Anyone who knows me, even slightly, knows that I’m a huge Doctor Who fan. I’ve adored the series, its characters, its stories and its sense of wonder since I was a kid and so I bought The Eternity Clock with an eager need. It’s worth saying that although this is the fourth commercial Doctor Who game released in the last few years, it’s the first one that I’ve plumped for; none of the others interested me and, after playing around in the lackluster free adventure games a couple of years ago, I’ve felt rather jaded about the whole Who-gaming experience.
The Eternity Clock was to be different though; the press releases told me so… and that’s exactly where I should have realised that something was terribly, terribly wrong.
The Eternity Clock has some great and time-tested ideas at its heart; a side-scrolling platformer with enemies to avoid, puzzles to solve and fun to be had. The first few moments are fun; the Doctor arrives inside the Bank of England’s vault and must make his way out, but it quickly becomes apparent that this game is a shallow, frustrating and often uncontrollable affair with very little creative effort put into its design.
The button controls dont’ behave quite like you’d want them to; your action button and jump button are the wrong way round compared to a lot of games and, honestly, they often just dont’ react when you press them. An attempt to jump and grab River’s hand doesn’t do anything; which is a real pain in the unmentionables when you’re trying to beat a hoard of Cybermen to some unmentioned goal. As you run off ahead and wait to give her a leg up, she dawdles for a few seconds and then either runs or simple walks to your side; there seems to be nothing that controls which she should be doing, despite the aforementioned chase and the urgency it should require.
The side-scrolling is very reminiscent of the recent Tintin game; lots of crawling and ducking and avoiding bad guys, and ont he odd chance you can play as River Song (why not let me switch characters when I want to?) you can grab your bad guys and stun them with a good old dose of hallucinogenic lipstick. Tintin was pleasant enough, but very boring, even for younger players; its repetitive and unimaginative level design was a huge let down, and one that prompted a quick resale via Amazon. The Eternity Clock is worse though, and for several reasons. It’s initially very charming, but after a few seconds that charm fades into frustration and obvious repetition. The collectibles (pages from River’s diary and hats for the Doctor) are a great idea, but you can’t do anything with them; why give the Doctor fancy hats to collect, let him comment on them, and then not let him actually *wear* them? Plus the clunky controls, very dodgy AI for River and the other guards, laughably ineffective cover system for hiding from enemies… the list goes on.
How could something with so much promise turn out to be so awful? How could the BBC trust the development of a game of one of their hottest and most profitable programmes to a company with such a small portfolio? How did this product ever get past the keen eyes of development managers at BBC Worldwide? Why did I chose a digital download version that I can’t resell?
These answers add up to a cliff hanger that won’t ever be answered by me… but I’m sure you can guess the answers.
A waste of time and money; full of glitches, frustration and repetition, devoid of the magic of the series. To be avoided.