Doctor Who is a very important part of British television. Running on and off for almost fifty years, it’s also one of the biggest, longest sci-fi shows and, in my humble opinion, particularly with the last two series, it’s one of the best. The success of the show has never translated very well into the videogames that have spun-off from the main series though, with a few failed attempts for the Wii and PC appearing in recent years.
The Eternity Clock doesn’t change any of that; in fact, it’s perhaps even worse than any of the other Doctor Who games we’ve seen. A 2.5D platformer at its core, Eternity Clock is a brand-new, canon adventure featuring both The Doctor and River Song for the entirety of the game. Exactly where (or rather when) it fits in with the timeline is never revealed, but it’s definitely somewhere before the conclusion of the last series.[boxout]There’s some, but not very many, good things about the game. The Doctor and River are fully voiced and motion captured by Matt Smith and Alex Kingston, who both give brilliant and funny performances. Matt’s mannerisms are transferred nicely to the virtual version of The Doctor, which works quite well for the in-TARDIS cutscenes, and both characters have a real feeling of life about them.
The music is great, too, and since it’s the same orchestral soundtrack crafted by Murray Gold as in the show, it naturally fits in with the mood of the game. Along with this the game seems to be mostly accurate with the Doctor Who continuity, with many references here and there to moments in the show and, very excitingly, a never before seen look into the pages of River Song’s diary in the form of collectibles. As well as River’s diary pages, there are a selection of hats to collect, with amusing commentary from the Doctor when viewed.
And that’s about it; nearly every other thing in the game ranges from average to abysmal. It’s a tedious, unfair mess that is quite frankly insulting to the franchise.
When the game takes a break from throwing around Doctor Who terms – perception filters, stasis locks and time vortexes – you’ll be playing something that consists of various puzzles strung together by sidescrolling platforming and stealth sections. There are several types of puzzle in the game; circular picture puzzles, puzzles which have you opening nodes and symbol matching puzzles, all of which are repeated throughout the game countless times.[videoyoutube]Nearly every section in the game has you completing one of these puzzles to progress. Being chased by Cybermen? Time for a somewhat confusing puzzle in order to unlock a bridge, completely breaking apart the action and pace that the game had built up. Fending off the Silence? Well, Doctor, it’s time for you to activate this console by moving a node around a circular puzzle.
It’s perhaps one of the oddest design choices in any game that I’ve seen. Why, when the player could be in the action, have them do yet another matching symbol puzzle to defeat this boss? It turns The Eternity Clock from what could be a fun adventure into a monotonous slog. Three minutes of defending against a slew of Cybermen by repeatedly electrifying railroad tracks isn’t exactly fun either.
It’s fully playable in co-op where you’ll control each character across different parts of time and space, though mainly throughout London. If you choose to play alone, however, you’ll have to do each of these parts one after another, at times repeating similar sections with each of the two characters. At other points, though, River will have to defend the area against Daleks or the Silence, whilst The Doctor does his thing (a puzzle), and these parts are marginally better. I’m sure a parent and their child could get some enjoyment out of the co-op gameplay, but it’s not exactly stellar.
Given the minor differences in gameplay between the two characters, it’s fitting that they have differing abilities as well. The Doctor is equipped with his sonic screwdriver, which he can use to unlock doors, move platforms and disable enemy weapons. River, however, has a blaster and can simply shoot the enemies to disable them, or she can even use her hallucinogenic lipstick to distract guards nearer the beginning. They’re only small differences, but noticeable when you have to do two very similar sections with each character consecutively.[drop]The story isn’t good either; it’s a seemingly random mixture of The Doctor’s foes including Daleks, Silurians, Cybermen and the Silence all working to control the Eternity Clock and therefore all of time itself. It all feels a bit disjointed at times, although there are points where time travel is used nicely to link sections. Ultimately, the story is poorly crafted and doesn’t live up to standards of the TV series at all; it won’t please even the biggest of fans.
Even the most enjoyable areas of the game, namely the encounters with the Silence, are glitch-ridden and mediocre at best. The mechanics are somewhat solid, however – you have to keep a Silent in eyesight at all times, or your character will forget they were there, much like in the show. Daleks, Cybermen and Silurian encounters are downright terrible though; it’s just a matter of avoiding them, and you’ll have to do this whilst completing yet more insipid puzzles.
As for the game’s look, it falls short yet again. It’s hardly up to PS3, or PSN for that matter, standards. There’s some texture pop in and quite a lot of visual glitches, including animation problems where mouths don’t move.
There’s many odd, infuriating glitches; the game may require you to quit out when an enemy doesn’t appear or you get stuck in the environment. Once you’ve quit the game and restarted, or more likely simply died, you’ll travel all the way back to the start of the section due to the abysmal check pointing, making for more repetitive gameplay.
- Voices, motion captured animation, continuity and music is all in keeping with the show.
- Collectibles are interesting and fun.
- Tedious puzzles throughout, which interrupt almost every section.
- Visuals aren’t anything special.
- The story is messy and not at all exciting.
- Check points are few and far between, which can be infuriating.
- Strewn with glitches and problems.
The Eternity Clock is an oddity; it appears to be a game that’s very much made for the fans, but it does everything it can in order to not please them. I’m not sure that even the younger fans will enjoy this, apart from perhaps some time in co-op, due to the difficult nature of the puzzles when combined with the action sections. The platforming leaves much to be desired and the puzzles are repetitive and dull, mixed in weirdly with the action.
This game is beyond broken and almost entirely not fun, going from bad to worse as it progresses; it’s nowhere near worth the asking price of £15 or so, nor the title of the series it is based on.
Now, if only the Silence were real so they could make us all forget about it.