Saturday, 26 June 2010

Doctor Who - Blood of the Cybermen

The second Doctor Who Adventure Game is here. Go grab if you want to play along at home or skip to the story section of this piece if you're lazy (or don't own a PC) and just want to know what happens.

I found the first game to be a disappointment, both technically and storywise so I was hoping that the second game would be an improvement. Is it?

Yes, albeit only a slight improvement.


The corridors. The endless corridors. With an occasional small outside bit. Yes, the level design once again is rather limited. You will spend most of your time running and sneaking down endless corridors avoiding enemies and looking for collectibles and puzzles to solve. The stealth portions of the game are just as aggravating and tedious as in the first instalment and require split second timing in some sections. In fact I'm not sure that casual gamers or the very young are going to be able to progress past some parts of the game without help from a savvy gaming veteran.

The minigames are not quite as odious this time. Gone is the stupid hold-an-icon-steady-around-a-bit-of-wire game from the Dalek adventure, this time it is replaced with a match rotating coloured balls affair which is much less frustrating.

There is a strange platform crossing section early in the game which is bloody terrible. The Doctor has to cross moving blocks of ice and if his efforts are slightly mistimed he falls to his death. Unfortunately the Doctor's movement is not the most precise and he tends to stumble around and slide off the ice to his doom. Granted, the 11th Doctor is a somewhat clumsy and inelegant creature but when you apply this to an insta-death platforming section, it does not lead to fun times. It's like controlling a dodgem car greased with butter. On ice.

Once again the voice acting is dull and undersold in places. I think it may be a problem with the direction as Matt Smith and Karen Gillen seem to be struggling with the correct range that voice acting requires. Perhaps a few more takes would have done the trick? For all I know, the lines were recorded between episodes which would explain the tiredness in the principal actors' performances.

The collectibles are back and I found several flavours of jelly baby. The collectibles are still entirely unnecessary but fun if you like looking at unused publicity photos of characters and monsters.


Again, I will start this section with a question - did you enjoy Tomb of the Cybermen? Do you think it would be better mashed up with The Tenth Planet and every space based Troughton cyberman story? You'd be (un)surprised to find that the result is not particularly satisfying.

The Doctor receives a distress beacon and lands the TARDIS in the Arctic. The Doctor rescues an archaeologist/engineer named Chisholm from an ice cave and discovers that Chisholm was attempting to flee his own Arctic survey team.

Amy helps by moaning. Amy is still dressed in a mini skirt and at no point changes into something warmer. Instead she spends her time complaining and generally showing up Classic Who companions Tegan and Peri in the whingeing stakes. It seems that Phil Ford is struggling to write dialogue for Amy that makes her a sassy and feisty companion without making her a bit of an irritating berk. And is it too much to ask the developers to give Amy Pond different outfits for each game?

The Doctor decides to investigate the digsite that Chisholm has fled from, despite Chisholm frantic pleading not to return him there. Upon arrival Chisholm is immediately attacked by a Cybermat. A Cybermat! Yes, it's the return of the silly metal rat things from the 60s. Amy makes an incredibly lame mousemat joke at this point. I sigh and want to slap Phil Ford for that one. This time the Cybermats have a poison bite that infects you with a nano virus that turns you into a Cyberslave. Poor Chisholm immediately runs off and isolates himself in a locked room to save the Doctor and Amy from being infected or attacked by him.

Unfortunately for the Doctor and Amy they soon discover what a Cyberslave is when they open the main complex door and are attacked by a Cyberman in a jumpsuit. Seems a Cyberslave gets partially converted via the magic of nanites. Amy disables the Cyberslave by venting some steam at it. Yeah, I don't know how that really works either.

Inside the research complex, the Doctor finds a professor who is attempting to develop a cure for Cyberslave-itis. The Doctor cheerfully informs her that it won't work until he gets a pure sample of nano-wotsits from a Cyberslave. The Doctor rigs up an EMP device to disable a nest of Cybermats and then Amy disables a Cyberman with a loose electric cable. Armed with the necessary components, the Doctor creates a cure by playing a quick minigame. The professor has vanished though...

The Doctor uses the cure on Chisholm (who has now become a messy fusion of Cyberman and human - a makeup effect that I would have liked to have seen on the TV for real) before heading to the digsite to locate the cybership lying beneath the ice.

It's at this point I get confused about the current incarnation of Cybermen. It seems they've been blended with original versions to once again become a spacefaring, time travelling race. They are now much more advanced than their humble beginnings in series two of New Who. It's a little confusing really and I wonder if their weakness to gold or the repeated shouting of "excellent!" is going to make a comeback next.

The Doctor spends a lot of time pressing buttons on lifts and avoiding Cybermen until he eventually reaches the control centre of the ship. It's at this point we find out that the professor was a Cyberslave all along. GASP. It was a trap laid for the Doctor to find the ship so he could finish waking up the Cybermen, because apparently the Cyber Leader couldn't figure this out for himself. The professor aimed the distress call at the TARDIS to lure him all the way to the ship. This doesn't explain why she was working on a cure for the Cyberslave condition or why the Cyberslaves and Cybermen were attempting to kill the Doctor if they needed him to free them. THIS MAKES MY HEAD HURT.

The Doctor manages to escape the clutches of the Cybermen and save Amy from cyber conversion. Chisholm makes an heroic comeback and destroys the Cyber Leader and then the Doctor sets the ship to self destruct and everyone makes a last second escape. Hurrah. The Doctor and Amy depart leaving Chisholm to explain to a rescue party exactly what went on...

Apart from the dumb plot twist toward the end, this was a solid enough story. It's nothing we haven't seen done before with the Cybermen and I don't think reintroducing the Cybermats is anything other than Classic Who fan service. Still, this game was more enjoyable than City of the Daleks and hopefully the games will continue to improve.

Now if only we could have a clever plot and a wander around the TARIDS next time...

Friday, 25 June 2010

Friday Facts In Association With Brass Eye & The Day Today

Modern life can be filled with uncertainty and confusion. Every Friday Brass Eye and The Day Today will provide a shining moment of clarity, a stark image of the world around us, a fact beacon which will shine the light of truth into the dark corners of doubt. Prepare your eyes for FACTS.

Friday, 18 June 2010

Friday Facts In Association With Brass Eye & The Day Today

Modern life can be filled with uncertainty and confusion. Every Friday Brass Eye and The Day Today will provide a shining moment of clarity, a stark image of the world around us, a fact beacon which will shine the light of truth into the dark corners of doubt. Prepare your eyes for FACTS.

Friday, 11 June 2010

Friday Facts In Association With Brass Eye & The Day Today

Modern life can be filled with uncertainty and confusion. Every Friday Brass Eye and The Day Today will provide a shining moment of clarity, a stark image of the world around us, a fact beacon which will shine the light of truth into the dark corners of doubt. Prepare your eyes for FACTS.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Doctor Who - City of the Daleks

It's here! It's finally here! The Doctor Who PC game made by the BBC and given to the public for free. FREE! Now isn't the BBC brilliant?

Is the game equally brilliant?

Well, not quite. I'm going to split this post into two parts, I'll discuss the mechanics of the game itself and then I'll take a look at and describe the story for those of you who can't, or won't, play the game but want to know what happens.


Mechanically the Doctor Who Adventure Game is a mix of point and click adventure, stealth, and godawful mini games. It's a strange choice to include so much stealth in a Doctor Who game, the Doctor is not the most stealthy of characters and his usual approach to a new situation is to boldly walk in, start showing off, and talk at everyone. I can understand the need for stealth in this story though, I just hope that each episode doesn't include this episode's often tedious stealth sequences.

The game repeats the same formula throughout its act based structure - you will be presented with a problem to overcome (find a path through ruined London, construct a device, switch power back on, etc) and then you'll be forced to creep and run down corridors to achieve it. Yes, even in a computer game the Doctor is still forced to explore and run down endless corridors. Bloody things. The various problems and tasks are not too puzzling and everything that you can interact with is helpfully highlighted with a bright blue glow whenever you stand near. Unfortunately in order to resolve the Doctor's problems you'll have to sneak behind Daleks and play some awful mini games. The worst offender is the gadget creation game where you have to drag an icon around a maze whilst avoiding touching the electric walls. It's just like the game at the fair where you have to keep your hand steady and guide a metal loop around a wavy wire only much less fun and you don't win a stuffed animal.

During the course of saving Earth from the Daleks you can find collectible icons hidden around each level. Your reward is often a picture of an old character or monster accompanied by a brief summary of their appearances or abilities. The first Doctor collectible I found was Colin Baker with his multi coloured coat. That coat was something I did not want to see suddenly appear on my screen without warning. The collectibles seem to do nothing other than fuel whatever OCD game habits you might have.

The voice acting isn't great. I don't know when the lines were recorded in the filming schedule but Karen Gillen sounds tired and flat. Matt Smith tries to inject some energy into his performance but he sounds weary too. The performances also sound like they were recorded separately, especially as the sound quality seems to change from line to line. It's a shame that the performances couldn't give the game's plot the energy it sorely needs from its principal characters.

As a game City of the Daleks is disappointing, personally I think that a point and click Doctor Who game that focuses more on the adventure aspects would be more satisfying. The puzzles in City of the Daleks are never taxing enough to give you a sense of achievement once you've completed them. I'd prefer to see less stealth and more puzzle solving and interaction with other characters in game. There are some dialogue moments where you speak as the Doctor but it's merely a case of clicking on all the options until you've heard all the dialogue and the plot moves on. I'm interested to see if the balance of gameplay elements changes in the next episode.


Did you enjoy the Willaim Hartnell Doctor stories, The Daleks and Dalek Invasion of Earth? Would you like to see them combined into a less satisfying whole with a classic Who continuity reference?


What's wrong with you?

Okay, here it is - the story isn't very good. Phil Ford has constructed a very basic plot for a game. It's so generic in structure that I wonder if the fact that he was writing for a game caused him to reduce the number of locations to make it easy for the developers.

The Doctor takes Amy to 1963 London to see the swinging sixties. Unfortunately the Doctor learns (by virtue of the most conveniently placed and unnecessary newspaper headline ever) that the Daleks have already visited and laid waste to the entire planet.

The Doctor and Amy soon see the last remaining human (a young woman still dressed immaculately during the alien apocalypse) being hunted by the racist pepper pots, so they decide to follow her into the subway. Unfortunately the Doctor and Amy manage to get the poor girl killed when she is forced to sacrifice herself to cover the Doctor and Amy's escape back to the TARDIS.

The Doctor decides to visit the Dalek's home planet of Skaro to find out how they have acquired the ability to change time and conquer planets so rapidly. Yes, Skaro is back and the Daleks have rebuilt their capital city, Kaalann. The Doctor is shocked to see that the Daleks have recovered so quickly from their previous dire straits so he creeps around the city attempting to find out what happened. At this point Amy starts to fade like Marty McFly in Back to the Future.

It seems that Amy has now become a paradox (she now won't be born as the Daleks have exterminated the human race) and she is disappearing from reality. Luckily for her the Doctor makes a magic bracelet that stops her from disappearing altogether. The Doctor mentions that the TARDIS protects its passengers from paradoxes but it can't protect Amy for long.

The Doctor eventually tires of sneaking around Skaro (at one point he sends Amy to do the sneaking to look for Dalek spare parts, despite the fact she could be erased from existence at any moment) and surrenders himself to the Daleks. The Daleks as ever, spend all of their time talking to the Doctor instead of exterminating him. The Doctor meets the new Emperor Dalek and asks him to explain his evil plan, which he gladly does.

The Daleks have harnessed the Eye of Harmony (last seen in Doctor Who The Unsuccessful US Pilot Episode, fact fans) and are now using it, much as the Timelords did, to travel through time and space. It seems that the Eye of Harmony is now called the Eye of Time and it's now a natural phenomena that can be caught and housed as the Timelords are now gone and the Eye was just floating around space waiting to be pinched. What? It's utter nonsense of course but it's a significantly dramatic McGuffin as the Eye of Time gives the Daleks the power to access, and invade, all of time and space.

The Doctor and Amy jump into the Eye (apparently that's perfectly fine despite it being essentially a wibbly wobbly black hole thing) and appear, rather conveniently on Skaro before the Daleks appeared and rebuilt everything. Why this convenient piece of time travel occurs, I'm not sure.

The Doctor uses the opportunity to sabotage the device that houses the Eye of Time so that when the Daleks chase him back through time he can release the Eye. The Daleks appear through the Eye on old Skaro and the Doctor destroys the Eye's housing. Then the Doctor jumps back into the Eye which delivers him back to the TARDIS. Everything the Daleks did has now been undone and 1963 London is back to normal.

Urgh. The magic reset button.

Only, this makes no sense and is now a giant paradox. Seriously, don't think about it or you'll go mad. Furthermore, what is preventing the Daleks from locating the Eye again and repeating the same thing?

Oh well, it was nice to see that the Daleks weren't defeated once and for all (for what would have been the 8723rd time) but I don't think anything in the TV show is ever going to reference the events of the game in any meaningful way.

Ultimately this game is a disappointment due to its shoddy story more than its gameplay failings. I can forgive shoddy mechanics as long as the plot is entertaining and intriguing but City of the Daleks fails at both elements. I still think it's fantastic that the BBC have devoted time and talent to this project (and it's still early days) but I hope that the games improve during the course of their run.

Friday, 4 June 2010

Friday Facts In Association With Brass Eye & The Day Today

Modern life can be filled with uncertainty and confusion. Every Friday Brass Eye and The Day Today will provide a shining moment of clarity, a stark image of the world around us, a fact beacon which will shine the light of truth into the dark corners of doubt. Prepare your eyes for FACTS.