Monday, June 14, 2010

Doctor Who: City of the Daleks - Game Review

Review by Andrew Griffths

Doctor Who: City of the Daleks is an interesting game to review. On one hand it's a stand alone game, perfectly adept at holding its own, yet on the other, it opens itself up to be seen as an episode fitting into the middle of the season five TV series. On top of this conundrum there is also a need to review it differently from different sides of the ocean. From a British perspective, the game is a freebie, thanks to our television licence fees, but for anyone reading this in the States, you're unfortunately going to have to pay for it!

So with this in mind, the first thing that needs saying about City of the Daleks is that it's easy. Very easy. The game is clearly aimed at providing something that anyone can pick up and play, which fits the Doctor Who business model nicely; fun for all the family. But if you're looking for a challenging game, then move on!

For all intents and purposes, the game is a point-and-click adventure allowing you to take the role of the Doctor, and at certain sections his trusty companion Amy. Combining items and progression is mostly carried out through a series of mini-games, either involving careful negotiation of mazes in a similar manner to the old buzzer games, or matching symbols that slowly scroll across the screen. These are not especially hard, and are actually more of a distraction from the interesting stuff than anything challenging. Apart from these mini-games (which begin to get a bit repetitive as you move through the game) the bulk of the action takes place in avoiding the watchful gaze of the Daleks. This is initially challenging (and unforgiving - being seen means instant death), but as your progress you learn how to stay out of sight with relative ease. I think I may have died three times throughout the game. Thankfully the game itself is incredibly forgiving, and you will find yourself having to repeat two minutes worth of previous action at most, since the game saves checkpoints at practically every room entrance or any action taken. As I said, this is a game aimed at the whole family.

The real interest in City of the Daleks however is the story. Without going into spoilers, the story revolves around the Daleks having destroyed Earth in the 1960's and only one man left to save the planet... Not exactly original as Doctor Who stories go, but still enjoyable and, importantly, in keeping with cannon. The visuals are spot on, with the character models looking exactly as they should, and even the movements seem to match those of the original actors.

It is also worth noting that the game defaults to the most basic graphics settings to ensure it works on all but the oldest PCs, yet you will see a vast improvement if you can afford to run at the higher settings. The voice acting is performed by the original cast, and includes a few genuine laugh-out-loud moments of banter between the Doctor and Amy. This is probably the game's strongest asset.

As a member of season five, City of the Daleks fits the tone nicely, and is certainly a welcome addition, however this being said, it is missable. It adds nothing of grandeur to the story, no insights into character that you wouldn't otherwise get, and nothing that you're going to want to tell your friends about. The length of the episode is touted at around two hours, but in reality it took me a little under an hour; right on par with the length of a TV episode. To be honest, this is just about right; any longer and I think I'd have been bored of the rinse and repeat actions that you have to take throughout the game.

In conclusion, City of the Daleks is a fun hour-long distraction, but not a whole lot more. If you crave a bit more Doctor Who, and have always wanted to play with a sonic screwdriver, then you're going to want to play this, but if you are looking for a new game that's going to provide a challenge and replay value then you may want to look elsewhere. There are collectibles that you can pick up throughout the game, which provide interesting facts about the Doctor Who universe, but you'll probably get all these on the first play through, and the story isn't deep enough to bring you back again.

However, there is a very large redeeming feature of the game; if you're a fan in the UK, for the price of £0 you can't go wrong and it's hard not to recommend giving it a try. On the other hand, if you're reading this anywhere else I'd consider your purchase carefully - as far as I'm aware there's no word on pricing yet, but I think if I'd paid more than $5 for it I'd be a little disappointed. Hopefully episode two will provide some more variety in the puzzles and a slightly deeper story to warrant the fans taking time to play it, but in the meantime, I will look forward to it with baited breath.

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