Doctor Who: The Eternity Clock
Developer: Supermassive Games
Publisher: BBC Worldwide Digital Entertainment
Release Date: Out Now
Players/Online features: 1 player, 2 player co-op
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Let me just say that on paper Doctor Who: The Eternity Clock sounds great—supposedly an 'interactive episode' featuring voiceovers from the actual cast and a host of familiar enemies (including both Daleks and Cybermen!) plus a couple of new ones, but sadly something is terribly amiss… It starts promisingly enough, with some slick BBC presentation and the familiar theme music, followed by the traditional 'Oh No! Something's gone wrong with the TARDIS and it's going to crash in a random time and place', which as per usual lands you in present-day London. Unfortunately, the Doctor is alone in the TARDIS; no Rory and Amy in this episode, which instantly takes away much of the spirit of the show. The appearance and animation of The Doctor is spot on though, especially the robotic way he waves his arms about when scanning everything with his Sonic Screwdriver, but as our Editor has pointed out Matt Smith looks like a poorly-drawn and animated game character in real-life, so that might not be all that much of an achievement... On the plus side, the voiceovers from Matt Smith as The Doctor and Alex Kingston as River Song are great, helped by a much stronger script than the game deserves, with entertaining asides spread throughout the game. Unfortunately, important bits of the script occasionally fail to trigger on time, leaving you unsure what to do next and leading to much frustration.

Gameplay consists of a handful of different puzzle types, separated by rudimentary side-scrolling platform levels which inexplicably see The Doctor leaping from ledge to ledge like a bowtie-wearing Nathan Drake, despite the most athletic thing he ever did on TV being to demonstrate a half-decent bowling action. If it sounds like fun being a bowtie-wearing Nathan Drake then let me make it clear—whereas the Uncharted games offer fantastic storylines, cinema-like direction, rewards for exploring beautiful looking, well-designed levels and great replay value, we have none of that here. The platforming action is seriously weak; the controls are woolly and vague, with a noticeable delay between your input and the on-screen action, which might be forgivable if this was a cut-price smartphone game, but it's just not good enough for PS3. Although some of the levels look nice at first, with some fancy lighting effects and decent texturing, the initially impressive elements are copy and pasted so often within each level that they quickly become bland and repetitive, while the fancy lighting often leaves important elements in the dark.

Many levels are totally deserted, whereas others have you under almost constant fire, or present you with time constraints that you don't know about until a ‘Game Over’ message suddenly appears. Some of the level design is unbelievably poor, for example; there's a level set in a London office block where you have to get into a security room to complete a puzzle. For some reason, the only way to enter this room is for a couple of Cybermen to punch in the glass walls (even though, as River, you have your futuristic space gun with you), which only happens after you spend several minutes doing literally nothing while they slowly patrol the building until they finally reach the room. When you ’re finally allowed to start the puzzle, you have no idea where the patrolling Cybermen are or how long you have before they return, interrupting you for an instant ‘Game Over’ and level restart which plonks you right back at the beginning before the 'several minutes of doing nothing' part. What fun!

The first level featuring River tries its hand at something a little different with a sneaking section, but as anyone who's ever played a Metal Gear Solid or Splinter Cell game knows, stealth games work because enemies follow a consistent, predictable behaviour pattern—you know the route they're going to take, when they'll turn around or stop and that you can sneak right up behind them without being detected. Here you get enemies who turn around when you're still several feet out of range, seemingly detecting you at random while you're tiptoeing up behind them. It's extremely frustrating. Despite there being half a dozen puzzle varieties to choose from, many levels just repeat the same puzzle over and over, separated by the inane platforming. With the platforming a dead loss, the remaining puzzle sections (including rotating ring picture puzzles just like those in Assassin's Creed and a 'simplified to the point of pointlessness' version of the security-cracking thumbstick twiddling from Arkham City) are not substantial enough to base an entire game around.

Although there are collectibles in the game (pages of River's famous spoiler-filled Diary and a selection of the Doctor's hats, which for some reason you can't actually wear), I can't see anyone in their right mind wanting to play through a second time if they missed any of them. The two-player co-op doesn't offer any real additional replay value either—for some reason, despite being identical to the single player game, but with the second player replacing the AI controlled character, your co-op campaign is completely separate from single player. No re-playing already completed levels with a friend, or drop-in, drop-out co-op modes here—you have to start completely from scratch if some poor sap decides they want to join in.

What you're left with is a poor game, the audience for which is unclear (beyond the 'desperate, faithful, easily-pleased Doctor Who fans who don't read review scores demographic'); the gameplay is too simplistic for adult gamers, but far too frustrating for younger players, or indeed anyone. As a side-scrolling platformer, the gameplay is a terrible fit with the source material; it feels like the Doctor Who elements were tagged onto an abandoned budget game project. As a £1.99 smartphone game, it would be almost acceptable; on the PS3 for £15-£20 it's unforgivable (coming soon to PS Vita and PC!). The game is just saved from being a total disaster by the voiceovers, but on a Doctor Who scale ranging from ‘Colin Baker’ to ‘Tom Baker’, it's a ‘Paul McGann.’ I’m not a Doctor Who hater and I’ve watched every episode but this is for fanatical Doctor Who completists only, by which I mean: ‘Basically, it’s rubbish’.

Best Bits

- Voiceovers and script.
- There are no other good bits—NONE.
Worst Bits

- Repetitive, poorly designed levels.
- Frustrating difficulty spikes.
- Not very Doctor Who-ey.

by: Smurfzursky

Copyright © Gamecell 2012