The what, where, when and why of Who.
Supermassive Games should be commended for their bravery for taking on a Doctor Who game. Firstly, movie and TV show tie-in games have a reputation for being bad, which is mostly deserved, so most gamers would have already made their mind up that a Doctor Who game would not be worth trying anyway. Secondly, Doctor Who is a really popular show and the dedicated fans, the Whovians if you like, will very vocally make their feelings clear should the game make any mistakes regarding Doctor Who trivia, or if the game simply doesn’t measure up to their lofty expectations of fan service. So, for the game to be successful, Doctor Who: The Eternity Clock will need to please two groups of people: the gamers and the Whovians.
As someone who enjoys the show, but cannot really be called a Whovian, I have to say that the fan service side of the game seems to be well accounted for. Right from the very beginning, with the Doctor being thrown around the TARDIS, it felt like a real Doctor Who adventure. A lot of this authenticity comes from the fact that the voices for the two playable characters, River Song and the Doctor himself, have been provided by the show’s actors, Matt Smith and Alex Kingston. But it goes beyond just the voices. The scripting is excellent, filled with the irreverent mutterings of the Doctor every few seconds and plenty of references to the show that will have fans nodding in approval. Even the mannerisms of the Doctor and River are recreated perfectly, from the way they move to the flourishing of the Doctor’s Sonic Screwdriver, which is achieved with the right analogue stick, thanks to the motion capture that was used when creating the game.
All of which is pretty impressive when you consider that the game is a 2.5D puzzle/platformer. It was a strange choice and I personally would have thought a Doctor Who game would have at least deserved to be a 3D adventure game. Still, with a sub-£15 price tag, I suppose we can’t complain.
But sadly we will have to. The story in The Eternity Clock revolves around the time-based clock of the title and various classic, and new, Doctor Who adversaries trying to control it. To prevent this the Doctor and River will have to visit various time periods of London and outwit the Daleks, Cybermen, Silurians and the Silence. Whilst this may sound like an entertaining romp, ever-present bugs and glitches bring the whole adventure down.
Playing alone, the player will have to alternate between controlling the Doctor and River. When the two characters are woring together, the player controls the Doctor and leaves River to the somewhat glitchy AI. This is where a lot of the current bugs become apparent as River will often get stuck or fail to do whatever she is supposed to, and the player will then have to retry the entire section. Each of the characters play slightly differently, with the Doctor dealing with most of the mini-games thanks to his Sonic Screwdriver and River using her Sonic Blaster and hypnotic lipstick for the more combat-based encounters.
The gameplay itself consists mostly of platforming with the occasional bit of stealth “hide behind a wall” style action as the player works out rudimentary progression puzzles (such as working out how to open a door). This is broken up by the puzzle mini-games, of which there are only a few that are repeated throughout the game. As the player can choose puzzle difficulty at the beginning of their game, how complex these puzzles are does vary. However, certain sequences which include the mini-games are on time limits, and it is here that things can get frustrating, especially when having to rely on the AI controlling River.
However, the game seems to have been designed with co-op play in mind and playing with local split-screen (online co-op is not available) does fix many of the problems and makes the game much more fun. There are still graphical glitches and audio delays which do tend to burst any bubble that the player may be immersed in. But being able to watch as a friend does something in a different time period that affects your own time period is pretty special.
There are collectibles to find on your journey through time. For fans of the show, finding pages from River’s diary will especially tempting. But even finding some of the Doctors hat collection will raise a smile as the Doctor comments on them. You certainly cannot deny that the game caters to the fans.
If only the gameplay were that good. With a PC and Vita version on the way, I am sure that the bugs will be ironed out. A bug free game will certainly be more entertaining to the non-Whovians. As it stands right now, there is some enjoyment to be had with The Eternity Clock, especially for fans of the show. But for the non-fans, it would be better to wait until the problems have been fixed.