Doctor Whoodle

By Alec Meer on November 22nd, 2013 at 11:00 am.

Doctor Who games have historically been far more Colin than Tom Baker, as assorted game-makers struggle to reinterpret a bloke with a fancy screwdriver and a silly outfit as something interactive. The trouble is they’ve always pursued stories and action and companions over the two fundamentals of the cosmic hobo: he can travel in time, and he can regenerate into a new body if killed.

Someone really needs to do a Batman Arkham with the old Time Lord, and get the essences of the character right before worrying about anything else. I didn’t quite expect that someone to be Google.

Today’s Google Doodle, as part of the team there’s continuous attempts to one-up themselves, celebrates the 50th anniversary of the BBC sci-fi show. As someone who grew up with Doctor Who, I can’t help but be excited by this week’s celebrations even though I’m quite sure the special episode tomorrow will involve an egregious amount of space-magic, handwaving and peopleexpositingincrediblyquicklytodistractfromalltheplotholes. So far though, the second-best[1] tip of the hat I’ve seen is said Google Doodle, which turns into a short, stylised and surprisingly brutal Doctor Who platformer. It’s only a wee thing, but it gets it.

  • He has to avoid (rather than fight) Daleks! Or he’ll get exterminated!
  • If exterminated, he regenerates into the next Doctor!
  • One he gets to the end of the level, he travels to a different point in space and time in his Tardis!

Doctor Who.

It’s also very cute, with 11 tiny dancing Doctors who are immediately recognisable due to careful deployment of their archetypal outfits in just a handful of pixels. I was deeply upset when I got Patrick Troughton killed.

Oh, for the Beeb to hand freedom to use the Doctor Who license out to indie developers rather than these sporadic attempts at low-budget, godawful console games like The Eternity Clock. The things we’d see, the things that non-commercially minded creative sorts might do with regeneration and time-shifting. Or, as Oor Graham suggests, a Who gamejam would be a wonderful thing.

The Doodle will only be up for today, so get your timeskates on. OR TRAVEL BACK IN TIME IN YOUR TARDIS TO PLAY IT AGAIN IF YOU READ THIS TOO LATE ETC AND ALL THAT HAHA.

[1] The best is this radio broadcast of Doctor Who & Daleks, which tells a composited version of the first couple of Doctor Who stories from the point of view of uptight early companion Ian Chesterton. It’s impressively sinister and atmospheric, and so agreeably focused on the science side of science fiction that there’s even a long sequence describing how the showers work in the TARDIS.

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59 Comments »

  1. thekeats1999 says:

    I love some of the work Google do in these doodles. There was a hot air balloon one not so long ago that I really enjoyed. Will try this in my lunch break.

  2. Syra says:

    I was so pleased this morning when I saw it… but that bloody weeping angel tormented me!

  3. draigdrwg says:

    I think the BBC had the right *idea* with their free adventure games, just the execution was lacking (have to admit I only ever played the first Dalek one though, so perhaps they got better). The stealth system was awful, the doodle does it better. The puzzles were pretty simplistic and had annoying mini-games.

    Perhaps telltale could take a shot. Though I’d prefer them to be a bit more traditional point and click than their current “DECISIONS!” model.

    Plus, there’s absolutely no reason they couldn’t do games with past doctors, avoiding the whole “they’re old and fat now!” problem.

  4. John Connor says:

    I’m looking forward to all the flashy new ways this expensive episode is going to disappoint me.

  5. Soulstrider says:

    A person I know suggested and completly agree that the perfect company for a proper Dr Who game is Telltale. I would love to see a game by them, pity they have already hands full with their 3(?) other projects

    • TheTingler says:

      Possibly but you need a British air, something they didn’t QUITE get right with Wallace & Gromit. Why not Revolution? Yes an off-shoot of that team made the Doctor Who Adventure Games, but imagine what they could do with a budget that was more than “free, so f*** it”.

  6. RaveTurned says:

    “The Doodle will only be up for today,…”

    For anyone who gets to this post late and is not in possession of their own time-travelling device, Google Doodles from ages past are archived here: http://www.google.com/doodles/

    I’d expect the Dr Who one to be available there from tomorrow morning.

    EDIT: dE’s post below has direct link to the doodle. Use that.

    • BadBannana says:

      Can I recommend Google Gravity here? It makes your day a lot harder and more fun

  7. dE says:

    In case anyone else has trouble getting google to show these, here’s a more direct link:
    http://www.google.com/doodles/doctor-whos-50th-anniversary?doodle=10152301

    For some reason the website insists that I use only my country specific version of google. Everytime I change it, it just changes itself back. The country specific versions I get to see don’t have those doodles.

  8. Big Murray says:

    Surely the Eleventh one should be wearing a tiny pixelated fex?

  9. iucounu says:

    I don’t really know how you make a game out of Doctor Who. It probably has to be a point and click adventure game, right?

    • MichaelGC says:

      Cover-based third-person shooter with microtransactions.

      • iucounu says:

        Oh! *slaps forehead* Of course!

        I remember the Who game I had for the Commodore 64. It was basically a side-scrolling shooter, IIRC. Terrible.

    • c-Row says:

      And a lot of Quicktimelord Events.

      • Stardreamer says:

        Congratulations. You win today’s Long Woolly Scarf of Awesome. :)

    • Stardreamer says:

      LEGO DOCTOR WHO.

      It’s the only way to get everything in, in a child friendly fashion, that could possibly do the franchise justice.

      • GameCat says:

        B-but Doctor doesn’t fight, am I right (not sure, I don’t watch this show)? How you can make LEGO game without punching?

        • Stardreamer says:

          :(

          Yeah, I thought of this after I’d posted it. Would require some creative thought and risk-taking on the part of LEGO to bring us something they’ve not presented before. Or…the BBC could allow its characters to punch each other. Not sure either option is very likely, although the BBC might go for it as none of the killed characters ever really die. Well, not the good guys, anyway.

          But then how do you map the skills and abilities required for each level to the companions?

          …back to the drawing board it is.

        • Baines says:

          Different versions of the Doctor have fought. A few have used hand-to-hand fighting. K-9 has shot enemies.

          And let’s not forget his history of gun violence (Note the song picked for that video compilation has some profanity. If that offends you, then turn off the sound.):

          • Phasma Felis says:

            I love the one at 40 seconds in, where they couldn’t even be bothered to line up the ray with the barrel of the gun.

            Ah, BBC Special Effects Department. You just didn’t care.

          • tossrStu says:

            Speaking of Doctor Who video compilations and profanity…

        • dE says:

          The doctor has a very peculiar brand of pacifism anyways. He’s more than happy to let others carry the guns and use them. Often setting things up so they have to play out in a way that kills the enemy. Come to think of it, the Doctor really is an evil crazy mastermind setting the universe up for destruction while showing the most sincere smile possible. He’s like one of those charismatic criminals from Columbo. Now that would be a crossover I’d love to see (and will never happen).

    • Mman says:

      From what I’ve seen of the show, in terms of “action” sections it feels like the only way it could work is something like Hitman without the disguises (for lack of any better way to put it). Rather than avoiding danger by hiding in shadows or behind cover all the time (which doesn’t seem to fit at all outside of certain situations) it seems like it should be more about stuff like bluffing past foes, and making use of high-technology to stay safe, like forcefields, invisibility and weapon targeting scramblers.

    • AimHere says:

      Oh, that’s easy. Don’t be the Doctor. You can’t have anything bad happen to him, he has infinite lives and has to do more or less the right thing all the time and the most interesting part of the Doctor’s kit – the Tardis – is very hard to do in a game that’s not either overly restricted or overly powered. You’re pretty much restricted to linear adventure games with all that entails. Back in the ’80s, 8-bit text adventure legends Level 9 were going to do a Doctor Who game but were pissed off at all the restrictions the BBC put on them with the Doctor character, so they gave up and did one on the Archers instead (and believe it or not they had some fun with that idea by making you the show’s producer and having angry Radio 4 listeners complain at you if they didn’t like your storylines!)

      If you want to do a Doctor Who game, make one as a Dalek, as a first person shooter (in fact the revamped series had a few first person Dalek-eyestalk-view shots so you even know what the game looks like. Your job is to exterminate everyone you see – so being a Dalek is just made for video gaming. And obviously, the ultimate bossmonster is the Doctor himself, whom you can’t kill – you just have to survive the fact he’s on the same planet as you.

      Pick a monster, be the monster. Or maybe even be a Doctor’s assistant and do a spot of rescuing and screaming and being rescued. Just don’t have the player be the Doctor.

      • wodin says:

        He has 13 lives..he can’t regenerate again after the twelve regeneration.

  10. SuicideKing says:

    Lol the last level was very brutal initially, but then i donned my serious PC gamer hat and it was cakewalk.

    • Josh W says:

      Same for me, I was down to the last doctor and went, oh, I’ll have to play this carefully now, not just go “awwe”.

  11. The First Door says:

    To be fair to the BBC, they did hand quite a bit of freedom to Google to do this! They apparently handed them the original sound effects and such.

    http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2013/nov/22/doctor-who-50th-anniversary-the-story-behind-the-google-doodle

    Also, The Science of Doctor Who was my favourite part of the lead up, so far. But that might be due to my love of Prof. Brian Cox and John Harrison!

    • aoanla says:

      I was generally rather disappointed by The Science of Doctor Who. Mainly because it should have been titled The Physics of Reality. (There’s plenty of room for discussion of scientific topics that Doctor Who brings up, with references to all kinds of features (how can the TARDIS be bigger on the inside? How might the physiology of various aliens tell us things about them? Talking about Cybermen, bionics, artificial intelligence and if it makes sense for them to be emotionless monsters. That kind of thing). Limiting it to Brian Cox Talks About Special And General Relativity With a Brief Stop Off At The Fermi Paradox seemed like entirely missing the point.)

  12. TT says:

    13.46

  13. Trespasser in the Stereo Field says:

    So, hypothetically speaking, if there were a certain American that had never gotten into Doctor Who, and who admittedly felt a bit ashamed at that fact, and who, let’s say, was interested in watching a television show about said character, where would that person start in the last 50 years of shows to get the best Doctor Who experience? Hypothetically, of course, I’m asking for a friend.

    • SuddenSight says:

      I would suggest starting with the ninth doctor, Christopher Eccleston, in the 2005-present sequence. The show was “rebooted” then (though it is still considered part of the same continuity) and they explain just about everything nicely so new viewers can follow along. That is where many of the newer Dr. Who fans started.

      • apocalypso says:

        That was exactly what I was going to say – series 1 – 6 are available on US Netflix. I would recommend watching them all from beginning to end, but if you really want to watch one undeniably brilliant episode of television, watch Blink. After that I would cherry-pick the bits that you like best and get involved in the back catalogue. I recently rewatched Trial of a Timelord—I would have been 6 or 7 when it was first shown—and I really enjoyed it despite it being objectively terrible, but that’s because Colin Baker was ‘my’ Doctor and Doctors are like family rather than friends: you get what you’re given. I was given 6 and 7. Genesis of the Daleks is reliably excellent and holds up well.

        IO9 ranked every Doctor Who story: http://io9.com/every-single-doctor-who-story-ranked-from-best-to-wors-1468104049. It isn’t without controversy, but you could do worse than read through the synopses of the episodes at the top of the list and track down the ones you like the sound of. US Netflix has a great collection of classic Doctor Who episodes so quite a lot of IO9′s list, including the Caves of Androzani, is available to stream.

        • apocalypso says:

          Also I feel that excited bedtime on Christmas Eve noise in my head every time I think about tomorrow evening eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

          • apocalypso says:

            And you must watch Vincent and the Doctor. I’m not much of a crier—there may be sliver of ice in my heart—but that episode… that episode. It melted the ice and then broke my heart in two.

          • melnificent says:

            Never, ever, ever watch love and monsters



            Ever


            Ever, ever, ever

          • nopol10 says:

            Funnily enough I didn’t mind Love and Monsters at all. Having said that I was hooked onto Doctor Who after watching Aliens of London (my first episode ever) so my tastes might be different from others, hehe.

      • Stardreamer says:

        I’d worry about that approach skewing a person’s concept of what Doctor Who is. Speaking as an older fan, I find that many Nu-Who fans often get a bit blinkered by the new show and don’t often take the time to appreciate the 23 years of history that came before. The new show is certainly an easy, fun and accessible way in, but then again it is often so very different from the original series’ run that going back to that could be quite a shock, and one that not everyone can or will adjust to.

        I’d suggest starting as an omniscient observer. Pick two or three of the best stories from each Doctor (there are ratings guides everywhere online) and just see how you get on. Read up on each one first, get to know them, at least a little, before you start watching them. I’m sure you’ll very quickly find a favourite (or two)(or twelve!). And try to learn the difference between the new and old series. Old Who stories are longer, which allows for greater characterization and more depth of ideas and plots. New Who is much faster paced and enjoys a better budget, and is of course completely modern.

        That’s my suggestion. Have fun! :)

    • JimmyG says:

      Yep, I second everything SuddenSight says. By the fifth episode of the Eccleston/Davis reboot, you’ll have a mysteriously full sense of the three decades you never watched. Keep in mind, the show’s grown a lot even just since 2005. The production values start out relatively low, but if you like the character it’s easy enough to get past. It also helps if you allow yourself to be charmed by the cosmetic flaws (which I sometimes miss today), rather than being critical. Some episodes are inevitably clunkers, though; liking Doctor Who means accepting the good with the bad. But if you just want to have charismatic fun, it’s great — and occasionally creepy, thought-provoking, heartbreaking, etc.

    • apocalypso says:

      Finally because I should be in a meeting now… I envy you. You have it all to come.

      • Zekiel says:

        (I think you mean you envy his *hypothetical friend*. Not Trespasser him/herself.)

        Also I agree with the advice to start with the new (Christopher Ecclestone) series.

        Just whatever you do, don’t start with the Paul McGann movie. In fact, don’t ever watch it. At all. [shudder]

        • apocalypso says:

          Paul McGann’s Doctor always puts me in mind of Timothy Dalton’s James Bond. Both could have been one of the best if everyone else involved in their respective projects had been someone else and everything they did had been done completely differently.

    • Trespasser in the Stereo Field says:

      Excellent stuff, everybody. Thanks! My friend likes you all very much.

    • Alec Meer says:

      No, no, ignore these fellows and save the 2005+ stuff for later. Watch these oldies first, in this order. They hold up fairly well (though suffer from a lot of padding), they’ll tell you all you really need to know, other than that the Doctor occasionally changes appearance and personality, and they’ll leave you in a good position to understand why the Nu-Who stuff is quite different.

      An Unearthly Child (just the first episode though)
      The Daleks
      The Web Of Fear
      Spearhead From Space
      Genesis of the Daleks
      City of Death
      Remembrance of the Daleks

      Then either watch more of whichever Doctor you enjoyed the most, or proceed directly to the new stuff.

      • AndrewC says:

        Yes, you’re a computer game fan, Trespasser, so you should be fine with endless running down corridors.

      • apocalypso says:

        I don’t know… this did give me pause for thought, but I think it’s a risky strategy. Old Doctor Who requires a deep and abiding love of Doctor Who, a degree of tolerance for shaky British TV of a certain age, or to have been young enough to watch it when it was on first time round. Without any of those things you run the risk of queering the pitch.

        I think a good compromise would be to watch all of Christopher Ecclestone’s Doctor and follow it up with Alec’s list before taking a graceful swan dive into the entirety of the David Tennant and Matt Smith eras.

        • Artiforg says:

          I don’t believe that’s the case at all. I’ve introduced my 6 year old to DW over the past few months by showing her nothing but the original run (Doctors 1-5 so far) and she’s really got into it. My wife didn’t see it the original run when it was on either and she’s enjoyed it too. Now if only I could get them to enjoy Blake’s 7 too!

      • AimHere says:

        Mostly good episodes, though if I was compiling a booster pack of essential old-Who, I’d put a historical episode like Talons of Weng Chiang in there (with a caveat about the dodgy-but-well-intentioned 1970s commentary on racism) and Caves of Androzani (you didn’t put in any regeneration episodes, and that’s definitely the best one, if not the best old-Who serial, full stop).

        But like the other poster, I’d suggest a modern viewer watches through the first season of new Who first. Even if they decide they hate old Who, the good stuff in the first nuWho season (like Dalek or the Moffat two-parter) should keep them interested, regardless.

      • MacTheGeek says:

        Genesis of the Daleks should be a must-watch for everyone. The seeds of the Time War were planted in the Doctor’s refusal to commit genocide and eliminate the Daleks at the moment of their creation.

    • MajorManiac says:

      As for expectations, I think its best to think of Dr Who as Sherlock in space.

      Its not exactly the same, but they are similar in that they are both eccentric geniuses who (pun not intended) don’t solve problems by directly fighting the monsters, but by out thinking them.

      • apocalypso says:

        That’s how I tried to sell it to my girlfriend. She remained unconvinced. Although she shed a tear at An Adventure in Space and Time last night so there may still be some hope.

  14. Funso Banjo says:

    People wanting to catch up with Doctor Who, may be interested to know that the series was rebooted when the ninth doctor arrived on the scene.

    It was recreated as a kids show, complete with CBBC (Children’s BBC) extra show all about the goings on and behind the scenes stuff. It’s very much in a weird position, being very orientated towards teens, yet, admittedly very rarely, sometimes a little frightening.

    • Vandelay says:

      It wasn’t recreated as a kid’s show; it was a kid’s show to begin with. It was originally meant to be a programme teaching younguns about history, with no robots or “bug-eyed monsters”, as shown in the enjoyable Adventures in Time and Space last night.

      To say it is only new Who that is a kid’s show is as bad as those that claim original Star Wars wasn’t aimed at children.

      It also doesn’t stop me looking forward to tomorrow night.

  15. apocalypso says:

    I was disappointed there wasn’t a hardcore mode. I thought starting with 11 would give me one life, but when hubris saw me catch a Dalek in the face on level 1 I regenerated into 1.

  16. one2fwee says:

    Hmm strange – you can pick up the blue egg on the second level to return it to the nest but it doesn’t actually seem to do anything.

    Or am i missing something?

    Edit—-
    Oh, it seems that if you get the blue egg and then go to where it appears after you get the letter, a pterodactyl will take you back to the start.