I realised something horrific when playing The Eternity Clock; that I was mentally trashing a franchise I love as the Doctor’s woeful humiliation was being played out on an awkward 2D stage. The worst thing about it all is that this Sony-backed adventure pays real respect to the source material, but any potential is obscured by a thick sludge of archaic, infuriating design that surprisingly manages to crucify the entire experience even more effectively than a farting Slitheen.
There are times, though, that The Eternity Clock feels like an extended episode of the TV series, faithfully conveying the charisma and personality of Matt Smith and Alex Kingston doing their admirable best to make sure our eccentric hero and faithful companion are brought to life. Iconic villains like Daleks, Cybermen and more recent additions The Silence all take turns to meddle in the plot, too, creating a world firmly cemented in Dr. Who lore, and there are enough insider references to wiggle any fan’s sonic screwdriver.
Sadly, that’s where the good stuff ends.
The Eternity Clock is a 2D platformer, but it exists on a deceptive faux-3D plane. It’s varied and surprisingly pretty, but the awkward mix between 3D appearance and strict 2D limitation is restrictive, confusing and clumsy. Enemies often step out of reach, and what appears to be interactive objects are actually just part of a backdrop. These constraints feels stripped down and empty, confining you to nothing more than a poor execution of the simplest possible platforming elements, peppered with a deluge of laborious control panel mini-games.
When the game switches from the Doctor's straight platforming to River, the game revolves around combat and stealth, and the latter segments are particularly awful. Enemy AI is erratic, unpredictable and frequently maddening. Most of the time, you’ll be captured trying to kiss enemies with your hallucinogenic lipstick (you'll understand if you've watched the show), but when you finally succeed you’ll wonder what you did differently to all your previous failures. This lack of feedback makes for some remarkably unpleasant gaming.
While playing alone, severe AI issues completely halted my progress, forcing me to restart an entire level because my AI partner froze. Even the game's most basic systems are painfully out of date; you can’t get halfway through a level and quit without reverting all the way back to the start when you come back later. It’s made worse when you’re playing against the invisible clock (not a literal invisible clock, mind, though that wouldn't come as a surprise in a Doctor Who episode), with players doomed to failure because their clumsy virtual companion decided to daydream on a ladder. Other technical issues like late-triggering voiceovers and broken scripted events are just cherries on the shambolic cake. The option to play in co-op also exists, which takes away some of these frustrations, but I really don’t know why you’d bother sharing the experience with a friend.
Dr Who and the Eternity Clock is a monumental disappointment. What's been slated as the first mature Doctor Who game is actually a frustrating, dated example of how not to make a game of its genre. An excellent comprehension of the license is completely ruined by shoddy execution, and I find absolutely no reason to recommend it to anybody. It's even worse than Love & Monsters.
Version Tested: PlayStation 3
Virgin Media verdict:
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