In case you were unaware, the BBC have been invading the shores of America, especially in the trains littered with television ads here in New York. One of the ads had me stumped for the longest time as I could not figure out the meaning behind it. “If you were a Time Lord, you would be home by now, or 700 years ago.” Is a “Time Lord” what the British call time travelers? Well, it turns out it is aDoctor Who reference and having never seen the show, said reference went way over my head. To prepare for the game I watched a number of episodes of the show and have a better understanding now than before, but does the quirkiness of the Doctor translate into a top-notch puzzle-based platformer? When it works, yes, but when game breaking glitches appear, and I do mean glitches, as it happens throughout the game – not even the humor of the Doctor can save this one.
Starting out like most of the Doctor’s adventures, the uncontrollable TARDIS – Time and Relative Dimension in Space – heads towards Earth at an alarming rate and only the Doctor can save the day. Sent to a bank in the modern timeline, The Doctor has to make his way around an empty bank full of even duller hallways while pushing conveniently placed crates around to climb over structures in his path. If the platforming sounds basic, that’s because it is. You do get to crawl through tight corridors and make your way across hanging pipes from the ceiling, but the simple and basic level design don’t help in making it exciting. Along the way he will even have to solve environmental puzzles ,such as pushing crates around shift elevators, so you can advance through to the next room. Matt Smith, the current Eleventh Doctor, provides the voice for this role full of one-liners, which may just be the best thing about the game.
The second playable character, River Song, isn’t as lucky as she begins in the same area in jolly old England, but set in the future timeline and locked up behind bars. Using her slutty…I mean hallucinogenic kisses on the guards, River escapes the future and meets up with the Doctor at the bank. Before escaping, remember that River is defenseless if caught, so she must master the act of stealth. While the guards move in easily recognizable patterns, you would think it would be easy to avoid them, but the game doesn’t the concept of “things being harder than they should be.” Let’s not forget about how often River seems to get stuck in the environment like a crate or a ladder, forcing you to restart.
To put it bluntly, the side-scrolling gameplay feels clunky and unresponsive at times. I have no quarries playing a 2D side-scrolling game, but when you can only move on a 2D plane while the enemies frequently move between planes – it makes it harder to distinguish where the enemies are at times since you are restricted to the foreground throughout the game…
While playing solo, the game will switch between the two characters, but if you are able to convince a friend to play with you, you won’t have to worry about playing both roles. Equipped with the Sonic Screwdriver, the Doctor’s portion of the game relies heavily on solving puzzles. One of the puzzles, the Sonic lock-pick mini-game, has you matching wavelengths by manipulating the length and height of the waves. The puzzles aren’t overly challenging and at the higher difficulties they don’t become harder, just more frustrating as it reduces the amount of time you have to complete the puzzles.
Lasting close to eight hours, the game also features collectibles that are scattered throughout the levels. Fans of the series will love scouring the levels for Rivers diary pages and the Doctor’s lost hat collection. I didn’t feel a real need to find all the collectibles however, maybe due to the fact I am new to the series. Most of them I wouldn’t even consider hidden, as you can find most of them by just going in the opposite direction than where you need to go. See that ladder in front of you to reach the exit? Simply walk past it and behind a crate there surely will be a collectible item. Collecting the diary pages adds details to the plot of the game if you take the time to read through them. While those familiar with the series will gladly get a kick out of these, most people just won’t care to read them or collect them for that matter; unless there is a trophy involved of course. Ding!
Both Matt Smith and Alex Kingston fulfill their roles of Doctor and River Songs respectfully and add to the true Doctor Whoexperience, but sadly nothing in the game adds to the experience. The one-liners are generally funny as you go through the levels, but it’s problematic since you must go through the levels to hear them. You had a good run Doctor, I think you can let Earth be destroyed this time.
Note: The Doctor Who: The Eternity Clock review was written based on the PS3 version of the game.