As downloads of the first Doctor Who pass half a million, Tom takes a look at the freebie and ask if it's actually any good.
Platforms: PC & Mac
Developer: Sumo Digital
Publisher: BBC Wales Interactive
Since the series reboot in 2005, the BBC's Dr. Who website has had an entire section devoted to games, but up until now they've been small mini games with graphics that'd be right at home if you travelled back in time a few years in the TARDIS. Luckily, The Adventure Games have come along and changed all that and the best thing is they're completely free to download for both PC and Mac.
In total we'll be getting four episodes in The Adventure Games series this year and they're being hailed as extensions to the current series of the TV show, and I've got to say if City of the Daleks is anything to go by then they fit the format rather nicely. You start off with The Doctor (Matt Smith) taking Amy (Karen Gillan) to an exotic location in time and space, only to discover something isn't quite as it seems and you need to put things right before the credits start rolling. Throw in a bit of time travel and an arch-enemy or two and bang you've got yourself a situation you'll need your sonic screwdriver for. There's only really one more thing I can say to get this review going: GERONIMO!
City of the Daleks drops our favourite Time Lord and his faithful companion straight into 1963, only it's not quite as we know it. The Daleks have exterminated the entire human race laying Earth to waste in the process and The Doctor needs to travel to the Dalek home world, Skaro, in order to reverse the changes they've made to the time line and save Amy along with the rest of humanity.
Now, whilst the story for this episode fits the TV show format perfectly, unfortunately it also mirrors its length and you'll have no problem completing it within 45 - 90 mins, so the length of a double bill at the very least. The story itself is pretty well thought out and contains a number of references that in some cases go back to the earliest episodes when William Hartnell was still roaming around the universe playing the first incarnation of The Doctor. Unfortunately, whilst Matt Smith and Karen Gillan both lend their voices to their characters the spark that they have onscreen just doesn't seem to be there, but then again that's hardly surprising considering the writer for this episode had never seen anything from either of them. Also, the Daleks just don't seem quite as intimidating as you'd expect them to be and considering these are meant to be the most hardcore Daleks to date it's a bit of a disappointment, especially when you can wander around their city using the sonic screwdriver at will when we've previously seen that they're quite adept at detecting the emissions from the handy little device.
The controls are incredibly simple, the right mouse button or keyboard arrows move you around the environment, the left button lets you interact with everything you'll stumble across, the space button or middle mouse button'll open your inventory, and you can look around by moving the mouse. Unfortunately, this does mean that the number of things you can do are severely limited.
The gameplay is a mix of various element including puzzle solving, sneaking around patrolling Daleks, collecting items to construct or repair things that are crucial to progress further in the story, and questioning people as to exactly what's going on. Tip toeing past the Daleks is incredibly easy, all you need to do is work out their patrol patterns and you're ready to go, in fact once they've passed you it's possible to walk directly behind them without fear of any repercussions. Some of the puzzles do require a bit of thought and there was more than one occasion when they got the better of me and I had to restart them. When you do enter into a conversation the options are displayed on the screen and you'll be able to click on them in any order you like until they've been exhausted. It's also worth noting that if you do die or need to shut the game down for whatever reason, it does autosave as you go along so you don't have to worry about starting right from the beginning again.
Also in addition to the main game, there are a number of collectibles scattered around for you to collect some of which are hidden away but certainly aren't too difficult to find should you decide to go looking for them. Finally, you'll also be treated to a bit of a history lesson in the form of text that pops up when you click on certain object such as the black cabs, buses, and electronics you come across.
Had I payed for the game I'd have been incredibly disappointed and attempted to get my money back, but I don't think you should look at this and compare it to the majority of mainstream titles that you can pick up for your desktop or consoles because that just wouldn't be fair. Yes it's certainly rough around the edges and huge improvements could be made, especially if the aim becomes to enter it into the commercial market, but what the game shows is just how far things have come if this is the sort of quality we're to expect from free titles in the future. I've got my fingers crossed that this year's adventure games will show that there's certainly the demand for a proper Dr. Who game and hopefully the developers will take note of this and regenerate it into a polished title in the future.
- It's free!
- Good links to the TV series
- The sound is pretty good
- Far too short!
- Way too easy!
- The Daleks are fairly harmless!
Short Version: If you're a Dr. Who fan or you're curious to see how a free game compares to titles you'd have to go out and buy, then you should definitely give it a try, otherwise I wouldn't bother especially if you're expecting satisfying gameplay.