Here is a game that while I was interested as a fan, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had previously tried a Dr. Who game created directly by the BBC, and to put it mildly, I was unimpressed. But knowing this was both a different kind of game and not one that was released as free promotional material for the TV series, I had some hopes this would prove a lot better then the previous titles. So when it came out, I picked it up, hopes still high. I just finished the title this morning… and I think the Doctor has finally had a descent outing in the gaming world.
Story: Trouble always seems to find the Doctor, wherever he goes. This game taking place at the end of season 6, it would seem he has seen it all, including his own death. And somehow, he has managed to outsmart or outdo everything. But sometimes, the TARDIS does have a mind of it’s own, and this would be one of those times. Something pulled it straight to London and the only clue the poor guy has as to why is a note on his psychic paper telling him what he should go check out.
It doesn’t take long, however, to figure out a time-storm is brewing here… a big one. Big enough to rip apart all of existence. As it is, time has been distorted and corrupted, allowing for several of the Doctor’s most famous enemies to take hold where and when they are never supposed to… and they seem to have the objects that are creating the storm. The only ones in the way are the Doctor, River Song, and the TARDIS who landed them in the middle of the mess.
The story of this game plays it’s part in giving the feeling of a Dr. Who episode with all the fan-service one should expect from a game based on the franchise. You will travel with River and the Doctor as they unravel what is going on, the cause of it all, and you will understand about as much as they do when they do. It is well written, well paced, but sadly, not all that deep for all the work that went into it.
Each villain of the game has their own story and section, but no one really takes the helm of the over-all plot, leaving something missing from the whole experience. It’s a shame, too, because the newest member of the cast, the Silence, make an appearance and would have been an exceptional central villain for the story to revolve around.
Instead, they are just another side-actor, leaving the main point of the entire game to be the artifacts, which are pieces of the “Eternity Clock” in the title of the game. And while the game explains what it is, and what it is meant to do, it never really resolves anything outside of stopping the time storm without any real fan-fair despite it being the main goal of the entire game. Instead, we get a cliff-hanger ending revolving around the behavior of the artifact. And while I would be interested to see where this goes, I can not approve of yet ANOTHER “to be continued” ending of a game hoping to get a sequel.
Graphics: When you see the initial price tag on the game, you would probably assume budget graphics for a budget price. But this game looks surprisingly good! Supported by the Unreal 3 engine, everything is rendered and animated perfectly smooth, and you will find yourself in awe at the detail. Simply put, this game looks great!
Everything is done with the in-game engine, so do not expect any pre-rendered cut-scenes that will suddenly show a different resolution or frame-rate either. However, this does come at a trade off. While in-game animations are almost perfect, the cut-scene ones show that they were made in game, between facial work not quite being right and with some “not quite realistic” motions from the characters acting in them from time to time.
Further cutting the graphics, you will occasionally see things like the hit-block scenario, only with what the Doctor is trying to interact with, making it look like he might have minor telekinesis powers from time to time. These moments are few and far between, but they are VERY noticeable, especially for how good everything else looks.
And the villains definitely upstage everything here: picture-perfect, behaving exactly as they do from the show, and even showing off a little personality. The best example I can think of for this happened when I was hiding from a Dalek, and he stopped to take a second look at my hiding space. I must not have placed the Doctor well enough, cause he actually stopped and watched for a moment before deciding he must have been seeing things and moved on. VERY impressed!
Sound: With music ripped directly from the show accompanying the actual voices from the actors, there is little to complain about here! The moment the music starts, you will feel right at home as it’s pacing matches the game perfectly. You know when you are in danger before you see anything, and you know when the Doctor is about to kick ass as the music guides you with all the skill an audio team can assemble a soundtrack.
But the real stars are the voice actors. Everyone brought their A-game to this title, especially Matt Smith. You will absolutely love every word that comes out of this guy’s digitalized mouth…. be it him explaining something as only the Doctor can or just making wise-ass comments about what’s going on (and sometimes regretting them right away).
Sound effects, on the other hand, while accurate to the show, are a little bit limited in volume. The game really doesn’t spend a lot of time with combat at all, so you will maybe hear an arsenal of 4 or 5 weapons total. That isn’t to say what’s here is bad. In fact, everything here is sound-perfect faithful to the show this game is built around. It simply sounds like the TV show and is amazing for it. But it’s just kinda limited in the sound effect department.
Gameplay: At it’s heart, Doctor Who is a side-scrolling puzzler game. You will explore the map you are in, looking for the way to unlock the next step and invariably move forward in your quest to save the universe by completing whatever objectives have been listed by the game for you to do. Doing so will involve unlocking doors with your sonic-screwdriver, finding clever ways around obstacles, manipulating objects, and completing various mini-games in the form of panels you are high-jacking from control of whoever had them first.
And those mini-games are actually rather varied. You will do a variety of activities from spinning discs to form a picture, building paths between two points in a very domino-esque way, guiding dots through a ring of obstacles, create paths between two points by spinning parts of the path into place, as well as a few additional puzzles. There is simply more then enough types of puzzle to keep you from groaning as you know the same thing is coming up the moment you hit use. And there is no one puzzle-type that is too frustrating in it’s own right that you will simply hate it.
But that doesn’t mean these are perfect either. While most are self explanatory, the few that are not are not exactly cleared up by the tutorial text, and there are a few times where you will be doing these puzzles on the clock as the enemies now off screen, approach every closer in real-time while you figure it out. To further aggravate these moments, the game doesn’t pause while you read how to play, so you can easily die just figuring out what the hell you are supposed to do. Most of this issue is resolved before the 1st quarter of the game is over though, so this is not a big deal in the end.
Those enemies, however, are also most of the time nothing more then a way to spice the game up, be it giving you a time limit as they march mindlessly to a point you need to get to first, follow patterns you can use to sneak around them or manipulate how they move to home in on you so you can buy more time for one of these puzzles. Simply put they are cool to see on screen, but very rarely do they pose any real threat during the game. The only one that seemed to be used in a less standard way is the Silence, who’s entire level requires you to keep at least one on the screen (who River sees) or she forgets what she is doing and you have to start over. They may not pose a threat, but being forced to avoid and watch them at all times at the same time proves to be a very unique point and a real highlight of the game.
And the controls backing this are actually really solid. Being a side-scroller, this game screams for a controller, and using my 360 one, I had no issues outside of of occasionally forgetting I have to hold down a button while giving River a lift over a wall rather then just hit the button and watch the animation.
But sadly, while the enemies are required to be dumb so there are patterns to learn and use in the game, the AI of River when the two characters work together leaves a lot to be desired. I have on multiple occasions lost her in a suicidal loop or being stuck on a ladder or many other things. Thankfully the developers seemed to realize this and if she gets far enough away, she spawns near you, allowing the game to continue.
Overall though, this game played very well.
Bugs: For the most part, this game ran perfectly. However, I did have 2 points I have to mention.
River didn’t come back: There was one time the above spawning didn’t work. When first entering the last quarter of the game, she got stuck running into toxic ooze (literally Dalek poop) and simply did not return. Thankfully she was not needed for any of the obstacles before a scene-change so the game was not hampered, but I was wondering if I was going to have to restart the chapter.
The bridge is gone!: Early in the game, there is a crane with an eye-beam you have to use to make a bridge to the roof of another building, only it looks like when you are there, you could jump to the other roof. Having fallen for this, I wound up with the Doctor on one side with the beam too far away to move via the sonic-screwdriver and had to restart the chapter.
Final Score: Doctor Who, for all it’s ups and downs, was a very enjoyable title, albeit a short one. I finished the game in just over 7 hours of gameplay, but outside of the Cybermen section at the beginning, found the game a fun little romp in the Dr. Who universe. If you enjoy puzzle-games and/or are a fan of Dr. Who, you could do a lot worse for $10, and I recommend giving this game a try.
If, however, you are neither of these, you might want to give this game a pass. It may be a platformer, but it’s not an action-platformer, and you are probably going to be disappointed for that reason alone.
out of 10