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PlayStation Network Review: Doctor Who – The Eternity Clock

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As I wrote in a recent review of a classic Doctor Who story, “Nightmare of Eden,” part of the charm of the original series is its somewhat cheesy look and feel.  The costumes aren’t great, the special effects can feel silly, and the sets are none too good.  The resultant aesthetic works for the classic series for a number of reasons, one of which is accepting the show as a product of its time.  The new show can’t get away with such things because the audience has an understandably—and correct—different set of expectations.  Current Doctor Who videogames can’t get away with a cut-rate sensibility either.  Unfortunately, that is exactly the feel of Doctor Who: The Eternity Clock.

As with those classic Who stories, The Eternity Clock has so much to like, but doesn’t measure up to current expectations in its execution.  In fact, things get off to a rocky start from the word “go.”  One of the first things required of you as the Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith’s incarnation) is to leave the TARDIS.  As your avatar steps down the steps from the control panel and towards the front door, it is pretty plain that the Doctor doesn’t ever actually touch said steps – he kind of hovers over them rather than actually touching them.  Now, yes, the Doctor is an alien and has some cool abilities (like regeneration!), but he can’t actually hover like that (at least not as far as I’ve ever seen).

A mash-up of 2D platformer and puzzler, Doctor Who:  The Eternity Clock has the Doctor teaming up with the fabulous River Song in order to save the universe from all manner of ills.  The game has Daleks and Cyberman and other baddies as well (Silurians and Silence if you must know).   Matt Smith and Alex Kingston do the voice acting and while the voice acting and general mischief the Doctor gets into is up to snuff, the game itself isn’t.

It isn’t just that the Doctor doesn’t actually always have his feet on the floor, it’s that controlling him and River is something of a chore.  The control layout is fine (not great), but they’re not terribly responsive controls and one ends up feeling as though the two characters are stuck in molasses.  The right analog stick allows one to use the Doctor’s sonic screwdriver, but it never quite points where you want it to and pointing it in the right direction is essential.

Also uneven is the puzzle-solving which should be a big part of the title.  In The Eternity Clock you have to solve puzzles of several different types in order to unlock doors, use machines, and generally make things happen.  There aren’t a lot of types and while the game does allow you to change puzzle difficulty level mid-stream, the progression between said levels is not smooth.

As an example, one of the puzzles has a picture broken up into concentric rings which can be rotated left or right.  The goal is to make the picture look correct by turning the rings.  On medium difficulty turning any one ring always turns a second as well.  On easy, however, turning one ring only affects that ring.  One would think that a step up in difficulty would mean that on medium turning one ring would sometimes cause a second to turn as well, not always.

Even the 2D nature of the game is uneven.  The game has some pretty good looking backgrounds and there are times you have to go into said background.  This is accomplished by having the entire background turn 90 degrees rather than actually creating a 3D environment.  With the background turned, the game once again operates strictly on a 2D plane.

In The Eternity Clock, our hero remains just as quirky and lovable as ever.  River Song is as fantastic as ever (provided you ever found her fantastic, opinions differ).  The famed villains are just as intriguing and terrifying and compelling as ever.  The terrors the Doctor faces are just as great.  The game is just as amusing as the television program.  Doctor Who: The Eternity Clock has a whole lot going for it and the TV series’ fan base may have enough undying enthusiasm to propel them all the way to the game’s conclusion. 

Unfortunately, the gameplay itself doesn’t live up to those other elements.   Whereas the rest of the game feels like a finely honed screenplay, the gameplay is a mere rough draft in need of a few more passes before it is taken before the camera.

Doctor Who: The Eternity Clock is rated E10+ (Everyone 10 and older) by the ESRB for Mild Language, Fantasy Violence. This game can also be found on: PS Vita.

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About Josh Lasser

Josh has deftly segued from a life of being pre-med to film school to television production to writing about the media in general. And by 'deftly' he means with agonizing second thoughts and the formation of an ulcer.