Doctor Who: The Eternity Clock
BBC Worldwide has partnered with developer Supermassive Games to bring you a Doctor Who game called Doctor Who: The Eternity Clock. They might have malfunctioned their TARDIS a bit when putting it together.
The story behind this PSN exclusive title is pretty simple. Doctor Who's TARDIS has malfunctioned, as a disruption in the time stream has left pieces for the good doctor to pick up. Along the way, while reconstructing the mystery, Doctor Who finds himself paired up with his cohort River. They work together through different time periods trying to uncover what went wrong, and more importantly who made it wrong.
Sounds easy enough, right? Well, the story is something that could be straight out of the show, which is a huge compliment to the writers. Add that to the fact that Matt Smith and Alex Kingston actually do the voice overs to the characters, and any Doctor Who fan will be right at home. These two elements are the strong points of the game, as Supermassive Games certainly had good intentions with bringing an authentic version of the series to PSN.
Kudos to them for that effort.
Where the game goes wonky is when you try to play it. The controls, for the most part, are a simplistic 2D platformer scheme. You run, jump, climb and use the Doctor's sonic screwdriver when you can. In fact, the screwdriver usage is actually pretty solid and fun, especially when you're up against time (no pun intended) and trying to open a door or something like that. For example, when you're trying to unlock a door in London during the 1800s, you must use the right thumbstick to activate the screwdriver and then hold down R2 to use it. When using it, it comes up with a 'vector scope' that displays two sets of waveforms, which you have to slowly match. Once matched, the door unlocks and you move on. The trickiness of unlocking areas with the screwdriver gets tougher as the game progresses.
Sonic screwdriver aside, you also run into a variety of puzzles. Granted, the puzzles, for the most part, seem to be just placed there for no reason. Generally, the puzzles don't fit into the scheme of the area you're in, or even in the storyline. It's as if Supermassive Games wanted to just throw in puzzles for no apparent reason. For example, early on the in the game you have to travel back to early 1800s London to assure a pipe that bursts underneath the street is planned differently and moved to a different location. When you get to the part where you have a chance to reconstruct the plans, you're faced with a 'create that pipe picture' type puzzle. It doesn't fit into the story, it's just a puzzle that you're randomly given where you have to spin a circular set of wheels to create a picture of a pipe. Once done, you've magically moved the pipes for the future. It literally is out of place and doesn't make a lick of sense of why it's there. If this was a Mario game then I could see it working. This is Doctor Who, though, and it needs to have some sort of place in the overall storyline. Again, you'll find this misplacement quite often with the puzzles.
Regretfully, the game goes downhill from this point -- fast.
Once you obtain River in the game, and you have to work with her, the game seems to put all sorts of unplanned obstacles in your path. When you get to the portion of the game where Doctor Who and River are working as a team to get across the London Bridge you are in for some hell and a half. River is notorious for going 'rogue' in this area. When I say 'rogue', what I mean is that she has a hard time cooperating with the good doctor, and that's unintentional. There are random times where she won't follow Who at all. There are times where she'll get stuck wanting to climb a ladder for no reason. There are times where she feels the need to stay in a certain part of the level just because she can. This isn't meant to happen, but all of this happens randomly. The only solution is to quit and start over again, as she will not cooperate otherwise. This was probably the most frustrating part of the game, as it makes you want to quit playing.
Other issues can stem from impossible moments where you have to get 'hit' to get through an area. There are moments where an enemy can shoot you from the background, but you can't shoot them for whatever reason. There are plenty of frustrating moments created by the game, and horribly unfair moments where the developer should have known to give you a chance. When you open the doors for enemies and close them for the player then you're asking for unbearable frustration.
On top of these issues, the game died on me more than once. It got stuck in the 'loading' process, which doesn't make sense considering it's not disc based at all.
All of these frustrating moments in the game will not make the price of it ($19.99) an easy thing to swallow. The most dedicated Doctor Who fans will probably go for this game anyway, but because of the frustration and difficulty of the title it really isn't a warranted purchase for those unfamiliar with the series. The presentation is good, but the rest needed more work.
I like Supermassive Games' idea they had for Doctor Who: The Eternity Clock, but I think the execution fell far short of what they planned. Had they given the game a bit more time to cook, then it would have turned out far better. The 2D platformer genre worked well for this title, but it couldn't overcome the shoddiness of the finished piece and the frustration it creates.