Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)


Each year the BBC website produces an enormous amount of non-TV Doctor Who, which is a surprise given that almost every new avenue they discover for it fades away after the first year.

For the 2010 series, the idea was a series of online computer games, entitled Doctor Who: The Adventure Games. Four were duly released that year, after which it seems to have been scaled back to more like one per season.

I'm the first to admit that I'm not a very adept gamer. Inevitably the choice that I found I was facing this evening was not so much whether to play this first one or not, as to whether to play it or watch someone else's walkthrough on YouTube. I have to admit, said YouTube version looked appealing. At roughly 44 minutes, it might feel a lot like watching a regular episode.

Well, in the event I played the game myself, the whole darn thing.

And it only took me six hours. Six! And that includes the time that it took me to, whenever I got stuck, go find out what to do on YouTube anyway!

Not that watching someone else's gameplay is necessarily going to tell quite the same story as driving it myself. I haven't done a direct comparison, but in my version I got a heap of extra material that I dare suppose most YouTube edits missed out on:

For example, my version featured the Doctor repeatedly scratching his head, running on the spot into walls, and entering doorways only to wordlessly turn around and go straight back out again. Admittedly, I found Amy's silent bemusement at such behaviour to be entirely consistent with her opinion of him in the TV series. Also, if you give up in the right places, you can access the odd additional bit of dialogue containing hints.

Amy: "Try using the Sonic to operate that console, Doctor. I'm fading away."

Oh, and in my version the Doctor and Amy both died.

A lot.

A heck of a lot.

Yet, on every single occasion the game copped out and skipped showing either of them going on to accordingly regenerate or decompose afterwards. Rory would be proud.

The story features the Power Ranger Daleks having salvaged a natural phenomenon left behind after their predecessors (the Dapol Daleks) had murdered the Time Lords. They've then returned to Skaro, and used it to devastate the Earth of the past and change history.

Consequently, throughout the game, Amy repeatedly fades in and out of existence as the change to her timeline catches up with her, which towards the end endows her with the serendipitous superpower of random invisibility. (it doesn't seem to affect her shadow) The Doctor seems to display this ability too, which I assume was for the same reason, rather than any shortcomings in our graphics driver.

At another point in my version, while searching for an Ocular Cable (spare Dalek eyestalk) and Beam Distributor (Dalek gun), Amy got trapped behind some boxes, from which there was just no way back out. Ever. No, not even by the same way through which I had squeezed her in. Yep, she had well and truly boxed herself into a corner. This software bug was proving even worse than a plot hole in a TV episode! With no 'select' option, I tried so hard to get Amy exterminated on purpose, y'know, to reboot the scene of course, but you know what Daleks' aims are like.

Speaking of which, the finale is spectacular. The Daleks all have their vision impaired and cannot see, resulting in their constant blind firing creating a 3D maze across the floor for the Doctor to race against time finding his way through. This is in stark contrast to much of the rest of the game, when stealth and taking my time had been my main tactic in avoiding patrols of Daleks, and Varga plants.

It might all have been easier without the distraction of non-diegetic real-life facts and character cards to pick up and collect, but the thing that I would really have liked here was simply a timeline. At any given moment I had no idea how far through the game I was. The subtitle 'episode one' enhanced this ambiguity. After a while this became quite demotivating.

On this PC, I found the maneuverability tricky. Partly this was because I was mainly using the keyboard cursor, but I also found it difficult to get my head around directing the characters from my perspective rather than their's.

Still, a great enjoyable episode, which ties into the show's broader storylines very well.

Released with the 2010 series and featuring the Doctor, Amy and the new Daleks, it's still pretty tough to place. I'd put it straight after Victory Of The Daleks though, simply because Matt Smith just doesn't sound quite in character yet, as indeed he didn't at that early stage in his tenure.

City Of The Daleks may be of debatable canonicity, but it's enough fun that I'm really not too worried. What situation-specific opinion do you have regarding it, Doctor?

"Hmm. No."

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