As a fan of the Doctor Who television series I had mixed feelings going into a game based on it. I was hopeful that it wouldn’t fall into the same problems that movie licenced games do based on their short and rushed development cycles. After all there was no rush to get this game to the shelves. It boasts its own storyline and Matt Smith doesn’t look like handing in his sonic screwdriver anytime soon. With that said I sadly have to tell you that the Doctors first step onto the consoles is not worth the effort, the story is pretty good but the games mechanics are so poorly executed that you soon find yourself pulled away from the narrative. Movie and TV licenced games in my opinion should only be left in the hands of two studios: Traveller’s Tales and Telltale Games.
So what exactly is so wrong with this game? Well let’s start with explaining what kind of game it is. The Eternity Clock is primarily a 2D platformer with some puzzles thrown both into the environment and some that take you to a new screen altogether to solve.
Sounds like a nice, safe approach and yet somehow it manages to fall flat in every single area. Let us start with the platforming. It’s all very simple stuff run right, jump/climb over obstacles; hit switches… so many switches! The problem: The controls are so unresponsive. Nearly every time you want to jump it’s like you have to take into account a slight delay, which you can get down after a little time with the game but is still unforgivable. After reaching the top of a ladder there is a delay where the game will not recognise any input, feels strange to explain in written text but I will try my best. When you climb a ladder you naturally hold up on the D-pad to have your character scale it, upon reaching the top you would instantly press whichever direction you want to go in… this doesn’t work, you have to give it a second and then try to move. It sounds like nit picking but I don’t think so. I was playing platformers in the 80’s that had more responsive controls not to mention that the majority of them were much more ambitious in their level design.
Now this one is more of a personal gripe but I’m sure other Doctor Who fans would agree. I completely believe the Doctor is capable of doing lots of running and even climbing ladders. We’ve seen him do plenty of that in the TV series. But wall jumping up a narrow upwards passage like he’s the Prince of Persia is where I have to draw the line!
Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse The Eternity Clock then introduces a second character. A familiar face to fans of the show, the Alex Kingston character River Song. If you can somehow convince someone to play this game with you in local co-op then I strongly advise that you do, although I fear your relationship with that person will be somewhat lessened by the time you have finished. The A.I. of River is downright ridiculous, it’s almost like she is struggling with the mechanics as well.
Now onto the puzzles. This is quite possibly the strongest area of the game which really isn’t saying much; but the point is that they do function even if they do feel a bit forced. A prime example of a forced puzzle is having the Doctor approach a manhole; but you can’t just remove the cover and descend. First you have to solve what I can only describe as a ring puzzle. Those who have played Assassins Creed 2 may be familiar with these. You have a scrambled picture that you have to solve by moving various ring combinations until you eventually end up with the picture. What this has to do with removing a manhole cover I will never know but it was a nice break from the platforming.
Eternity Clock does offer tutorials for every one of these puzzles, but if you value your eyesight I strongly recommend just figuring out the point of them for yourself. The tutorials are incredibly basic. Simply words on the screen explaining what you need to do. What could go wrong? The presentation is horrible. You are taken to a blue screen. On here you also have a number of orange hexagons which glow like a street light that doesn’t work properly. Inside these hexagons is the explanation on how you need to approach the puzzle. The writing is just small enough to have you squinting to read it anyway (and I have good eye sight), add to that the annoying pulsing orange glow and you have a recipe for a headache.
The visuals aren’t really the best, I could name quite a list of downloadable titles that look so much better. it is a nice touch that they were able to get Matt Smith and Alex Kingston to voice there respective roles but sadly the voice talent is wasted on this title.
Overall I have to say that Doctor Who: The Eternity Clock falls flat in nearly every area with the exception of a few of the puzzles. It’s a real shame as I would love to see a good Doctor Who game. Maybe the Telltale guys could do something with it; after all it would suit the episodic format perfectly, not to mention the sonic screwdriver screams point and click. There are just so many other platformers that do everything this game tries so much better. Games are supposed to be a fun pass time; this is just a chore from start to finish.
MLG Rating: 3/10 Platform: PS3/Vita Release Date: 10/10/2012
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a copy of Dr Who: The Eternity Clock for review purposes by the promoter. The title was reviewed over the course of three weeks on the PlayStation 3. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.