Doctorin' the PlayStation
- Posted March 12th, 2013 at 13:50 EDT by Richard Archer
Doctor Who, the world's longest running science fiction show, returns to TV screens in March for no doubt another ratings winning series of intrigue, adventure and time traveling.
But why has all Doctor Who's success on TV never carried over to PlayStation consoles, and what must a new Doctor Who game include so that the Time Lord can finally defeat his toughest foe -- the reviewers ?
Doctor Who games haven't fared well on the PS, with the last one, " The Eternity Clock, " being so poorly received that review copies were kept from some sites in an effort to stop bad publicity harming sales. I feel the reason for the game's failure was that it just tacked elements of Doctor Who onto a what was a very poor platform game and ignored the program's rich fifty year history. So I'm going to take a look at what parts of the series, that if used correctly, could make any related game a success and not so bad that the Doctor himself might feel he has to break the laws of time and go back and erase it from history.
The Doctor is a citizen of the universe who travels widely in space and time, so any Doctor Who game should reflect this by making time travel the heart of the story and not just setting the action on Earth, but as many alien worlds as possible.
Let's look at how time travel might be tackled in a future game adaptation first. This could be done by simply setting the action at a particular point in the Earth's past but why limit a game to just one time zone? Imagine how much better things would be if the Time Lord had to explore lots of time zones such as the Battle of Hastings, the First World War and the Earth's future colonies on Pluto in the course of his adventures. Time travel might involve investigating a paradox where history has been altered to twist the future, a game based around this premise could see the Doctor arriving in an alternate future of the Earth where he must unravel the event that caused the paradox then travel back in time to prevent it happening.
Regardless of where a future title may send the good Doctor, the most important aspect of time travel should be that when it comes to historical accuracy, this should always be sacrificed for fun and excitement just as the TV show does. This isn't to say that real history isn't interesting, but facts should never be allowed to get in the way of entertainment.
So, we have a good idea when to set a game but where should all the action take place ? Here there are two choices, a purely historical game needs to be limited to Earth to give the game context and relevance. However if the action is set away from Earth then multiple alien worlds should be open for exploration and in a game that has different budgetary constraints to the TV show this means they needn't all look like quarries in the south of England.
In addition, as the Doctor has visited the world of fiction in the past there is no reason why if licensing issues permit that he couldn't travel to the location of other PS games and adventure alongside famous player characters.
So, now we have a good idea of the where and when of a new Doctor Who PS game, but who or what would be the ideal enemy for the Time Lord to pit his wits against?
Fortunately, fifty years of adventures have provided the Doctor with an impressive rogues gallery but when it comes to facing off against someone or thing in a game only the most vilest, ruthless and terrifying bad guys should be on the opponents bench.
The baddest of the bad can only mean the game needs to set the Doctor against either the Daleks, Cybermen, the Master or the Weeping Angels, all villans of such evil that they have plagued the Doctor on TV time and time again. Our hero has certainly experienced troubled times against other foes but these monsters are also so closely associated with the program that its only natural they appear in a game as the antagonists; lesser enemies mean losing the nuance of the TV show-to-game transition.
What we also don't want is any game to not bother using a classic monster and going with a second-rate villain or even worse, a badly designed new creature. After all, it's happened before -- does any one here remember the Trods ?
Here's a visual memory jogger.
No, you've not heard of them, I didn't think you would as the Trods were used in the imaginatively named TV comic when the publishers couldn't afford to licence the Daleks to appear in their Doctor Who comic strip. The Trods prove that cheap knock offs just won't do as any game that starts with the Doctor threatened by them or any lesser foe is just going to make the player feel ripped off and want to consign the game to the nearest black hole.
Finally, what sort of game could Doctor Who be ? Well, while the TV show lends itself possibly to multiple styles of game, a platformer is certainly not one of them, a lesson sadly ignored by "The Eternity Clock." Why shouldn't the game be a platformer you ask? Well simply because the Doctor is a hero who relies on his wits not his jumping prowess; yes, he does a lot of running in corridors but that's because he is running away from his adversaries and not jumping away from them. A good Doctor Who game is going to be a solid puzzler be it point and click or even RPG. Either way the Doctor should have to think to outsmart his foes. If you think this sounds boring, well, fans of a certain contemporary of the Doctor named Professor Layton might disagree.
So with imagination and homage to the TV series any new Doctor Who game will certainly be winning over fans of the show and gamers alike as long as the source material is used wisely and respected. After all, when it comes to producing a videogame basedo ff any TV program Doctor Who is just like any show in that it needs to be treated with the respect that made the original such a success in the first place. With these key areas lacking, any new Doctor Who title will be fit only for extermination, probably by the Trods, as I've heard they need the work.
Do you think it's too late for Doctor Who to appear in a decent game ? What is your favourite (or worst) Doctor Who videogame adaptation? Sound off in the comments section below.