a game endorsed by one of the most consistent England players, Mr Robin Smith.

First, you must select which country and squad members you wish to play. As with many team games, the players' names included are out-of-date almost as soon as they have been added, but at the time of writing, the seven international teams included seem to be pretty accurate (except for the deplorable absence of Viv Richards from the West Indian side).

Each player has a rating which rises and falls during the game. This indicates how he is currently performing. You will need to watch this when changing your bowlers during the match because they get tired or damage the various tiny muscles in their toes or groins or somewhere. For the batsmen, it does not seem to matter though.

Bowled over?
You can decide whether to play a one-day game or go for a full-test. If you co for the full test match, you are going to have to miss a couple of days of work because it does not exactly go quickly. You will also need to select the duration of the match in overs, and then the scene switches to a view of an anonymous cricket pitch, with data on the weather, the batting and the bowling displayed below it.

Here is the problem. The game takes over and you watch from the commentary box as ball after ball is played, run after run is accumulated and wicket after wicket falls. You simply play very little part in the proceedings. If you are bowling you can swap the bowlers after each over, but that is about it. If you are batting, you can change your style between defensive and attacking at the end of every over, but again, that is about all you get to do!

Short square legs
The pixelly, blocky bowler trots up, an over-large ball is hurled towards the batsman, who always seems to play the same shot, then the ball zips off in a random direction. Any nearby fielder cugs across to retrieve it whilst the batsmen rush up and down, piling on thr runs. Meanwhile, you watch the unimpressive graphics, unable to contribute anything except the odd swear-word when one of your vital batsmen bowled or caught out.

Cricket lovers will be disappointed. Even for them, there is not enough to do. You cannot change batting orders, train your players or otherwise make the team better than it starts off. People who do not start off as great fans of the real game won't get hooked (as has happened with games like Kick Off). In fact, they will be bored senseless.

It is a pity, but Robin Smith does not come off, which means the world is still waiting for playable cricket on the Amiga.

Robin Smith's International Cricket logo

Oh dear. I am not at all sure where to start with this one, so I guess I'll start with a question - who is this Robin Smith character anyway? Unfortunately, I don't know to follow that up (I certainly don't know the answer) except with another question - like have there ever been any good computer cricket games?

And, indeed, have there ever been any good management games for that matter? (I've certainly not enjoyed many of them). When you realise that not only is International Cricket a) about cricket, b) a management game but c) endorsed by the utterly unfamous Robin Smith, you'll begin to see the extent of my predicament in reviewing this. I really, really don't know where to start.

Well, let's start at the beginning, with the cricket bit. You could hardly accuse the game of being well presented, but it does feature a neat little pad of cricket scorecards where you can keep all your averages or whatever they are marked down. Now I've forgotten how you're meant to score cricket anyway - indeed, I'm not sure I ever really know - so they're not of much use to me, but they do, I feel, nicely symbolise my feelings about this game. It's all about numbers, and statistics, and watching things you don't really understand.

It's certainly not about joining in the action, such as it is - once you've picked your opening batsmen or bowlers, laid out your fielders (if relevant) and watched you opponents pick the men they'll use, all you get to do is watch one white ant-like figure 'run' towards the wicket, bowl something that looks the size of a watermelon, and stand still ans various other little ants flicker on and off screen haphazardly in their attempts to grab the melon and get it back towards the wicket.

To point out that the batsmen don't actually seem to have to move to score any runs, or that the ball always gets returned to the wicket keeper, then miraculously re-appears in the bowler's hand, seems almost churlish - this is only a representation of the game we're watching, after all, not something you're intended to take part in and play.

As for the strategy/management side of things - which you are meant to play - this seems as dull and pointless to me as all straight management games. There are certainly a lot of names, figures and so on bandied around - though I haven't the faintest idea if they're really accurate or not, and no real way of finding out. I guess the best I can do is abandon my intention of reviewing this as a cricket game - it'll no doubt sell almost exclusively to cricket fans, and there's so little available for them they'll probably lap it up - and treat it from the perspective of a normal computer game fan. For us, it's as lethargic, mysterious, old fashioned and uninvolving as cricket itself.

(PS I've just found out who Robin Smith is - he's a Hampshire and England batsman, and the guy who won us a test against the West Indies earlier this year. So sorry, it seems he is actually quite famous after all).

Robin Smith's International Cricket logo

Lord Paul Lakin has never been known to bowl a maiden over. However, he was keen to cast his eye over these two new cricket games (Cricket & Robin Smith's International Cricket).
Challenge Software/ST & Amiga/£25.99/Mid July

The first thing to say about this game is that it has very little to do with Robin Smith. His undoubted talents belong very much to the Allan Lamb 'chin up and get slogging' school of play - more of an arcade player, really. Yet Challenge Software has produced what is, essentially, a strategy game. Your involvement in each game is confined to the periods before each over gets underway.

Batting consists of selecting your line-up and either an attacking, defensive or average response to the blowing. Then it's feet up time while the action of that over is played out in front of you. At the end of the over, you can adopt a different approach to the bowling or have a quick glance at the scoreboard.

Once you get a chance to bowl, you can set your field (once again there are five pre-set fields or a DIY option). You then choose whether to pitch the ball at either outside off, middle and leg or middle and off, choose a bowler (their styles are pre-determined) and let it all happen. Games can run to a maximum of 60 overs and a minimum of 40.
Fortunately, there's a save game option.

Amiga reviewPaul: At first glance this looked as if it was going to be a welcome alternative to sleeping tablets, being a sports game where you don't play any sport! Yet RS International is appealing, in a slightly hypnotic way (rather like real cricket).

It's certainly user-friendly and the graphics during the game sequences are quite sweet. Since the game plays itself for much of the time it is one you can leave up and running and keep wandering back to.

That said, it's seriously flawed. For strategy buffs there isn't enough strategy. There are too few batting and bowling choices to allow you much room for manoeuvre. Worse, only being able to change the field between overs can be rather frustrating. An interesting approach to producing a cricket game and not a completely unsuccessful one. However, it still leaves quite a lot to be desired.