Doctor Who….. A franchise that spans 50 years, with over 750 episodes, tons of books, a massive fanbase which, as of the last few years has grown ridiculously and an array of famous actors and writers. Making a videogame out of it sounds like a good idea. A bunch of cash is generated from sales and some new fans are brought aboard as well.
However, if there’s one thing the videogame industry has never exceled at, is making videogames based on movies and TV series. And I don’t know which is worse: if the fact that a big Hollywood movie nowadays implies a videogame counterpart, or the fact that those counterparts always feel like they were made using the last remnants of the movie budget, and on a Sunday afternoon.
DW:TEC, of course, is crippled by this cash-grabbing mind-set and thus suffers considerably in most regards. But it does manage to get some things right. Let’s take a look.
The plot here is simple at first. Something or someone is causing a temporal maelstrom, and it’s up to the Doctor to stop it from tearing up time and space. Well, in a way, it’s mostly up to the TARDIS, since the poor girl acts as a plug, keeping the many holes in the fabric of time closed. Consequently, the TARDIS becomes slightly omnipresent. “Slightly omnipresent?” Well, yeah, since there are several time rifts and she’s keeping them closed, she is wherever there are any of those, which is….in several places simultaneously. Needless to say, moving her isn’t such a good idea in these conditions, so the Doctor is forced to use several time corridors that seem to pop out of nowhere with an unsettling accuracy, both time and space-wise.
Just as expected of a mess of this nature, along the way, the Doctor will face all of the major enemies of the most recent seasons, Cybermen, Daleks, the Silence and so on, each chapter being dedicated to outsmarting and defeating each one of these. All of this of course, while you go on with your quest of saving the universe once again and still be home in time for dinner.
Soon enough, you will most likely run into problems. Due to the 2-player nature of the game, and due to the fact that when you’re playing single your companion is as AI, several puzzles involving both players quickly become frustrating. Sometimes the AI will take too long to do what it’s supposed to do, or sometimes it might get stuck, meaning it won’t do anything at all, forcing you to restart from the last checkpoint. There’s also the fact that the enemy AI seems weird, being completely unable to notice you as long as they don’t face you, but if they do they will detect you even if there’s a thick wall between you and them. Some controls aren’t intuitive at all, especially elevator controls: some require you to use the sonic screwdriver, some others require you to just push up or down and others require you to press the action button. This might seem minor, but an inconsistency of this kind becomes a major annoyance, since you will be riding a lot of elevators and platforms.
On the other side of things, we have the configurations. The video options menu won’t save your chose settings, so you are forced to use the default graphic profiles (Low, Medium or High), which is also annoying (changing the config file directly had no effect whatsoever), and frequently, you will notice popping textures.
The puzzles are all pretty mediocre and easy even on the highest difficulty. The mind map puzzles were the most interesting idea out of all the challenges present here, but even those are easy to figure out. In here you have to correctly align an image in a circle by rotating its sections. In easy mode that’s literally all you need to do but in higher difficulties each section you rotate will simultaneously rotate other sections, each in a different manner, thus increasing the challenge. The platforming element is decent and for any Doctor Who fan, using the screwdriver to unlock doors and other shenanigans feels delicious. Too bad that is everything you will use in this game (besides River’s gun).
Still I can’t help but feel that this is quite a cheap cash-in. There was so much that could be done, and yet, we are left with a hollow game that consists in jumping across platforms, sneaking past enemies, and solving a few easy puzzles across the way. The collectibles don’t really add much to it, but at least there are several achievements for timed runs which will most likely make you do certain sections more than once. Good thing all sections are pretty small and can usually be done in under 10-12 mins each.
Another very disappointing point in this game is the TARDIS herself. How could such an important element of the whole DW universe be shoved aside and just used as a cheap way to have a simplified plot? Fiddling with the inside of the TARDIS would have been a dream for any DW fan, since there are endless possibilities as to what can be found inside (as seen in Season 7’s “Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS”). The control room is so pretty and detailed, and yet it’s used for nothing. The ONLY thing you do inside the TARDIS in this game is…….walk out of it.
Despite all its flaws, the game manages to get some stuff right. The ability to point your sonic screwdriver and use it to mess up with stuff is pretty damn funny, and it's pretty cool to personally evade and defeat the Daleks in a post-apocalyptic London, while listening to Matt Smith's occasional witty one-liners. That being said, some stuff, like the overall looks of Dr. River Song were totally uncalled for and are just a petty fan-service attempt.
So, in conclusion, if you’re not a DW fan and you’re just looking for a platforming game…….don’t bother. There are so many better alternatives out there for you, and this one doesn't really stand out. If you’re a big DW fan like me, go ahead and give it a try, you might like it.