Doctor Who: Blood of the Cybermen Review
The second in a series of four downloadable adventure games, Doctor Who: Blood of the Cybermen isn't much of a departure from the first. The stealth and adventure mechanics remain intact, along with the mini-games and the opportunity to collect hidden items. Unfortunately, so too remains the basic storytelling, clunky controls, annoying stealth and bland graphics.
Blood of the Cybermen begins, as before, aboard the Tardis, as The Doctor (Matt Smith) and Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) receive a distress signal. Following the signal, they arrive in the Arctic, only to find a lone man and his crashed snowmobile. They rescue the man, learn he was fleeing something, locate his base of operations, and, despite his warnings, they head straight there. What they find is a research base overrun by Cyberslaves – people who have been “infected” by a Cybermat, gradually mechanising until they become soulless, robotic drones. As The Doctor and Amy work their way through the base, they discover just what the research team accidentally excavated to cause all this havoc (that would be the Cybermen, if the title wasn't obvious enough).
Gameplay, once again, is in the third person. You'll control both Amy and The Doctor while avoiding Cybermen and looking for ways to progress to the next area. Locating these important items can sometimes be problematic – elements of the environment you can interact with glow when you approach them, but only if you approach them from the right angle. Consequently, you can end up running around the same rooms over and over desperately trying to find what you need. Not a problem for those who are more thorough, but for more impatient players (ie. me) this can lead to frustration. Once you have located something to interact with, The Doctor may begin an awkward shuffle-dance to line himself up properly – another example of clunky animation.
The stealth elements also remain unimproved. Sentries will wander around in simple, pre-determined patterns, with a visual cone in front of them representing their field of view. You'll be given set places you can hide, in order to let the guard meander past before heading on your. These elements rely on timing, which is unfortunate, as the biggest cause of failure in these sections is the ease in which you'll get stuck in the environment. As soon as you get spied, it's a one-shot death, unless you manage to immediately run away (if you're lucky, the guard will forget he saw you. Really.)
The Doctor Who TV show is an interesting one, in that The Doctor frequently saves the day by some bizarre feat of engineering whereby he reconfigures a piece of technology in an unexpected way. In a lesser show it would be a cheap and dramatically poor twist, but the charm of Doctor Who elevates it. So how to represent it in a game? That would be in mini-games. The predominant mini-game in Episode 2 involves a number of colored balls orbiting a central point at different distances. You control a series of arms in the upper right, each of which colors any balls passing beneath. You'll be given goals, such as “less blue balls than purple balls”. The description of the game sounds far more complex than actually playing it, and none of the mini-games are especially exciting.
There are some highlights in the game. On a couple of occasions you are tasked with quickly solving an environmental puzzle in order to kill a Cyberslave. These moments add a little more tension to the game and provide an immediate reason for the existence of the puzzle. The experience doesn't particularly differ from the previous game. The story is average at best; you'll see better every week on the show. The performance from Karen Gillan outshines Matt Smith again, and almost succeeds in giving life to her clunky avatar. The stealth elements may be too tough for younger players, and there may not be enough variety for older players. It's an average game, elevated a little by its source material, but at least it's free.