‘Doctor Who’ Game Double Feature

In the past few weeks we have been bestowed with not one but two games based on the ongoing series Doctor Who. The first, ‘Worlds in Time’, is a browser based MMORGPer and the second, ‘The Eternity Clock’, was released on the PSN this past week. Since their both small releases we’re going to tackle them together!

First, ‘The Eternity Clock‘.

This is how I imagine the meeting with the producer went when this game was put into production.

PRODUCER: It’s come to our attention that loyal fans of Doctor Who will buy anything with the Doctor Who logo on it. People also like video games. We think there’s an idea here.

PROGRAMMER: Great thinking boss!

PRODUCER: Yes, I saw a game once. A few decades ago – they was a guy who jumped over gaps and solved puzzles. Do one like that.

PROGRAMMER: Um, we’ve made some good progress in developing games further…

PRODUCER: So just go ahead and do the jumping guy thing, keep it simple. And don’t spend much money on it, they’re going to buy it anyway.

PROGRAMMER: Since the fans are so dedicated don’t you think we should do right by them and produce a good game?

PRODUCER: You’re not going far in this business with that attitude. Have the game done by next week, there’s a lad. And bring me another hooker.

“…and at the end of the game, charge them more money. Fuck our fans.”

To say that this is a wasted opportunity is an understatement. As this review will elaborate on the programmers have done a halfway decent job but there’s been an obvious lack of resources dedicated to this project. Presentation wise there’s many positives here. The backgrounds look good and are well detailed and the motion capture of Matt Smith and Alex Kingston as The Doctor and his River Song do the characters justice. The soundtrack is one of the highlights with the voice acting of the main characters adding a thick layer of awesome over proceedings.

Anything other than a glance with show the cracks in the veneer. As soon as the Doctor grabs a ledge of climbs a ladder you’ll notice that his hands pass clear through them before resettling in the right place. The clipping issue becomes especially irksome when The Doctor and River are standing side by side on the same 2D plane and they clip into each other, resulting in it looking as though they’ve used the same teleporter and gotten merged together. Clipping is coupled with shonky collision detection leaving the player struggling to disengage the character from a ladder or ledge. Sometimes the audio doesn’t always sync up with the characters dialogue sometimes chiming out minutes after the relevant event. Even more frustrating is the second level where River is escaping from prison – if the guards become alarmed and catch you they’ll often still be alarmed when you restart.

Escaping from Cybermen is as stodgy as it is thrilling.

The puzzles and level layout is actually pretty solid, with plenty of variation between one level and the next. The scenery is always nice to look and each area will present the players with a new set of challenges. It’s just a shame that with a development team putting in so much effort that the resources weren’t provided to iron out the many problems. There are plenty of nods to the show for fans with River escaping from Stormcage and the like, and the Sonic Screwdriver playing a large role. Obvious and easy to find collectables consist of hats and dairy pages, which is a nice touch.

In spite of its flaws it’s a masterpiece compared to ‘Worlds in Time‘.

This free-to-play browser based role playing game sees players recruited by The Doctor to travel in the TARDIS to help recover the parts of a broken time crystal. Beginning in an alternative version of London taken over by Autons you must travel through a variety of locations and times to battle all the better known villains in order to find crystals. Each new recovery allows players to cash in for credit that they can use to buys outfits and furniture for their room in the TARDIS.

That’s a pretty creepy expression for a dude who just abducted us from our bedroom.

As with any game that bills itself as ‘free’ these days the only way to access the good stuff – or indeed anything other that the pyjamas that make up the starting outfit – you need to drop some real world cash. This technique is more or less expected these days but it is still frustrating.

The game involves the player and friends/AI characters landing in an area and solving a series of puzzles in order to find the crystal. This is where we run into trouble. There’s only a small selection of different puzzles available and they repeat again and again through each level. They’re variations on Tetris, Columns and other tried and tested games. In order to complete each section the player must push through multiple levels of the game (each more or less the same) before moving onto the next puzzle. Even conversations with NPC’s require the player to do this – complete the same puzzle again and again before moving onto the next puzzle.

Playing as a team might enhance the experience somewhat but the game is pretty much deserted during each attempt we made at playing. Those few people encountered didn’t seem interested in having a conversation or teaming up, with every request ignored or rejected. Play on the whole was sluggish so it’s possible that they didn’t want the game to be slowed further by involving other players.

It sounds like the fun and novelty runs out pretty quickly…but the honest truth is that the game will most likely crash before that happens. I spend more time reloading from the crash page than I did in the TARDIS.

In an ideal world the budget, time and man-power used in producing ‘Worlds in Time’ could’ve been combined with ‘The Eternity Clock’ to produce a game worthy of the Doctor Who legacy. But for that to happen the producers would need to have respect for fans. Instead we get these hurried and broken cash-ins. Sigh.