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Doctor Who Legacy Review: Wibbly Wobbly
I was a little bit cautious when I came to write this review, you know. I really am a fan of Doctor Who. That’s not to say I have absolutely no faith in myself- I have reviewed things before where I’ve had a bit of fan-grief to work out- but this is a different thing entirely. I really am a fan of Doctor Who. I’m a British guy with nerdy interests, I own a sonic screwdriver and Tom Baker dressing gown, and I even live in the city it’s filmed in; I’ve been in the goddamn TARDIS! Thankfully, Tiny Rebel Games have helped me retain my journalistic integrity. I’m in no way compromised, because Doctor Who Legacy really has nothing to do with Doctor Who.
The story begins when the Doctor (Matt Smith’s incarnation) takes Madame Vestra to 1970’s Cardiff- perhaps so she can buy a new pair of flares for Jenny. The duo meet YOU, the player, shortly before you are attacked by a troupe of Sontarans. As you prepare to square off against these foes, Vestra valiantly declares that you will need to defeat them using your superior intellect!
Your superior intellect, in this case, comes in the form of a Bejeweled clone. The doctor and his companions each have one of five colours associated with them. Swapping gems around to make a link of three or more makes all of the characters with the correct corresponding colours attack. Each character has unique stats in Health, Attack and Healing ability that can be improved with use, and several other companions and Doctors can be found as you progress through the missions. As you collect and train new characters, you can create a fairly varied party to take with you on missions; Colin Baker’s Doctor, for example, can team up with Rose Tyler, Porridge and Strax in order to take down the bad guys. The game only limits you to selecting ONE Doctor and a maximum of five companions on any given mission.
Once you complete the opening mission, the Doctor theorizes that the Sontarans have somehow discovered time-travel and have been running amok in his own timeline. This (conveniently) gives an excuse to go back into the Doctor’s past, visiting locations, meeting allies and fighting monsters we’ve all seen in the show. Unless you haven’t- but then why the hell are you playing the game?
That might sound a bit rather blunt, but it raises a question I’ve been asking myself- who do Tiny Rebel (and by proxy, the BBC) think is their market for the game? The easiest answer is ‘fans of the show’. And it’s true there are a ton of little moments and inside jokes that simply wouldn’t make sense to someone who wasn’t a fan. When the 10th Doctor is upgraded, for example, you get his trade mark “Brilliant” instead of the standard “well done”. In some levels, you encounter anomalies in time that are guarded by Reapers. These had nothing to do with the episode featured in the level, but their appearance nevertheless makes sense in terms of the show’s lore.
Why, then, is so much of the game ‘lowest common denominator’? Why is the gameplay geared up to try and appeal to the largest number of people possible- because, hey, Bejewled is popular and so is Candy Crush, this should appeal to the millions too, right? Except where it tries to emulate that style of game it fails miserably. It wont have the same appeal, because it’s simply not as good. And by trying to ape it in the first place, you notice that the little touches of fan-appeal really are skin deep. It’s a rushed, fairly shallow attempt to tug on the purse-strings of anyone with a vague affection for the show.
My earlier comment about the game having nothing to do with Doctor Who isn’t entirely true. I mean, there are tons of pictures of things from the show. There’s a man called Rory who wears a body warmer, and I even saw an Adipose once. But Doctor Who is ultimately about a character that persists through a dozen faces; how he saves the day and how he changes the lives of everyone he meets for better or worse. That character fails to persist into Legacy– there’s just a picture that looks like him. Once that mask is removed, you see the game for what it is. It’s not necessarily bad- it’s most certainly playable for a couple of minutes here and there- but it fails to be as good as what it copies. Doctor Who Legacy isn’t a regeneration; it’s a clone.