What Is Shadows of the Vashta Nerada?
After release in the UK (and then worldwide via Direct2Drive) in Summer 2010, the Doctor Who games for PC and Mac have proved very popular among fans of the series and prompted some family computer gaming.
The fourth and final installment of the first set of games under the Doctor Who: The Adventure Games banner is Shadows of the Vashta Nerada, in which the alien time traveller and his companion Amy Pond encounter a race of piranha-like living shadows.
Installation and System Requirements (3 out of 5)
As with the previous games in the series (which share the same gameplay features and game engine) Shadows of the Vashta Nerada requires a minimum system spec of:
Windows XP with Service Pack 2, an Intel Pentium 4 1.6 GHz or AMD Sempron 2800, 512MB RAM on XP, 1GB on Windows Vista or Windows 7, 2 GB hard disk space for the game with additional space for running it, a DirectX 9 compatible soundcard, and DirectX 9 compatible graphics card with at least 128 MB RAM, Pixel Shader 2.0 support. Note that laptops of an equivalent spec may not be up to the task of running this game, although you should have no problem with an Intel Core 2 Duo powered notebook.
Installation of the game is via two methods. If you are in the UK you can download this and the other games in the series free from www.bbc.co.uk/doctorwho/.
Gameplay and Plot (3 out of 5)
The idea behind the Doctor Who game Shadows of the Vashta Nerada is to basically rescue an underwater base that has been infiltrated by “shadow piranhas” the Vashta Nerada, previously introduced in a televised adventure in 2008. Throw in references to the World War II legend The Philadelphia Experiment and you've got quite an interesting plot.
In order to do this, you must sneak, run, and generally interact with all manner of objects, with control switching between to the main characters at various points, while minigames thrown in at key times for such tasks as rewiring panels, remembering keycodes for doors, etc. add some variety. The stealth element of this game is particularly thrilling, with death coming instantly of the Doctor and Amy are caught in the shadows.
In-Game Controls (3 out of 5)
The Doctor and Amy are controlled by means of mouse and keyboard, with the clickable mouse roller used to access their inventory. In this game, the inventory is limited to the Doctor's Sonic Screwdriver, which is used pretty much as a way into the various minigames. Interaction with other characters and objects is achieved by moving the mouse to highlight them, and left clicking to begin a dialogue. It's simple stuff, but well executed.
Completion of the game can be achieved in around 2 hours, at which point the Doctor and Amy resume their travels in time and space. It would be great to be rewarded with a special trailer or Easter egg, but this isn’t the case, even if the player finds all of the collectible cards hidden throughout the game.
Soundtrack (4 out of 5)
One of the delights of this series of games has been the soundtrack, which features the latest version of the series theme tune with atypical sound effects and incidental music.
But the real joy is in Phil Ford’s script and the voice acting, courtesy of series stars Matt Smith and Karen Gillan (as the Doctor and Amy) helped here by two series regulars (they regularly portray the Doctor’s enemies the Daleks between them) Nicholas Briggs and Barnaby Edwards. In addition further voice work has been contributed by actress Sarah Douglas.
Graphics (2 out of 5)
Designed to be scalable, a top end system will enjoy far superior graphics to one sporting the minimum system specs. This comes as a bit of a disappointment as there is little in this game that could be described as pushing the boundaries of video game graphics.
In fact visual comparisons with games from the first 5 years of the 21st century reveals that Shadows of the Vashta Nerada (and indeed the entire Doctor Who: The Adventure Games series) reveals that far better graphics could have been delivered to lower spec systems.
The Doctor Who Game for Fans Only (3 out of 5)
Fans of Doctor Who: The Adventure Games will enjoy Shadows of the Vashta Nerada for the addition of a new game to the series as well as its more varied gameplay. As the last game of the series it isn’t clear if the game engine is set to be renewed or if SUMO Digital are to relinquish their involvement but sadly something has to change.
While free in the UK these games are evidently sold elsewhere in the world and in most cases only the most vociferous Doctor Who fans would pay for a gaming experience this short, shallow or ultimately unrewarding.