Doctor Who is somewhat of a phenomenon, despite it’s incredibly bad special effects, rather awful acting, and relatively dull plots, it’s become a staple watch for many in and outside Britain. Its quirky British charms appeal to those on the outside who love British things so much, and its over the top stylings appeal to those in Britain who want to watch something with a bit of family friendly fun. The BBC have brought Doctor Who games to both the Wii and the DS, but Doctor Who: The Eternity Clock is the first to arrive on a HD home console, and thus had a lot of potential; sadly this potential isn’t realised at any point during the game.
The Eternity Clock referred to in the games title is not just a metaphor for how tiresome it is to play, but is in fact an artefact that you set out in search for as The Doctor and his assistant River Song attempt to plug up the times-space storm that threatens to tear the universe apart. On this journey The Doctor seems to encounter almost every major alien race, cramming them in as ways to define separate levels and areas, and essentially to please fans of the series who need these visual aids to receive gratification from the game’s story. Personally though, this just leads to a muddle of antagonists who never really have any major role in the story, thus making it incredibly dull to play, in terms of the games narrative that is. You also have the unfortunate situation where Supermassive Games and the BBC just seem to automatically assume you are a Doctor Who fan, and so no characters are introduced or explained, they just come and go and you’re supposed to be cautious or aware of their actions and potential danger.
Gameplay wise things continue on at the same level of quality shown in the storyline. It plays out as a side scrolling puzzle game, with incredibly simple push/pull blocks/levers puzzles and avoiding enemies who patrol the area. It’s akin to the platforming sections of The Adventures of Tintin or War of the Worlds, however it feels a lot less refined due to the poor feedback you get from objects in the environment and incredibly clunky and sticky controls. There is zero gratification in solving a puzzle, and most of the time your only motivation to move forward is so you can get past an incredibly tedious and frustrating area. The idiotic placing of checkpoints also raises your blood pressure, when in one particular section where you had to keep the Silence within eyeshot you’d repeatedly die and be placed back at the start of the section; the same thing happens again when dealing with the Silurians underground, yet when fighting the Daleks checkpoints are placed at every stage of the battle – which totally baffles us as it was much easier than previous boss fights.
The Eternity Clock also suffers the age old problem of overuse. The Doctor’s Sonic Screwdriver is a staple part of the series, and thus part of the game, and it’s use in solving puzzles and moving objects is at first rather interesting; however after performing the same dull ‘match-the-waves-to-open-the-door’ puzzle it begins to grate even more. It’s also interesting to see that Supermassive Games’ puzzles have essentially drawn upon influences from elsewhere, including a very obvious lift from Assassin’s Creed II. Again, whilst these puzzles work, their overuse just turns the game into tedium – with some sections of gameplay throwing the same puzzle type your way over and over, which is nothing but cruel. The game’s nature does suit two-player co-op much better than single-player, breaking down the tedium of having to play out both parts of a game by yourself and letting you and a friend share the annoyance instead. It also removes the unpredictability of your companion, who regularly likes to not assist you, or instead prefers to jump over boxes and get in your way.
The voice acing is also beyond annoying, especially Matt Smith and his irritating voice, with repetitious soundbites from enemies and either River Song or The Doctor continually repeating themselves with ‘advice’ about what you should be doing next. When you couple this with the out of synch, or sometimes without any, facial animation it really begins to annoy. Visually though The Eternity Clock isn’ too bad. Whilst it wont turn heads or give Crysis 3 a run for its money, the environments are rather detailed – if still copy and paste repeated segments – and characters are also pretty good looking.The games loading and menu screens also have the TV series’ cut in’s and intro scene down really well, fully capturing the flavour of the series.
Whilst this really shouldn’t amount to much more than a downloadable PSN game in terms of its length and content on offer – including the myriad of collectables and the 2-player co-op on offer – it seems that going to retail was more down to how many copies the game could sell, rather than what would be the most suitable platform for the style of game. Supermassive Games haven’t created a bad game here though, what they’ve done is deliver a game that will be enjoyed by fans of the series. It’s short length and simple puzzles lend itself to short bursts of play and thus would probably suit your average Doctor Who viewer, who probably isn’t a ‘hardcore’ gamer accustomed to epic stories and high gameplay quality.
If you come looking for something a little different, or indeed a way into the Doctor Who series, then this really isn’t the way. Its dull gameplay and tedious nature wont win it many fans, and the complete lack of explanation about any of the alien races seen within the game means any non fans will just find it even more of a slog to get through. In the end it seems that Doctor Who: The Eternity Clock can only hold your interest if you already know the Doctor Who series inside and out. And maybe only then if you can endure Matt Smith’s incredibly annoying voice.
Final Score: 2/5