Game Review: Doctor Who: The Eternity Clock (PS Vita)

Before I start, I have to say that I’m a big Doctor Who fan. Not the sort of person who makes sure that they sit down every Saturday night and watches the show without fail, but a long-time fan. I grew up watching the series when I was a kid when Tom Baker was the Doctor, watched repeats of the older shows and at the end of the 1980s ran my own Doctor Who fan club / fanzine. Yes, I’m that much of a fan… Like all fans, there are actors who have played the part of the Doctor who I appreciate and others… well… who I never particularly warmed to. And in the case of the current Doctor, Matt Smith, I’m one of those who hasn’t particularly taken to his portrayal of the Time Lord.

So that being the case, I was already a little apprehensive about this game knowing that it was based on his incarnation of the Doctor and was also featuring a full voiceover by Matt Smith himself along with Alex Kingston reprising her role as Dr River Song. The story sees the TARDIS caught in a temporal maelstrom that has send it crashing off course and disrupting all of its systems. Crash landing on Earth, the Doctor sets off to investigate the source of the time storm that is causing the breaches in time… This leads to an adventure spanning four different time zones – the present day, the future and Elizabethan and Victorian England where the Doctor and River Song will have to team up to solve puzzles and fend off some of the Doctors toughest and deadliests classic and current adversaries – the Daleks, Cybermen, Silurians and the Silence, if he wants to save the planet.

Visually this looks superb with fantastic animation on the main and supporting characters, great looking and varied backgrounds and some impressive visual effects that match up to the standards of the television series and certainly do the license justice. Sound is superb with some great spot effects and a stirring score lifted straight from the series. The graphics and sound have Doctor Who written all over them and really create a fantastic atmosphere. There is wonderful tension generated by some of the monsters you encounter… there is a scene in one of the early levels featuring the Cybermen. I won’t spoil it for you here but suffice to say that you will be up against more than a few of them in a race against the clock and you’ll feel the urgency build and almost feel your heart pump and palms sweat…

Along the way there are bonuses you can collect including boxes containing hats for the Doctor and pieces of River Song’s diary. They don’t seem to serve any particular in-game purpose other than as added goals to try to achieve but it’s something extra to try to achieve in addition to the main game’s storyline and need some additional puzzle solving to reach some of them. There are some tough puzzles throughout the game although the difficulty can be adjusted to suit all players and if you find that the game gets too tough at any point, this can be adjusted during the game itself which can be a lifesaver with some of the more taxing puzzles in the game.

Controls are somewhat hit and miss for the game. For the most part, it makes use of the left stick for movement and the right stick for additional control (the Doctor’s sonic screwdriver for example) with object interaction done using the Vita’s buttons. Throughout the game, you will need to solve various puzzles and these need the use of the touch screen and that’s what let the game down. Each puzzle has it’s own control system which isn’t particularly intuitive and is hit-and-miss at best. You’ll find yourself struggling with the controls more often than not and in most cases they could have replaced the controls quite easily using the D-Pad and made the puzzles far less frustrating. I’m all for challenging puzzles in the game, but that should come from working them out, not fighting against the control system.

It wasn’t just the controls that were a hinderance for the game. Rather than having a set number of lives, both characters have a set amount of energy and once that’s gone you have to restart from whatever checkpoint you have reached. Equally, rather than your energy depleting gradually, you can be killed instantly and returned to the checkpoint if you are caught by a Cyberman, caught by security cameras (if you are controlling River Song) or various other means.

However, you have an unlimited number of lives so you can continue playing until you can get to the end of each level but this is where the game gets frustrating… while there is an autosave function so you won’t lose progress, this only occurs once the PS Vita loads in new stages and not at checkpoints and there is no option to manually save the game so if you need to save at any point then you have to reach the end of a particular stage or you lose your progress in the game. The only positive aspect of the game save function is that all save data is fully compatible with the PS3 version so if you have both you can start playing on one version of the game and continue from where you left off on the other.

To be honest, I was fairly disappointed with this. There’s a great game in here struggling to get out and despite having a great storyline, a generally good script and great performances from the cast it’s let down horribly by the abysmal unforgiving controls. I wanted to like this game so much, even with it being based around the 11th Doctor, but ultimately it is just too frustrating and needs too much perseverance to make it worthwhile for all but the most hardened Doctor Who fan.

Simon Plumbe

At A Glance

Vita Player Rating - 06

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