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Review: Doctor Who: The Eternity Clock
As something of a Whovian (if not necessarily of Matt Smith’s portrayal of the Doctor) I was happy to see the announcement that Supermassive Games was working on bringing the Time Lord to PlayStation, especially given the delay of series seven until the autumn I had hoped the game would offer something worthwhile to fill in the break.
And certainly, for fans of the show, The Eternity Clock offers a chance to battle the Doctor’s great foes often with nothing but a sonic screwdriver and the wit of the ancient Gallifreyan time traveller. Yet even the most ardent of the show’s viewers will be put off the outing by the dismally uninspired and often frankly tedious side-scrolling 2D environments and gameplay.
This is a problem that is only compounded by a control scheme that almost seems more suited to a mobile platform than a home console (and I include the Vita in the later type of platform there).
Thankfully the story is a true Doctor Who yarn with Matt Smith and Alex Kingston adding something that has been missing from previous Who games, namely a degree of authenticity.
Opening as all great stories in the series should the Tardis is crashing and out of control and the Doctor needs to find out why. More worryingly – at least for those of us without a Tardis – a time-storm threatens to consume the Earth and the Doctor and River must go in search of the Eternity Clock, a planet that has a record of everything that ever has or ever will happen.
Of course, it isn’t that simple. The Tardis is preventing the Storm from enveloping the Earth while The Silence, Cybermen, and the Silurians all stand in the duo’s way. Not to mention Daleks, there are always more Daleks. Although Amy and Rory are neither seen nor mentioned which is something of a disappointment but with the Pond’s on their way out and The Eternity Clock the first in a planned trilogy it’s hardly a surprise.
While the narrative may nail it the gameplay, as mentioned, sadly leaves much to be desired. It feels almost like some of the cheap PS One side scrollers from the dying days of that system at times and unlike, say, classic Tom Baker Doctor Who it doesn’t have any of the charm in that regard.
It’s often hard to relate the position of your enemies in relation to your character. Of course the Doctor’s MO is never committing violence which might work for TV but the stealth and puzzles simply aren’t up to the mark for a compelling gaming experience. River can at least stun enemies as well as disable guards with her (sonic) lipstick.
Of course the Doctor can die, so the solution devised by Supermassive to prevent him from regenerating is to have The Eternity Clock reset time the Doctor bites off more than he can chew.
Yes the game is laborious, repetitive and, surprisingly, it can also be incredibly difficult. Worse it can be unfairly difficult and the scaling of the puzzle challenges is executed without much thought for players. Hard mode simply reduces the amount of time you have to complete each puzzle which only leads to an even more challenging and frustrating experience.
I have nothing against a challenge in a game but the sheer scale of the challenge, hampered by the controls and poor gameplay will back even the most ardent Whovian question whether it’s worth it, even with the fate of the world at stake. Taking about seven hours there is much to love, the story is particularly entertaining, which is why this is such a disappointment.
Hopefully we will one day see a Doctor Who spin off that does the venerable sci-fi justice but sadly The Eternity Clock is not that game, even if it is a step in the right direction. As I said I’m not a fan of Matt Smith but the shortcomings of this game makes the prospect of season seven all the more appealing.
If you’re curious it’s not a complete disaster but there are better things to fill the gap until the Doctor’s return to our TV screens, fish fingers and custard for instance…