The Doctor Who Adventures - City of the Daleks Review

   01/07/2010 at 09:08       Phil May       0 COMMENTS. - Score 4/5
 - Doctor Who Adventures, City of the Daleks, BBC Games, Matt Smith, Karen Gillan

I’ve missed out on the BBC Doctor Who Adventure games up till now for one reason or another but just as I’m getting to grips with City of the Daleks (the first ‘episode’) a second game, Blood of the Cybermen has also been released.

But taking a look at COTD first, there’s a couple of important things to note about the new BBC endorsed games. First, Charles “Broken Sword” Cecil had a hand in them so they’re adventures and though you take direct control of the Doctor most of the time, there’s an element of point-and-clickiness about them. Second, the BBC firmly believes that Doctor Who is a kid’s TV show so the games are pitched with that in mind. Third, they’re free to download and play. Free. Got that? Keep that price in mind for later on.

With Matt Smith firmly ensconced as the new Doctor Who and his leggy flame haired assistant Amy (played by Karen Gillan) sure to be the subject of countless lad-mag “top twenty women I’d pork” lists, it’s been a stunning debut for the rubber-faced gabbler, in fact he’s managed to pull off the unthinkable – making Who fans completely forget about David Tennant’s tenure as the Doc.

The games serve as complimentary fare to the series itself, so the look and feel of the characters, graphics and some of the story settings will segue quite nicely with what’s happened in the series over the last 13 weeks or so.

The game’s available from the BBC’s Doctor Who website (http://www.bbc.co.uk/doctorwho) and each episode feels like it’s designed to be consumed in one large enjoyable chunk. The tiddly download (300 or so mb) is quickly installed, and runs on even pretty unremarkable PC specs so those of you with ninja rigs can just crank everything up to the max with no difficulty at all.

City of the Daleks launches with a tasty little pre-credit-sequence snippet before that iconic theme tune erupts from your PC speakers. The game’s soundtrack features the BBC orchestra and of course voice work is done by Matt Smith and Karen Gillan, though at times this can feel a bit disjointed and distinctly phoned in. In all other respects though, presentation values are quite high and I was pleasantly surprised.

Once you get into the game proper you’ll find a mix of collecting (some excellent snippets of Doctor Who facts and features are found dotted around the game’s various locations and often objects will offer up interesting educational stuff for kids too), puzzling (simple manual dexterity-type stuff mixed with logic puzzles and of course the traditional adventure game-like “go here, use this on that” problems to solve) and a lot of stealth-game-like creeping around. It's a very wise decision to use the Daleks as the first "baddies" you face in this new crop of games, and there are some genuine moments of tension as you creep around avoiding the tinpot menaces.

I had fairly low expectations of the game and was pleasantly surprised to find that it isn’t as bad as you might think it would be for a BBC home-grown project. Given the absolutely terrible Who games that have thankfully passed into history (the last Eidos effort was utterly dreadful, turning Doctor Who into some sort of sonic-screwdriver-wielding Quake-alike), City of the Daleks feels quite solidly put together and though it’s fairly easy and quite simple to blitz through, it’s really enjoyable.

The down side is that the majority of critics seem to be in a hurry to compare it to the recent crop of point-and-click revivals, forgetting that this is a pretty low-key affair and a free download at that. Concessions have been made and it’s blatantly obvious that the majority of hardcore PC adventure addicts will find the whole thing a bit childish and whimsical.

But here’s a thing. Unlike a lot of other Who games, this one’s story instantly hooks you in and keeps you playing because of the way information is slowly drip-fed to you through the course of the game, keeping you guessing as to what will happen next. Just like the Matt Smith series, it feels like you really need to see the whole thing before making a snap judgement, and City of the Daleks’ storyline has been nicely crafted in a way that, if it appeared in novella form, would keep you turning pages long into the night.

A great first effort and with the next adventure game episode queued up and ready to play, I’m hungry to see what Blood of the Cybermen has in store.

Stars
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