What is Doctor Who? What are Doctor Who Games?
Doctor Who is a television phenomenon. In Britain, the series began in 1963 and ran uninterrupted until 1989. After a 15 year period in the wilderness, punctuated by a one-off BBC-Fox-Universal co-production in 1996, the series returned to full production and since 2005 Doctor Who – with a succession of lead men in the role of the time-travelling alien Time Lord – has been essential viewing.
Available exclusively free to gamers in the United Kingdom (with a possibility of an international version later), Doctor Who: The Adventure Games are a series of downloadable games voiced by the current stars of the show, Matt Smith and Karen Gillan.
The first part is City of the Daleks, released on June 5th 2010, in which the Doctor and his companion Amy travel to 1963, and find that the Daleks have changed time, and conquered Earth.
Other Doctor Who Games
There have been games based on the series before – in the early 1990s, Dalek Attack! was available for Amiga users, while Destiny of the Doctors in which various incarnations of the time-travelling Doctor (whose body regenerates upon death, allowing for the change in lead actor) are trapped by his Time Lord nemesis the Master was released for PC in 1997.
Meanwhile, (although not quite Doctor Who games) mods have been written for first person shooters such as Doom 2, Quake and such like, while older games for 8-bit systems can also be found in the retro archives online.
Gameplay and Controls (4 out of 5)
Doctor Who: The Adventure Games are designed to appeal to gamers of all types, and as such feature a combination of gaming conventions. Among the gameplay control features are the point-and-click system popularised in adventure games, locks and computers can be hacked buy completing puzzles typical of games for handheld devices, and movement in City of the Daleks often requires patient stealth.
City of the Daleks comprises three stages, set in London, Earth in 1963 and the city of the Daleks itself, on the alien monsters homeworld of Skaro, allowing for plenty of variation of gameplay.
The Doctor and Amy can be controlled either via mouse or mouse and keyboard - there is a lot of “point and click” in this game, but getting it right opens up a very satisfying set of options and outcomes. Objects and people can be interacted with, but its best to stay clear of the Daleks…
Plunging the Doctor and Amy into a Dalek occupation of Earth in 1963, the game quickly takes the heroes into the London Underground system, where a series of puzzles and challenges awaits. Equipped with his trusty sonic screwdriver, the Doctor must take advantage of mechanical artefacts and unlock computer systems, guide himself and Amy past the Daleks, move barriers to their progress and basically survive.
The gameplay in the Dalek capital city of Kaalaan is similar, but developed enough to put a new spin on things - the Doctor must collect items in order to build a device to protect Amy from radiation poisoning, resulting in some considerable exploration of the city. This level in particular features some interesting challenges, all nicely put together within a totally alien world; portholes within the Dalek armory reveal the world outside, a real treat for fans of Daleks and Doctor Who.
Available for PC and Mac, Doctor Who: The Adventure Games are scaled to run on both low end and high end systems. The difference between the two ends of the scale are the graphics – on a high end machine, the digital versions of the Eleventh Doctor and Amy Pond are excellent reproductions. In contrast on lower end PCs, they don’t quite look right, but the quality of gameplay is retained.
Developed by Sumo Digital, official system requirements are yet to be released, but the BBC will be keen that as many homes as possible have access to the game.
Graphics, Sound and Voice Acting (4 out of 5)
Along with the excellent character design, the Daleks themselves take full advantage of the available palette, appearing in red, yellow, white and blue. The Dalek-controlled 1963 London could in many ways be any devastated city, and resembles in many ways City 17 in the later stages of Half Life 2 - the visuals immediately convey the oppressive, fearful atmosphere of a world under alien occupation. However the aim remains survival, if only to see what comes next.
By proceeding to the second level however, the graphics are more of a centrepiece - the Dalek city of Kaalaan is a visual treat, comprising patrols, an armory, a central control station, and amazing backgrounds. City of the Daleks delivers visuals that simply aren’t possible on TV, and it looks fantastic!
Featuring the voices of Matt Smith and Karen Gillan, City of the Daleks (written by TV writer Phil Ford) also features the legendary vocal talents of Nick Briggs.
Briggs is a bit of a legend in Doctor Who fandom – he has impressed fans of the series by reproducing the classic electronic tones of both the Doctor’s main alien foes, the Daleks and Cybermen (set for an appearance in a later installment of the game), to great effect, and puts this to full use in City of the Daleks, a hive of Dalek activity the like of which has never been seen in any TV episode.
The Best Doctor Who Game Yet (4 out of 5)
Gaming has not been a strong point for the BBC, but buoyed by the success of other digital successes such as their monolithic website and BBC iPlayer, they brought in legendary British game designer Charles Cecil as a consultant.
This has proved to be a master stroke – previous game versions of Doctor Who have suffered either because the Doctor is a pacifist and therefore doesn’t use guns (making gameplay confusing) or the game itself has been a quickly built platform shooter with no lasting effect.
As the first installment of Doctor Who: The Adventure Games, City of the Daleks circumvents this issue. It’s a great game, successfully fulfilling the family audience requirement that the BBC hope will get families to gather around a PC in the same way that they gather around a TV every Saturday evening to enjoy time travelling adventure in Doctor Who…