Doctor Who in the TARDIS!
Doctor Who is a popular time travelling family adventure series from the UK, where it airs on BBC One; it is also broadcast in the USA on BBC America, and is popular in Canada, Australia and many non-English speaking countries. Following its first episode in 1963, the show has run in TV, audio, book and comic strip from across 37 years (albeit with a gap on TV from 1989-1996 and 1996-2005).
The latest Doctor Who game release from BBC Worldwide and SUMO Digital is simply called TARDIS. Taking place in the Doctor’s time travelling blue Police Box (which is larger inside than it is out) the game presents a new spin on the point and click, stealth adventuring seen in the previous two games, City of the Daleks and Blood of the Cybermen. The system requirements of TARDIS remain consistent with these two games.
TARDIS is also the first of the Doctor Who games to be made available to international gamers on the same day as its UK release, via Direct2Drive, where you can pick it up for $4.95. The game, as with the previous installments, remains free in the UK, where it is funded by the compulsory TV licence fee.
Gameplay and Controls (3 out of 5)
TARDIS sees a change of pace and gameplay from the previous installments. This time around, you take control of Amy Pond, and use her to rescue the Doctor after he is sucked out of the TARDIS and into the space-time vortex.
By exploring the TARDIS and then rescuing the Doctor, gameplay then switches to the Doctor as it becomes apparent that both characters are trapped at different points in time within the time machine.
All of this means one thing – no more skulking around in stealth mode, a common theme of the previous games. Instead, there is more environmental interaction, and the usual mini-games are added to by way of a quiz, the answers to which can be found around the TARDIS itself (or in the head of any hardcore fan!).
Unfortunately, while the game takes place within the TARDIS, the actual in-game world is limited, meaning that the game is effectively smaller than City of the Daleks and Blood of the Cybermen. Given that the TARDIS itself is said to be infinite in size, this is obviously disappointing!
Graphics, Sound, Voice Acting (4 out of 5)
Written by TV series scriptwriter James Moran, TARDIS again features the vocal talents of Matt Smith and Karen Gillan, the stars of the TV show. Superman II star Sarah Douglas also returns after voicing a key character in Blood of the Cybemen, lending her voice to the mysterious entity that attempts consume Amy Pond.
Sound effects are largely limited to samples based from those heard in the TV show when the TARDIS is in flight, but these are welcome and obviously enhance the claustrophobic atmosphere.
The game world design, meanwhile, is faithful to the TARDIS interior seen on TV – for most Doctor Who fans, this will be the first time to truly step behind the controls of the famous time machine!
Although smaller in scope than the earlier games, TARDIS seems to hold together much better as a story than the earlier releases, although this may also be due to scriptwriter James Moran’s approach.
Limited, but Welcome (3 out of 5)
For years Doctor Who fans have wanted to know what it is like to pilot the Doctors frankly magnificent time ship – and thanks to TARDIS, they can!
While there isn’t as much scope as an adventure game as the other titles in the Doctor Who: The Adventure games series, TARDIS successfully recreates the magic of the inside of that apparently tiny blue box, revealing the massive dimensions hidden within.
Coupled with the fantastic final challenge – a task to successfully fly the TARDIS, this game is a welcome change of pace from the frantic runaround/stealth adventures of City of the Daleks and Blood of the Cybermen.
(All screenshots by author)