“Run for your life!” – The first words uttered by the Doctor when the BBC revived Doctor Who in 2005. Coincidentally, they were also exactly my thoughts upon hearing the news that once again he was going to find himself forced into a platforming role in The Eternity Clock.
The Doctor I know is nosy. He butts in on conversations he’s not part of and asks often completely unrelated questions. He picks things up that don’t belong to him and activates devices before finding out what they actually do. Furthermore, when he enters a room, he scans it for objects he can interact with, all the while commenting on what he sees. Only one kind of person I know of acts in the same way, and that’s an adventure game protagonist.
Despite the natural home of the Doctor obviously being the adventure game, Supermassive Games have nevertheless stepped into the ring to force the square peg of the Doctor into the round hole of an action platformer, failing to recall the disastrous attempt of 1992’s Dalek Attack.
Doctor Who: The Eternity Clock follows the Doctor and River Song on an brief adventure through space and time in their attempts to recover portions of an obscure device known as the Eternity Clock. Opposing them are all the major players of the galaxy, as the Cybermen, Daleks and Silurians all converge on a small portion of London to seize the power for themselves.
The TV show has always been about tricky ethical quandaries and moral situations, where often there’s no real right answer but nevertheless a decision has to be made. The Eternity Clock is not about those moments. It’s about the other half of the show, the time spent running down corridors from unspeakable horrors, and opening locks with the sonic screwdriver. After River and the Doctor uncover a Cybermen force beneath London’ s streets, their madcap scrambling over walls and desperately opening locked doors to stay ahead of their foes certainly evokes the same feelings as the show. But it is a rare moment of brilliance.
I’m not sure why people are so insistent in forcing mini-games into their Doctor Who games. The BBC adventure games were plagued with them, and while a well-placed mini-game can add to the excitement, once again we are met by the less-beneficial kind. The sonic screwdriver requires a frequency-matching mini-game that certainly feels ‘sonicy’, but the rest of the mini-games rarely seem to make any thematic sense. The Daleks share a security system with the Silurians, who were apparently inspired in its design by a piece of classic Victorian engineering they once saw. Again and again you’ll play through the same three mini-games, regardless of time period, location or alien species.
The Eternity Clock is not a game concerned with combat, but as a Doctor Who game, that is a definite positive. There are rare occasions where River is forced to break out her blaster to defend the two of them, but she’s far more likely to open fire on a defenceless door lock or obstacle. Your enemies on the other hand feel no need to hold back; get spotted by a dalek patrol and you’ll be dodging fire as you flee. Supermassive have done a great job in recreating the poor marksmanship of the typical Whovian villain, as shots will fly past your head, more often narrowly missing than striking home.
The game soon settles into a predictable rhythm; stealth section, platform section, puzzle, repeat. Then, just when you’re beginning to suspect you might be enjoying yourself, it comes to an abrupt halt. I slammed into the end of the game after only four hours, so don’t expect much in the way of longevity.
Oh. I’m making a new rule. If you end your game on a cliff-hanger without first having secured funding and the go-ahead for a sequel, you deserve a special place in hell. And if you offer hats as a collectible item without allowing you to even wear the things, then you’re a sadistic monster.
Despite appearances, The Eternity Clock does not offer drop-in co-op. If your significant other wishes to join you on your adventures, your only option is to quit out and restart the game altogether. Likewise, if you’re in the middle of the game and your second player has to leave, then again your only option is a complete restart. Supermassive would have gained much from taking a leaf from Traveller’s Tales series of Lego games, where co-op is never more than a button-push away.
Much of Doctor Who’s appeal lies in the banter, and whilst Matt Smith seems quite comfortable in the role of voice actor, Alex Kingston struggles to bring River Song to life in quite the same way. On rare occasions they achieve conversations worthy of the show, and in those moments The Eternity Clock is at its best. At other times, however, the dialogue seems forced, and when River mentioned ‘reversing the polarity’, I was forced to dock one point for unimaginative techno-babble.
I find myself in a quandary. The PS3 version of The Eternity Clock has been out for quite a while, and has scored quite badly. But whilst the PS3 release of The Eternity Clock was apparently rife with bugs, I didn’t encounter a single glitch during my playthrough on PC. Supermassive appear to have resolved the vast majority of issues, making it a more reliable experience than before. But aside from that, I seem to be having a lot more fun than everyone else did.
The Eternity Clock has its moments. Fleeing from Cybermen forces, battling the Silence and hiding from Dalek patrols all prove to be memorable experiences. The plot is extremely fast-paced, and there are a few impressive set-pieces that are just as exciting as the show itself. But is it a good platformer? No. The controls are awkward and at times unresponsive, it’s plagued with excessive mini-games and at four hours, it’s not going to keep you busy for long. It’s overly simplistic, hand-holding and demands no real thought from the player, but at less than £7 on Steam, it’ll keep you going till the Christmas special.
Verdict: Off Target
Platforms Available – PC, PS3
Platform Reviewed – PC – Review based on a purchased copy
For more information on our scoring policy please read this post