Reviews// Doctor Who: The Adventure Games

Posted 4 Jun 2010 18:10 by
I'm on Skaro. I've got a magnetic field generator to kick start or I'm about to be up to my neck in floating Daleks. It's bad. Maybe as bad for me as its ever been. I reach for my trusty sonic screwdriver. Then I hear Matt Smith's voice in my ear. “That's not going to work,” he says. Wha-huh?!?

It turns out there are some limits to what the little doodad can do. It's just as well, really, because if life in the Whoniverse really was as straightforward as waving the lit-up end of your wand at stuff and saying something clever to save the world, City of the Daleks, the first episode of Doctor Who: The Adventure Games, wouldn't be much cop. As it is, this third-person adventure stands up fairly well.

OK, here's a bit of context – City of the Daleks is free in the UK. The other three episodes will be free, too. As such, the BBC is treating the games as extensions of the TV series your license fee's paying for. Yes, that's FREE. That's significant in a couple of ways. The first is that City of the Daleks is most decidedly not a core, AAA console game. It's just not. That's not what the BBC or Sumo Digital set out to produce and it's not what you're getting. The games are a very casual-friendly extension of the experience you're getting when you turn to BBC 1 early on a Saturday evening. They're for Who fans first and gamers second. So, it's within that context that they have to be judged.

The games are also significant in that the UK's foremost media institution has finally decided, in a time when a lot of its services are on the chopping block, that games are worth some expenditure in and of themselves, without any money to be made from licensing. That, I think, is noteworthy. But, in terms of whether City of the Daleks is worth your time, that's neither here nor there.

So,as things kick off you're on your way to the year 1963 for a bit of a laugh. The Doctor and Amy are having a bit of a niggle at each other about which Beatle is worth going to meet (Amy doesn't reckon there's ever been a sexy drummer, although I'm told this is wrong) and they think they're heading towards a spot of classic pop and maybe some free love (too early). They step out of the Tardis, however, to find an utterly ruined Trafalgar Square. They also spot the world's very last human running for the cover of a manhole and (drum roll) Daleks! Cue opening credits.

The ruined Trafalgar Square's worth noting. That's something you're unlikely to get in the TV show, thanks to the limitations placed on Moffat and pals by budget. That's a pretty big chunk of what The Adventure Games look set to offer – spectacle on a scale that just isn't viable on your telly. As well as offering ruined London, we get a look at Skaro that goes beyond misty quarries and tunnels, and the Beeb has said that Atlantis is coming up.

Graphically, the game won't blow you away – it's constrained by the BBC's desire for the episodes to run on relatively low-spec machines, download size and the fact that... well, it's free. But, given said free-ness, it's OK that you've seen better post-Apocalypses in Fallout 3. There's certainly enough there to offer Who fans something tasty to chomp on.

Anyway, your first task is to chase the last human down the drain. To do this, however, you have to avoid the Daleks. Controlling The Doctor with either just your mouse or the mouse and cursor keys, you move forward. As you approach you're automatically bumped into a crouchy stealth mode. It's an important touch, in that if Sumo wants non-gamers to get the games, it needs to make City of the Daleks as easy to control as possible.
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