Doctor Who: The Eternity Clock
Given Doctor Who’s long-established position as Saturday-evening staple it’s not surprising that recently there have been several attempts to adapt the Time Lord’s adventures, the combination of time travel and the Doctor’s dexterous approach to a challenge lending themselves, at least in theory, pretty well to a more cerebral, family-friendly videogame. But the likes of the Wii’s Return To Earth have not been well-received, so now here comes Supermassive Games to try and make amends with Doctor Who: The Eternity Clock. It might just be the worst of the lot.
The good news for fans of the show is that Matt Smith is on voice duties, and although the self-contained plot of this ‘episode’ is a poorly-structured mess, there are at least some fun lines (our favourite being the Doctor’s sardonic remarks upon appearing in a London textile mill from the 1800s: “Never had the chance to grow up and be replaced by luxury apartments”). Alex Kingston also reprises her role as fellow time traveller River Song.
A 2D affair, The Eternity Clock recalls the recent Tintin game in its combination of single-location puzzles and basic platforming. However, The Eternity Clock suffers in comparison with Ubisoft’s polished and witty use of Herge’s creation. The animation is poor, the presentation cheap, while too often the rigid AI routines remove any semblance of challenge, a problem particularly noticeable in River Song’s more stealth-orientated levels. Poor AI is also an issue in sections where the Doctor and River are together, as your computer-controlled companion regularly refuses to do what you need them to. This of course isn’t such an issue in co-operative mode, although there the challenge is even greater: finding someone with the time and patience to sit and play through the game with you.
The puzzles themselves are tricky, but usually because of the dire platforming mechanics rather than through any ingenious design. The fabled sonic screwdriver, used via the right stick, is the multi-contextual key to this side of the game, and is used to highlight important parts of the world as well as open doors/operate machinery. This latter function is via a wavelength-matching game that feels like a sub-BioShock device, although there is one set-piece early on, when Cybermen are marching on your location via Underground tunnels, that feels like a genuine highlight. You need to keep their waves at bay by triggering the rail’s electrical current, and the gameplay loop created is the one moment where Doctor Who’s gameplay and narrative converge nicely.
Otherwise The Eternity Clock is a buggy, forgettable game. Although this is the first in a proposed trilogy of new Doctor Who titles commissioned by BBC Worldwide, it feels as though it would have been better to focus the entire budget and creative ideas on just one, more refined game, than to release such an uninspired, tedious insult to the great Doctor’s name.
D+PAD reviewed Dr Who: The Eternity Clock on the PlayStation 3.
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