By now you’ve no doubt read a boatload of reviews that batter Doctor Who: The Eternity Clock to death using an army of puns and in-jokes for fans. So let me just cut to the chase for those that aren’t tuning into the BBC’s biggest show; this game is terrible. Really terrible. It’s got the life and soul of a Cyberman and is uglier than the Face of Bo. Oh look, now I’m doing it.
The Doctor has dabbled in the realm of gaming before; recent browser-based and free-to-play offerings have been harmless fluff, but this is the first real attempt to capture the spirit of the charming sci-fi show on dedicated gaming platforms, gunning for real gamers. Sadly (though not surprisingly), it fails to capture the spirit of its source material, translating the usually-exciting show into little more than faulty platforming, tedious puzzles and lazy writing.
Eternity Clock might like to call itself a mix of Mario, Shadow Complex and Portal, though doing so would be a detriment to each of those stellar franchises. The base of the experience is some uninspired and near-broken 2D platforming that has you clambering over pipes, pushing blocks into place to reach higher ledges and high-tailing it away from fearsome foes. In the name of variety there are some actually-broken stealth segments that caused me to nearly throw my controller out of my window, some might-as-well-be-broken shooting mechanics that are utterly useless, and some simple puzzles that are repeated over and over to the point of eye-gouging tedium.
Let’s pick out just one of these hilariously ill-conceived mechanics; the stealth. Shortly after the game’s opening the player has to help series regular Riversong break out of prison. To do this she must sneak behind enemies so they don’t hear her, hide in shadows along the way so they don’t see her, and time her steps so as to not walk into spotlights and send guards running.
On a 2D plane this plays out a lot like 1997’s Oddworld: Abe’s Odyssey, only that 15-year-old game stands head and shoulders over this. Every once in a while Riversong walks around the corner and the camera shifts. But if you’re discovered, you could simply walk back round the corner and the guards – who clearly still have Riversong in sight – give up and turn around, forgetting the fact that a prisoner is on the loose.
Doctor Who is full of inconsistent glitches like these. It can be remarkably unforgiving at times, too. An early puzzle has you rushing between train tracks to electrocute Cybermen, but it’s back to a checkpoint abruptly if one reaches a line that’s unclear, even if you’ve literally just flipped the switch to kill them.
The game would like to boast that its co-op option is technically demanding, allowing one player as the Doctor to be in a completely different time zone to Riversong. It’s actually no different to two players being in two different rooms; rarely capitalizing on the potential to alter one gamer’s experience by doing something in the past. In fact you often just feel like you’re playing two separate games, and occasionally one of you will have to wait 10 minutes before the other figures out a puzzle on their end and you can progress. When the two are together, there’s literally no benefit to the two-player option other than sharing the pain.
So its last legs, then – the voices. Matt Smith and Alex Kingston reprise their roles as The Doctor and Riversong respectively. A nice treat, you might think, but it goes to waste on the atrocious writing that holds none of the shows wit or humor. Early example: Doctor walks up to a button. He says “Oh! It’s a button! I like buttons!” Expect the same pathetic attempt at capturing the source material’s dialogue throughout the four to six hour runtime.
The villains run the gauntlet of classics (Daleks) to the more recent (those guys who you can’t remember when you look away… ironically I cannot remember the name of them). It’s nice to see a big mish mash of some truly awesome foes finally gathered in one place, but it’s impossible to find a Cyberman threatening when he looks like an action figure rather than the real thing. Suffice to say that graphics follow the trend of this review.
It doesn’t matter that Doctor Who: The Eternity Clock is a well-intentioned project. It’s a dismal effort and honestly one of the worst games to release on consoles in recent years. No one aspect of it has been thought-out clearly. Avoid it. Exterminate it. Do that weird thing that the crying angels do to it. Just, dear god, don’t play this game.