Also available on: PC (later this year in US), Vita (June 13)
Developer: Supermassive Games
Publisher: BBC Worldwide
Genre: Puzzle Platformer
Doctor Who fans on PlayStation have long wished for the opportunity to embark on an adventure through time and space with the enigmatic Doctor, and that patience is finally being rewarded. Doctor Who: The Eternity Clock brings with it much of the wit and charm that make the series a hit, but the PlayStation 3 may prove to be The Doctor's toughest obstacle yet to overcome.
As a time storm surrounds the planet Earth, The Doctor and companion River Song must unravel a plot through the ages to set history right again. The story is very much a fan pleaser, with Matt Smith and Alex Kingston reprising their iconic roles to offer biting one-liners as they fight past Victorian Silurians, medieval Silence and Daleks in the far-flung future.
Often only a single puzzle type will be encountered in each level, causing a situation where players must solve the exact same puzzle six or more times in a row to pass through Silurian-infested sewers. Not just the same type of puzzle, but the exact same one with the same solution each time.
The Doctor has always been a proponent of non-violence, and as such he must use stealth to sneak past the guards in each respective time period. The stealth is all very basic, holding a button to crouch while enemies stick to rigid patrols. He is also equipped with his signature Sonic Screwdriver, which can unlock doors and disable certain enemies through a simple mini-game.
Disabling enemies can become quite cumbersome though, as it seems fairly random which enemies the screwdriver will work on and the mini-game itself leaves him vulnerable and unable to move.
River has fewer qualms about violence, carrying a pistol with her wherever she goes. However, while it can fire basic ineffective pop shots, to stun enemies requires a charged shot which takes several seconds to both ready and recharge.
River is still more capable than The Doctor though, given that she can at least move when charging her pistol while The Doctor is completely defenseless with his trusty screwdriver.
The Eternity Clock is designed to be played as a co-operative experience. Many puzzles revolve around using both The Doctor and River in unison. For example, one must often activate a switch for the other to cross a platform, or The Doctor must solve a puzzle while River defends him from encroaching aliens.
However, the two will also often split up, making co-operative play a misnomer. Both players will still control their respective characters on a split-screen, but from different time periods completing unrelated objectives. It's a real missed opportunity for creative puzzles, where actions in one time could open new paths for the second player, but nothing of the sort is ever attempted.
Of course, the reason such puzzles are never seen is because the game must also work as a single-player experience. Playing alone causes the action to shift perspectives between The Doctor and River, so scenes that would normally be played simultaneously are taken in turns.
The game is also riddled with bugs and glitches. They range from the minor, such as dialogue cut off when playing co-operatively, to more major game-breaking affairs. Multiple levels had to be restarted because some scripted event didn't occur when it was supposed to, rendering vital elevators, doors and computer consoles inert.
To encourage multiple playthroughs there are a number of collectibles to discover. The Doctor's expansive hat collection can be unlocked while several pages of River's spoiler-filled diary are scattered throughout levels.
These extras are somewhat disappointing though, most notably that the hats cannot be worn after they are unlocked, which to the ardent Doctor Who fan would seem the whole point. River's diary at least provides some amusing observations showing her perspective on past episodes, though even when seen on an HD television the entries are quite difficult to read.
There is little that can be said to discourage a die-hard Doctor Who fan from playing The Eternity Clock. And if authentic amusing dialogue is your chief concern, the game will deliver.
As the first part of a planned game trilogy, it ends on a cliffhanger, leaving plenty of room for the developers to improve future iterations. However, if this first outing is any indication, perhaps The Doctor isn't quite ready for primetime gaming yet.