You know what TV show would make a brilliant game?
There’s so much potential there to achieve something brilliant. With fifty years of history to tap into, eleven Doctors, all that time travel and all those brilliant assistants and monsters it ought to be impossible to get it wrong. This generation of consoles has proven that it can create the most exciting, challenging and immersive games ever. Just imagine a Doctor Who game with the cinematic scope of Uncharted or the free-roaming adventure of Skyrim or Assassin’s Creed. How cool would that be?
Sadly Doctor Who: The Eternity Clock is certainly not that game. What it does succeed in capturing very well is the feeling of time travel because moments after you boot this up you’ll believe that you have been transported back to the 1990s. This is an old school side-scrolling platformer reminiscent of prehistoric favourites like Sonic the Hedgehog. You run. You jump. You press buttons. You fall off things. And then you die, go back to the start and do it all again.
On the up side the graphics are decent and it all looks very pretty. There are nice locations that replicate places from the recent Eleventh Doctor series nicely. You get voice performances from Matt Smith as the Doctor and Alex Kingston as River Song which keep the characters reassuringly familiar from the TV show. There’s no sign of Amy Pond though, which is a shame. You’d think the Doctor’s current companion would at least get a look in. Still, you do get to play with the sonic screwdriver, shoot things with River’s blaster and jump about all over history using the vortex manipulator. The story is fine. You have to collect pieces of the Eternity Clock which assorted nefarious monsters have nicked for their own evil schemes. Cue time travel between Elizabethan London, the present and a Dalek infested future. There are nice ideas built into the time shifts. Things done in the past affect the future in a way you suspect Stephen Moffat would approve of. And then there are showdowns with the Cybermen, the Silurians, the Silence and the Daleks, all of which ought to get any Whovian drooling with excitement.
Unfortunately any feeling of excitement vanishes within minutes. The gameplay is incredibly old fashioned, mostly because of the repetitive platforming mentioned above. The player switches between being the Doctor and River but there’s hardly any point because they both play in exactly the same way. The action is interrupted by logic problem solving puzzles but there are only a handful of variations so these quickly become tedious. The game uses a save point system which adds to the frustration. There are areas of the game where the save points are few and far between which inevitably leads to having to replay sections over and over again. One particularly irritating restart point comes directly before a puzzle and a shoot out meaning that if you die in the gunfight (which you inevitably will before you learn your survival tactics) you have to redo the same puzzle over and over again before you can move on. Then there are levels where your objectives really aren’t very clear. A good example of this comes when facing the Cybermen in the London underground. The Doctor and River are happily working their way along the tunnels when they get suddenly sent back to the start of the level because the Cybermen have got too far ahead. This comes as a bit of a surprise as nothing in the game has suggested that you’re supposed to be in a chase.
Incredibly the dull gameplay isn’t even the worst thing. The game seems to have been put out before being tested properly. There are glitches all over it that cause characters to freeze or buttons not to work. Your AI partner can get lost or stuck or frozen mid jump and there’s nothing you can do but restart the level. At several points in my playthrough the game actually switched itself off and restarted, losing all my unsaved progress in the process. Marvelous. There’s really no excuse for such poor quality control.
In defence of this game it is cheap. It’s a budget release that you can buy or download for under fifteen quid and if you’re a Doctor Who enthusiast you’ll probably find enough to enjoy to distract you for the four or five hours it will take to play it to the end. It’s mostly undemanding fun, certainly not great but it isn’t disastrous either if you’re a die-hard fan with a couple of notes to spare. If you’re not a die-hard fan you’d be well advised to take your cash and buy something that showcases what your state of the art console can do. I mean, you can pick up Arkham Asylum for a tenner these days. That’s a thought. Now that’s what a tie-in game ought to look like…
Reviewed on PS3