It's been a long time coming; I've waited quite a while for a Point and Click adventure for one of my favourite TV Shows. Doctor Who, it isn't a secret that I love Doctor Who and I have followed the show avidly from the old series to the brand new, 11 Doctors later and I'm still enjoying it. Now there's a new way for the whole family to enjoy Doctor Who, 4 interactive episodes designed with the help of the man who brought the Broken Sword series to life.
It's 1963 and rather than meeting the Beatles, the Doctor and Amy discover that the Earth has been destroyed, humanity wiped out to the last woman and replaced by the insidious Daleks. Now the race is on for Amy and the Doctor to save humanity from destruction, prevent the de-synchronisation of Amy from the time stream (after all if the Human race is gone, she was never born) and do so without resorting to weapons or violence.
WASD, arrow keys, or the mouse can be used to move the Doctor (Amy often follows behind) around the various areas of the game. It's all full 3d and shares similarities with a Point and Click Adventure, examining items, combining items with objects in the game world and using the Sonic Screwdriver from your inventory just like the Doctor. It has numerous little mini-games to enjoy and there are plenty of Who facts and real world facts to be gained by examining items in the game world.
There are 3 Acts to the game and they are smoothly crafted, they run like an episode of Doctor Who (taking around 30 to 45 minutes to complete depending) and include the usual cliff-hanger style beginning accompanied by the credits and titles. There are a few problems now and then with a character getting stuck on something in the environment in Act 3 but this only happened a couple of times. The mix of on foot sneaking (avoiding Dalek vision cones and patrols) combined with logic puzzles and simple symbol matching works extremely well and provides the necessary atmosphere for the Doctor and Amy's first digital adventure.
A useful help system keeps the player focussed on what they need to do next and there are no real problems with the puzzle design at all, some of them are simpler than others and require a little manual dexterity with the mouse, such as guiding a part around a series of maze-like force fields that get progressively harder as the story unfolds. The navigation around the environment is fairly smooth and with a generous auto-save system you're never frustrated even on the slightly harder parts of the game. A lot of the game revolves around simple stealth, remaining undetected from the Dalek sensor sweeps and automatically going into a sneak mode when close to enemies.
The production levels of this first interactive episode - City of the Daleks, are fairly well done. The various characters look like their on-screen counterparts. The various environments are crafted to a decent degree and the artists have done a really good job on capturing the exterior and interior of the TARDIS, the most iconic companion of the Doctor even beyond Amy Pond and his previous assistants. There is the odd glitch now and then in the textures on the characters, but this is only a minor niggle and since the price of admission for the United Kingdom is free, we can't complain about that.
Light and shadow are employed decently and the special effects are quite nice, they certainly have the look and feel of the Doctor Who TV series and really, what more could you ask for?
The animations are fluid and there are only a few hiccups now and then, where the Doctor is slightly misaligned to a control panel when interacting. Again, it doesn't spoil the fun and it wouldn't be noticed by the target audience that the game's aimed at. The rest of the animations are spot on and the facial animations, lip synch and character animations are great.
Not much in the way of physics, what's there does the job nicely.
The Dalek AI is set to patrol patterns, if alerted they are ruthless, they will hunt down the Doctor and Amy. Some of them are set to guard a location and they will refuse to move, they still provide a danger should the Doctor and Amy get spotted.
The sound design is excellent and draws on the Doctor Who special sound effects library as well as some unique effects for the game.
Excellent music that takes cues from the show and works them seamlessly into the adventure game.
The story is a tightly written one with good voice acting, Matt Smith and Karen do a respectable job of bringing their digital counterparts to life and Nicholas Briggs lends his powerful tones to the Daleks once again imbuing them with adequate menace. You may need a portable USB sofa to hide behind!
For a free, first Doctor Who Point and Click Adventure Game, this one actually hits the spot and provides a good chunk of episodic entertainment. We'd like to see a full on, fully realised PC or console (360/PS3) style Doctor Who Adventure Game where it is possible to interact with the TARDIS and explore more than you can, but we're now confident that this kind of game is definitely viable, even though it has some problems it'll be one to get mom, dad and the kids around the PC and playing to guide the Doctor and Amy on their travels, save the Earth and delve a little deeper into the Doctor Who Universe than they could before.
Real world facts are sprinkled into the game world, so who says that PC games can't be educational. The City of the Daleks is well worth a download since this story is canon and part of the Doctor Who timeline for 2010, we can't wait to see what the next game has in store for us.