Doctor Who: The Eternity Clock Review
There’s no question that Doctor Who continues to be a sensation to sci-fi fans everywhere, even years after its inception. The new season is already well into production, this time bringing the good Doctor and his companion River into the Wild West, where all sorts of new adventures await them. To pass the time while fans avidly await this new journey, BBC Interactive has released a new game for the PlayStation Network, titled The Eternity Clock, which puts the Doc and River in a peculiar situation involving the TARDIS and lots of familiar enemies…including the Daleks. (Gotta have Daleks.) It’s a good idea, and shows some sharp production value, but somewhere along the way, the gameplay got stuck somewhere in the vortex.
In the game, you guide the good doctor through a series of side-scrolling segments, using the left analog stick to control his movements and the right to guide his sonic screwdriver, his “weapon” of choice, if you will. You’ll spend a good amount of time picking locks to progress through the game, and the other part you’ll spend trying to figure out why the computer AI can’t make River climb something as simple as a ladder. As a result, you’ll restart the level – often – just to make sure you can keep progressing forward.
While there’s an interesting story here (I won’t spoil it for long-time Doctor Who fans), the fact is it just takes forever to get anywhere. The lock picking game pops up so often that you grow tired of it, and the puzzles that are included don’t really offer that much diversity. Worse yet, the time required to solve them dwindles down as you get further into the game, making it unnecessarily harder as a result.
To alleviate the “stupid River” issue, Doctor Who does come with a local co-op mode, where one player can control the Doctor and another can handle River and the sonic blaster. But the aiming is way off, forcing you to actually miss enemies from above and hope you don’t get vaporized. I mean, come on, even Bill and Lance could shoot enemies above them. This doesn’t make sense.
It’s really sad that the gameplay never meshes, because everything else in Doctor Who really clicks. The graphics remind us of some great classic 16-bit games, with plenty of ambience and detail that stem straight from the TV show. And BBC even called upon Murray Gold to provide a traditional soundtrack for the game, along the same lines as the one as he does for the show. Matt Smith and Alex Kingston also come along for the ride, with humorous dialogue and unflappable character portrayal that they do best. Fans may buy the game just for them alone. (Well, and the hidden hats throughout the game.)
Doctor Who is a perfect example of a license converted into a video game, but missing that certain spark to make it as good as the shows. The problematic gameplay and bugs make it near impossible to really get the enjoyment that BBC intended initially with the game, which is a shame. I’ve never had to turn away the good Doctor before…but there’s a first time for everything.