Semi-Live Blog: Doctor Who Adventures

By Alec Meer on June 2nd, 2010 at 10:27 pm.

Update – all done!

I’ll fix this into a nice and tidy post later, but for now keep refreshing to see my thoughts on City of the Daleks as I play. I make no apology for typos, gibberish or nerdery.

(Yes, this is happening with the newest stuff at the bottom. C’mon, you can cope.)

I would by lying if I said it didn’t feel amazing to be immediately greeted by that theme tune. GOING ON AN ADVENTURE GOING ON AN ADVENTURE.

‘Please type in your name below.’ In any other game, I’d write something clever, or one of my various web-handles. Here, it’s just ‘Alec.’ It’s just ‘Alec’ because that means Alec is going on an adventure with the Doctor.

Full range of resolution options – good. Worried this would only cater for rubbish PCs.

When you exit, the Doctor and Amy scarper into the Tardis and close the door. Lovely.

Those new Renault Megane Daleks do look a bit nob, don’t they?

The Doctor and Amy talk about the Beatles. “Why does nobody ever want to meet Ringo?”

Acting seems a bit muted and unexicted compared to the bombastic series, especially Amy. She’s a bit muttery.

People a bit plastic-faced.

Does the proper pre-credits thing. Cliffhanger and… MUSIC. CREDITS. LOGOS. TARDIS IN A CORRIDOR OF FIRE. Exciting!

The Doctor keeps touching Amy. Like that, is it?

Tutorial-time. Slightly kills the air of dynamism, but it’s brief.

Matt Smith’s face is nowhere near as long as in real life.

Oh dear, collectables.It’s the end of the bloody world! Is now really the time to be picking cards up off the street?

‘FACT!’ There is education hidden here, people. Be careful. You might learn something.

Stealth-o-crouch happens automatically when enemies are near.

The Daleks have Metal Gear Solid cone of view effects. They’re also kinda cute.

Ew! Colin Baker’s face on a collectable card! That was completely unnecessary.

Oh God, Amy’s acting really is rubbish. What happened?

So far, it’s no puzzles so much as clicking on a thing and a thing happening. But, y’know, for kids. It’s interaction in a virtual world, and it’s games trying to do the TV thing. Interesting even if it’s not complicated.

First Sonic Screwdrivering. Opening a door. Well, he does do that in the show all the time.

Smith’s certainly not phoning it in, bless him. He is doing a sort of husky sex-voice, though.

Charing Cross Station manages the unusual feat of looking both post-apocalyptic and very clean.

Oh dear, that shot of a Dalek army looked like a screensaver from 1992.

Is… is the Doctor wearing leather trousers?

Amy seems to be suffering from St Vitus’ Dance.

Right, well, you can definitely get killed. It’s not that kiddie. Whimsically half-expected the Doctor to regenerate, but instead it went back to an agreeably recent checkpoint.

Electrified tracks. Why did it have to be electrified tracks?

Hum, a hacking mini-game. I felt slightly frightened upon starting it, despite it being incredibly simple. The logic part of my brain is weak.

OK, I actually can’t do this. Shouldn’t have drunk half a bottle of wine earlier, really.

Fusebox successfully rewired, Meer’s sense of gaming pride successfully destroyed. Genuinely hateful, pace-breaking puzzle.

Crikey. NPC deaths!

Urgh, more sub-MGS creeping about. Those Daleks aren’t very observant, given it’s broad daylight.

Risking my – and humanity’s – existence by trying to pick up a collectable card left near a deadly Dalek. Now isn’t the time, Doctor.

Ooh, off to Skaro, home planet of the Daleks. I don’t believe we’ve been there since the Tom Baker years, have we? Actually, maybe there was a rubbish Colin Baker story set there. I am such a nerd.

Amy simply doesn’t look like Amy. Or sound like her.

Either Amy starting to fade from existence because the Daleks mucking about with the timeline is a Back To The Future homage, or my name isn’t George McFly.

As Lewie says in comments, do look out the window in Act 2. Alien post-industrial horror-beauty. Very classic Star Trek, too.

Oof, it forcibly turned me 180 degrees when it decided I wasn’t going in the direction it wanted me too. Mean old game.

This town needs an anti-aliasing enema.

Dalek production line is a neat visual concept. More hokey stealthery, alas.

Kind of want this to end now.

Some bad grammar in the subtitles. On the plus side, the archicture of the Dalek world seems like a good mid-point between the Welsh warehouses of the show and the sci-fi strangeness that Only Games Can Do.

Increasingly convinced these controls were designed with a gamepad in mind. Really sluggish yet twitchy.

It’s just every mini-game in the world, basically. Wouldn’t mind if it didn’t hurt the otherwise cheery flow so much.

“I bet the security system will be tougher to crack now.” Nooooo.

The freaky giant Dalek Librarian eye looks a bit like a bottom-hole, I’m afraid.

Look, I’m trying to be upbeat and positive, but when a game makes me backtrack through the same annoying stealth area three times, I can’t keep up a convincing smile.

Quite excited about meeting the Dalek Emperor though, I’ll admit. He looks a bit like a Duke Nukem boss. Much chattier, mind. Same old Daleks – decide to have a natter with the Doctor instead of killing him. They always lose the same way.

The Daleks have a macguffin. Doc thinks he can talk them out of using it. MUSIC IS VERY EXCITED. So am I, despite myself.

Woah, crazy volume spike for “uh, Amy, run!” It’s like Matt Smith just crept up behind me and shouted in my ear.

“Ah, here we are again.” Yes. Yes we are. Some nice attention to detail in the view outside the window from this earlier, more ruined Skaro though.

More backtracking than Halo. That’s saying something.

So there are these maze games, where you have to drag objects around a simple layout without touching the sides, or you fail and have to start again. These grow in complexity and length – the one where you have to steer three parts around feels like outright contempt towards gamers. This is nothing to do with Doctor Who, and this is nothing to do with having a good time.

And done. Which is just as well, as I have to get up at 5 to catch a plane. Final thoughts? It feels Doctor Whoy, in its verve, in its gleeful pseudo-science, its banter and its nick-of-time coincidences. Unfortunately, it’s also highly annoying – electing to substitute real puzzles with repetitive maze games and haphazard sneaking. I don’t know how complete the other episodes are at this stage (I suspect they’re pretty much done, to be honest), but hopefully they’ll build upon what’s here, and what City of The Dalek’s players have learned, rather than simply repeat it.

It’s certainly going to be enough for young kids, though they may find some of the minigames quite frustrating. I simply question why it decided to cling to that bitty approach to quite this extent.

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47 Comments »

  1. LewieP says:

    Make sure to look out of the windows in act 2, that’s the prettiest bit of the game so far.

  2. Game Journalists... says:

    BWAAAAH I’M IN AMERICA.

  3. Man Raised By Puffins says:

    Electrified tracks. Why did it have to be electrified tracks?

    Just wait until you find the crate puzzle!

    @ Games Journos: You’re not missing out overmuch.

  4. Justin Keverne says:

    I remember watching the Confidential on the making of these and Karen really wasn’t putting the effort in, sitting there in the booth doing her nails while she mumbled away, at least Matt seemed to actually give a damn about what he was doing.

    • Chris D says:

      Actually I thought Karen’s voice acting was better than Matts. I suspect it works better if you listen with your eyes closed though.

  5. gulag says:

    “OK, I actually can’t do this. Shouldn’t have drunk half a bottle of wine earlier, really.”

    Too right! Drink the entire bally thing!!!

  6. Man Raised By Puffins says:

    Fusebox successfully rewired, Meer’s sense of gaming pride successfully destroyed. Genuinely hateful, pace-breaking puzzle.

    I can tell you’re going to enjoy the series of increasingly annoying wire loop mini-games.

  7. Adam says:

    Just wait until you get to the second maze-game, when you’ve got to do it with two components, and if you fail one of them, you have to start the other again as well. Children are going to be kicking their computers in up and down the country.

  8. LewieP says:

    Did anyone else feel like the rewiring minigame was designed around a controller?

    • RLacey says:

      It’s like Alpha Protocol all over again!

    • Justin Keverne says:

      Hey now that’s not fair, he said “designed”…

    • Chris D says:

      If you’re going to make a game where you move in 1 step increments in a grid then at least let me play it with a keyboard rather than a dodgy mouse.

      To be fair, while I did shout at the screen on a number of occasions it was nowhere near the level of sheer incandescent fury induced by Alpha Protocol

  9. Legandir says:

    I wanted to like this, but horrible animations, horrible voice acting and horrible stealth bits make it really hard. I might try to play some more tomorrow.

  10. Requiem says:

    Ah that second minigame with the two components, that’s when I gave up and uninstalled. Not because it kept resetting both components (well yeah partially) but because you could go over the lines in some parts, of the maze without losing but in other sections (near corners) it would start me over when I was nowhere near the sides.

    Also were the controls defaulted for left handers for anyone else? Or did it just mistake my trackball for a lefthanded mouse? Constant rightclicking on my trackball is not comfortable.

  11. The_B says:

    I must admit, I too thought the puzzles were surprisingly difficult, if not overly complex. I was expecting a simple simon says minigame or QTE, so to have these puzzles which require a steady touch made me quite shocked. Are the kids really this much better than me at precision nowadays?

    WHERE HAS MY YOUTH GONE?

  12. turbodrive says:

    Why the hell does the camera keep rotating on its own?

    • turbodrive says:

      It keeps slowly drifting to the left

    • lhzr says:

      usually a controller problem. try removing it before starting the game, if you have one

    • Mr Labbes says:

      Maybe that’s supposed to give it a Michael-Bay-esque touch.

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    Nathan says:

    Unsure what to make of this. I think it will satisfy its target audience, though.

  14. Mr_Day says:

    Doctor Who-y sounds like something you would say if you didn’t like something related to the Doctor.

    I didn’t like this, for the following reasons.

    The world itself in both London and Skaaro are made up of blocks and invisible walls, and the few objects which move have their movement patterns quite heavily set, almost like the developers don’t trust the objects to move by themselves. The Daleks never give chase, they just stand there and shoot you – even the ones on patrol barely move in reaction to your presence. The fact that they stand still and search is a bit of a cop out, if you are going to give me Daleks to face, I’d like to face Daleks and not security cameras.

    It doesn’t help that the Doctor himself moves in an odd fashion – slowly for the first moment, then speeding up, it gives an odd feel to the way you get around and makes trying to sneak past certain hazards a pain.

    I always liked the idea of a Doctor Who game in which you played as the companion – there is something irritating about playing the guy who is meant to figure everything out. Having the camera suddenly snap to something and give a subtitle “That is where you should go” annoys me – does the fact that I am the Doctor mean I cannot be seen to be stupid? What is the point in playing if you are simply going to guide me between points of interest?

    Playing as the companion gives me a reason to be stupid, or naive. Seperating me from the doctor but him having faith in me to do the right thing just seems more interesting to me – I even imagined a scenario where you sneak through a cell full of evil, ravenous monsters – only to get out and have the Doctor tell you they are completely harmless.

    The sound is a bit off. You can almost hear the echoing of the sound room they recorded their lines in. The Tardis and Dalek firing noises are as authentic as you would like, but everything else just sounds like stock foley. Also, the music cuts in very dramatically for the most mundane of tasks. Pushing a taxi, are you? Dun dun, DUN DUN DUH DUH! Climbed a ledge, have you? Dun dun, DUN DUN DUH DUH. Amy is disapearing from time? I think respectful silence is called for.

    Is it worth me mentioning that I hate the minigames? Seems a tad redundant. Let’s just say that I agree with Yahtzee on Bioshock 2 – a qte for hacking was far preferable to Pipe Mania, mainly because it didn’t interrupt the action.

    I think the main problem is, I prefer the idea that you not play the Doctor. I have a theory that when a game is set in the universe of an established ip, but not forcing you to be the character from it, it just works a lot better. Compare X Wing to the Episode one games, for example.

    Christ, I sound like a grumpy old git.

  15. Masked Dave says:

    It’s crap.

  16. Wulf says:

    And here’s me wondering why the minigames were so easy…

    I guess I’m in the minority?

    Really though, the only one that made me stumble a couple of times was the last security console. I got the fusebox in less than half a minute (it was even easier than those Mass Effect 2 door hacking games, and that’s saying something), and imagining that kids are probably smarter than me, I don’t see that many kicked PCs over this.

    I was actually hoping they’d ramp up the difficulty of their minigames in later episodes… >.>

    • Chris D says:

      I suspect it’s more that they were frustrating rather than difficult as such. If I feel like it was my fault I failed then fair enough. If I feel like I failed due to a poor interface or inconsistent rules then that’s annoying rather than a pleasant challenge.

    • Wulf says:

      Huh. I suppose. I didn’t exactly fail at them, though, or find them frustrating. But then, I didn’t find VVVVVV’s Veni, Vidi, Vici annoying either. People tell me I’m a man of infinite patience when it comes to any task I set myself, and I suppose that’s true.

      Even the three piece maze only took me a few tries.

      I think it must mostly because I’m patient enough to do things slowly, I don’t feel the need to blast through things in 0.2 seconds like most gamers do. I’ll stop and read things, or do things properly.

      Either way, I had fun and couldn’t say I was frustrated at any point. I bet there are gamers who’re insanely jealous of patience like that, considering how easily annoyed they seem to get. >.>

  17. Sondar says:

    If you were the companion, it wouldn’t be much of a game would it? Just running after the doctor and watching him solve everything. I expect they would also find it difficult to keep inventing reasons to separate you from the doctor.

    If they could, however, then I can think of some cool situations which would be excellent with the player as the companion.

    • Vague-rant says:

      Some kind of co-op with the doctor and assistant perhaps?

    • Adam Whitehead says:

      Possible SPOILERS, but you actually play as Amy for a section of the game whilst the Doctor is assembling a MacGuffin and you have to trundle around and find the parts for it. Quite a nice section, actually. The companion running around, almost getting lasered in the face and generally bumbling around makes more sense than the Doctor standing stumped by a console for five minutes before suddenly remembering the existence of the Sonic Screwdriver.

  18. IanD says:

    How the hell do you give her the Kronoton thingy??
    I go to her and she constantly says “we need to use the lift” I goto the lift and it tells me “this is the main lift but I need to remain here to find parts for the Kronoton blocker”
    been stuck on it for about 30 minutes now without any progress. :(

    • Initialised says:

      Could use a hint here, I could have sworn I last saw Ms Pond in the security room the game wont let me into now!

  19. Brendan C says:

    I had to take my laser mouse out and use the touchpad on my laptop to do the electricity drag puzzle. But it means I did the hardest one in a single turn! I am a drag-artist.

  20. James Brophy says:

    I enjoyed that. am I alone? If you take it as a simple kids game then it’s OK.

    I think for a free, or next to free, game that was fairly good. You cant really do a doctor who first person shooter; the show being against guns. With a higher budget and modern engine tech you could do allot of amazing things with doctor who. But they clearly had a limited budget.

    The thing I don’t get is where was the adventure game? I thought adventure games had characters in them you got to talk to. Here you had evading daleks, simple mini games (anyone who calls those puzzles is wrong) and a very narrow band of linear click throughs to have more story told to you.

    To a certain degree there is nothing in here to actually explore no one to from opinions about, no one to argue with, betray or befriend. If they let you off the leash a bit more with Amy and add people to actually talk to I think things might get more interesting. as it is It’s just there to make the point that Daleks will kill you instantly, Skaro still has mutant plants and doctor who is a viable licence for producing games about.

    This would have been an obvious one for tell tale but I think if these do well (not sure how that will be measured) then maybe sumo can expand out and have a more tell tale level of production for the next season.

  21. LionsPhil says:

    I haven’t seen skin so plastic since the ’00s, when people started to realise you could make it shiny with shaders, but hadn’t yet worked out how to do this correctly.

  22. Wallace says:

    Anyone else come out of this wanting a Doctor Who themed Beyond Good and Evil?

  23. Hashime says:

    That is okay, just use a UK proxy server, just google, copy, paste, and download!

  24. Meta says:

    I don’t know if it is just with my computer, but I’m finding that I hear the lines and then the characters start to mime them in slow motion about 3 seconds later, which is extremely frustrating, especially when you can’t skip past the scenes if you want to. And it might just be me and my talent of being crappy at all computer games, despite my love for them, but Act 3, I can’t seem to find anything of use apart from a wire. Is it supposed to be this…. hard isn’t the right word, and frustrating is the only one that comes close to what I mean. Even so, it’s kind of addicting.

  25. DrugCrazed says:

    I had to clean out the inside of my mouse for this. Stupid jerky mouse ball. I WANT A LASER MOUSE.

    All in all, it felt like a bad episode of Dr Who. Dalekanium? IMAGINATION PLEASE! Also, I think the acting in general could be greatly improved if a Dr Who director came on and did the mo-cap/voice-over.

    • Adam Whitehead says:

      Dalekanium was a term invented back in 1964, and has been used ever since to keep the Doctor Who Continuity Kids happy. The pulsing sound effect in the Dalek City and the Varga plants are also the same as in the Daleks’ very first story, and are again used for nostalgia’s sake.

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    phlebas says:

    The substitution of inane minigames and dodgy stealth sections for actual puzzles might have been slightly less frustrating if they hadn’t stuck “THE ADVENTURE GAME” right in the title.