PC Review: Doctor Who – The Adventure Games Episode 1 (City of the Daleks)

The Doctor and Amy take the fight to the Daleks!

I’ve been a fan of Doctor Who since it returned to the screens in 2005. I’ve become attached to each Doctor and assistant over the years and have been craving a game where I could use the sonic screwdriver, travel in the TARDIS and fight aliens. It seems after years of hoping; the BBC has finally listened and made a series of games to be released over the next few months. The first came out last week and is called “City of the Daleks”, starring the new Doctor (Matt Smith) and his assistant Amy Pond (Karen Gillan). So is this a case of being careful of what you wish for?

The TARDIS lands in London, 1963 for the Doctor and Amy to discover it’s been taken over by the Daleks. Worst of all, because of this…Amy was never born and becomes a walking paradox! The Doctor doesn’t know how the Daleks changed time, since they never have had the power to do it on this scale before. So, the duo hunts for clues and ways to put a stop to the Daleks’ plans before they began. The episode was written by Phil Ford, who also created the successful 5-part “Dreamworld” animated series of Doctor Who with David Tennant. The plot is gripping and makes good use of the DW license, the episode lasts about an hour or so…depending on your skill level.

You control the Doctor in third-person using either the keyboard (or) mouse to move around, selecting highlighted objects. You use the sonic screwdriver on certain objects, while you’ll have to hunt for other items to do things like stop Amy from vanishing or create a weapon to disrupt the Daleks’ vision. The game is mostly made up of stealth sections where you have to keep out of the Daleks’ area of sight, it’s a one-hit kill if you are spotted…but luckily you’ll just be returned to where you were before you died.

Avoiding the Daleks is fairly easy, although there are times where the solution isn’t always so straightforward. There are also a number of puzzles like moving objects through a maze without touching the walls (like the Operation board game) and a code-decrypting puzzle where you have to rotate a number of signs to face the same way as a group of on-coming fragments. These puzzles are pretty simple, but can be frustrating at times…I got through it, but imagine younger gamers will find it a bit tougher and maybe a bit off-putting as a result.

There are moments in the episode where you’ll have a dialog tree in conversations to learn more about the situation, as well as collectables scattered around that reference key moments of the show, both old and new. It’s a shame that the game isn’t on XBLA as collecting all these would be rewarding then!

In terms of performance, the characters look like their counterparts fine…although lip-sync is off and the visuals aren’t the game’s strongest point. There are a couple of framerate hiccups, especially towards the end of the episode that hopefully will be fixed over time. Voice-acting is the strong point with great performances from Matt Smith and Karen Gillan, I’m starting to like the new Doctor…I’ll admit I was skeptical when Matt took over from David Tennant, but he seems to have settled into the role with ease.

The Verdict

City of the Daleks is a good first episode that will please any fan of Doctor Who, me included. It may be brief, but it feels just like a regular episode without being too dragged out. The stealth sections need some work and the puzzles may irritate younger gamers, but that aside…this is a dream come true. I cannot wait till the next episode!