Around three years ago, I started watching Doctor Who, not having any previous knowledge of what it was about, but I can tell you that I loved it instantly. I loved its crazy story-lines, great characters, and overall weirdness. I’ve been hooked ever since, and I’m currently up to date with everything Doctor Who. So you must imagine how very excited I was when BBC announced that a Doctor Who game was coming out, catered especially to fans. Sadly, Doctor Who: The Eternity Clock failed to live up to my expectations.
The game has the makings of a classic Doctor Who story. There’s something wrong with the TARDIS, you crash down on Earth and must figure out what is going on. Sadly, that’s as far as logic goes. The story is all over the place, sometimes not making much sense at all. The Eternity Clock has, for some reason, been broken up and scattered all around the universe, and it’s River Song and the Doctor’s job to put it back together. But that’s as much sense as you’ll get from the story. For one, you’ll go up against all manner of classic Doctor Who baddies (Cybermen, Daleks, the Silence), but they never say why any of these are involved. It seems they thought that as long as they filled the game with as much Doctor Who related stuff, we wouldn’t care much if it made sense for said stuff to be in there. Also, at one point the Doctor talks openly about the Clock, but shortly after when he comes upon it, he acts as if he doesn’t know what the hell it is. Inconsistencies like this are all over the story and make it hard to enjoy. Also, the game just ends, just like that. It’s less of a cliffhanger, and more of a cut, like they just decided to cut out the ending to the game and plan to sell it to us later. On the positive side, the fact that Matt Smith and Alex Kingston lent their voices and motion capture to the characters helps to bring these characters to life.
The game plays in a 2D perspective, only letting you move left or right, and this view doesn’t do the game any favors. The game feels limited by this perspective, and it almost seems like it was intended to be a third-person game. When I first started up the game, as soon as control is given over to you, I tried to move thinking the character was standing in a 3D plane but noticed I could only walk left or right. It also makes it hard to tell where your enemies are in relation to you and it’s especially frustrating when said enemies are in a plane behind you and there’s nothing you can do to defend yourself from them other than running, especially when one of your characters has a blaster. Side scrolling is a weird fit for a Doctor Who game, and it limits what you’re capable of doing in the game. It boils down to two things: you will be able to assume control of the Doctor and River Song throughout the story (there’s also the option of co-op). When you’re in control of the Doctor, you will be tasked with completing puzzles, pushing crates and opening doors with your trusty sonic screwdriver. As River Song, you’ll have access to a Sonic Blaster to take down anything that stands in your way, and hallucinogenic lipstick to put those pesky guards to some good use.
When it comes to the puzzles, the game does a poor job of implementing them. Even when explained, they sometimes don’t make much sense, and the difficulty is all over the place. Some of the puzzles have a time limit, and while sometimes the game will give you enough time to pull them off, in other moments the time is randomly shortened and it seems almost impossible to get it right without having to restart countless times. Also, some of these puzzles are more in the category of mini-games, instead of brain teasers, and after you figure it out the first time, the rest become somewhat boring to deal with, which is made worse by their continued appearance throughout the game.
You control the character with the left stick, and aim his weapon with the right, in this case being either the Sonic Screwdriver for the Doctor and the blaster for River. While the game allows you rotate the screwdriver in a 360 arc, you can only aim River’s blaster left or right, making it difficult to shoot enemies above or below. Thankfully, the characters are always spouting funny banter between themselves, and Matt Smith delivers a performance on par with his TV Doctor. Alex Kingston isn’t as good a voice actor, but she still performs well enough to make her character as likable as the one on the show.
Sadly, said banter is continuously affected by the games many technical issues. The scripting in the game is oftentimes late, triggering conversations much later than they were supposed to happen or not triggering them at all. Also, the AI tends to be atrocious, being in this case River Song, when she’s following the Doctor around. Her character will continuously get stuck throughout the game, sometimes being unable to climb a box and just stand there and jump over and over, or not being able to go up some stairs. Some of these glitches solve themselves by waiting a few seconds, but others won’t, forcing you to restart a level to be able to get through it.
The Eternity Clock is filled with good intentions. You’ve got the actual actors lending their performances to the game, a bunch of classic Doctor Who baddies, a slew of collectibles that fans will enjoy collecting (River’s diary pages and the Doctor’s hat collection), and the option to play the game cooperatively with one of our friends. Sadly, the execution of these elements leave a lot to be desired, often making the game a chore to play, making this game hard to recommend, even to long time Doctor Who fans.
Thanks to BBC for providing the title for review.