Review by Kitty
Tiny Rebel Games has finally released their highly anticipated Doctor Who Infinity game on Steam. The Dalek Invasion of Time is the first of three stories available for purchase and features the Twelfth Doctor, Missy, Bill, Nardole, and of course Daleks. However, these aren’t your average Daleks set on extermination, this time there’s a twist.
I consider myself to be fairly good at puzzle games, having grown up on Tetris, Bubble Bobble and Dr Mario. Or at least I did before playing through Doctor Who Infinity‘s first story. Mind you, there is a wide range of puzzle difficulties within the game. There are also several strategies involved within the game that change depending on which puzzle is being played. In some puzzles the idea is to attack, some it is to defend, some it is to collect certain gems and so on. There are also levels that have a chess style feel to them where the player is required to place their pieces in strategic areas so they can attack other pieces who are in turn attacking them.
One of the qualities of the game play that is universal, regardless of level is the fact that unlike many puzzle games, gems are not switched with one another but rather dragged around the board. Every gem the moving gem touches along its path to wherever the player drops it, are shifted around. This element is part of the game’s basic strategy, especially so on levels that give you only one turn to complete a task. This can require a great ability to control the path of the gem, without accidentally knocking the wrong gems along the way.
The Dalek Invasion of Time: The first episode was written by George Mann, the critically-acclaimed author and screenwriter, including many Doctor Who stories; drawn by acclaimed artist and writer Mike Collins, known worldwide for his history of work with Doctor Who and other major comic properties; and colored by Kris Carter, who has a long history of working with properties such as Shrek, Torchwood and Doctor Who, among many others. The game is narrated by actors Michelle Gomez, who reprises her TV series role as Missy; Ingrid Oliver, who reprises her TV series role as Osgood; and Bella Ramsey, who voices new villain Freya in the game.
The story starts with a tutorial which takes place in a French cafe where the Doctor and Missy team up before starting the main adventure, which involves a curious case of Daleks and a brand new enemy to face named Freya who is of all things, a little girl who may be too clever for her own good. Missy, the Doctor and his companions will have to jump through time trying to defeat this strange new breed of Dalek from capturing and converting every human on the planet, ultimately forcing the Doctor to team up with an unlikely ally… Yes, more unlikely than Missy.
When you start the game up Missy ‘politely’ recommends headphones to fully enjoy the game play. As the game has amazing audio dialogue read by talented actors, players really should use either headphones or speakers to get the most out of the game. I went with the speaker option. That being said, there is a subtitle option available (which I used throughout the game).
The game contains the covers for the first 5 stories. Each story also includes details which give you a little information about the story and all those involved in its creation. Players can drag to the side to view the covers for other stories.
Upon starting the first story players will watch the scenes play out with audio recorded by Michelle Gomez who plays Missy. It seems she is in just the right place at just the right time to help the Doctor (Twelve) who has his hands full with some very tricky Tyrellians. He will need Missy to assist him in defeating these Earth intruders before they inflict any more damage. However, the two Time Lords will soon find out that these Tyrellians are not what they seem.
The plot for the tutorial isn’t very involved, but it acts as a way to explain why the Doctor and Missy are teamed up for the rest of the story. However, it is still interesting and I appreciated the Scooby Doo like unmasking that takes place within it.
The tutorial teaches players how to move the gems and use a special attack. The special attacks change depending on the level being played and character being used, but the ability to power the move and to launch it remain the same throughout the game. Collecting blue gems will power the attack and pressing the button near your character utilises it. This ability does not take a turn, it activates before the turn begins, so don’t feel bad about using it during levels that have a set limit of turns.
Once the Doctor and Missy have finished dealing with these foes the tutorial part of the game has ended and the real plot, which is completely unrelated to what just happened, can unfold.
Missy asks the Doctor to assist her in dealing with a little Dalek infestation. The Daleks are assimilating populations rather than exterminating. Missy and the Doctor are forced to try and find out why they are behaving so unusually. Honestly, it seemed like very Cyberman behaviour to me, but rest assured that no Cybermen were harmed during the playing of this game.
Players will find a series of puzzles during this part of the game that will be different from those in the tutorial. Players must match moving gems with stationary square pieces. Square pieces are never movable by the player, only circle ones are. If a circle piece becomes square, it is no longer able to be manipulated by the player. I enjoyed the extra depth and challenge added to the puzzles by use of the square gems, doubly so for the levels with pieces that moved on their own accord.
Missy ‘acquires’ a way to access the Dalek mainframe and the two use it to find the source of the unusual behaviour. Enter, Freya… Freya is voiced by Bella Ramsey as the character tells the story of her origin and how she came to be where she is now, which of course includes lots of puzzles.
The dialogue for this bit is quite good and the visual effects that occur in these scenes add an extra layer of depth and creepiness to the story telling. I rather enjoyed Missy’s reaction to it as well. I honestly almost felt bad for her.
It is during this part of the game where my least favourite puzzle pops up. The user is playing Freya from her past. As the character finds herself in a hopeless situation she clings to the memories of her past in the form of puzzle gems. The user has one move to line up 3 sets of gems. This one move is also timed so there are mere seconds to complete it. The user needs to find the exact gem to move, path to move it along, not accidentally move any wrong gems while passing and place it in the correct spot before time runs out. This isn’t a bad puzzle by any means but it was incredibly frustrating as I played through a lot of times trying to solve it. When you lose a level you get a little audio clip. I heard Freya’s audio clip for failing this level over and over. It haunts my dreams… You can see this level in the image below.
As the game progresses you will switch back and forth between who you are controlling in puzzles. You will play as the Doctor, Missy, Freya and even as Daleks. Nardole and Bill will also be playable, though I find it odd that Nardole always seems incredibly happy no matter how bad the situation is. Seriously, Nardole… why are you smiling? You are fighting a Dalek!
In order to avoid spoilers I won’t give anymore specific story details and focus on what you can expect as far as game play.
The story is told in 2 different ways when the player is not actively performing puzzle actions. One way is through audio and imagery that progresses on its own. The other way is a click through feature reminiscent of visual novel games and is text only, no vocals. The player clicks to progress the text.
These scenes can often have some clever banter between the characters and really stay true to the characters’ individual personalities. These scenes generally happen when the story requires more than one character perspective to be portrayed. They have no audio dialogue accompaniment.
As much as I love the ones with audio dialogue I appreciate the ability to pace the progression in the click through story telling scenes. I found myself too often in a situation where I was trying to pay attention to the scene playing out, listening to the audio dialogue, while someone was standing next to me talking and I was unable to concentrate on both.
As users get further in there will be a lot more puzzles within each stage than there were toward the beginning of the game. Some stages require you to play through as multiple characters as you can see in the screen below. The character at the left front is being played while the ones behind are the next ones you’ll be playing. These stages can take a while to complete, especially if you fail and have to restart part of it. However, if you fail a puzzle, you’ll only need to replay that puzzle, not the entire stage. Though, should you leave the game and come back, not having completed all the levels on that stage you will be expected to redo them all since the auto save feature happens at the end of a completed stage so keep that in mind.
The story includes 51 stages in all and is said to take around 10-15 hours to complete. It took me 11.6 hours from start to finish, including the tutorial. Do not expect to be able to play through this game in a single sitting. I mean you could, but I really would not recommend it.EDIT: When the mobile app version of this game is released the first 13 levels of this story will be free to allow fans to decide whether or not they want to pay for the rest of the story. This means that only the last 38 levels are meant to be considered paid content for this story.
Once the player has completed the story they will be granted the ability to replay any of the stages from that story in order to try and obtain achievements by finishing the stages more efficiently. If a user unlocks all of the stage specific achievements for that story they can unlock the special foil cover for it. The game also has 43 Steam achievements available, including those for stories not yet released. I only managed to unlock 3 Steam achievements with my play through.
To sum up my experience: The game was stimulating visually, audibly and mentally. I really enjoyed the story telling. It felt like the sort of thing one might see in the actual television program. The end especially felt right for a Doctor Who story. I believe fans will really appreciate the way the characters are portrayed and the manner in which the story is told. I also think puzzle game enthusiasts are really going to love this style of game. The game was quite challenging, sometimes too challenging for me, but I still really enjoyed it. I loved the ability to switch from one strategy to another from puzzle to puzzle. It was a really unique puzzle experience that I’ve not seen utilised in other games.
As for people who have never seen Doctor Who, I think they are still going to enjoy the game. The story should be understandable for a non-whovian audience. Plus if they really just want the puzzles, the story bits can always be skipped. Though I wouldn’t recommend it because you’d really be missing out on a brilliant bit of story telling.
Doctor Who Infinity is now available on Steam, Humble Bundle, Green Man Gaming. The game launch for iOS and Android will follow later this month with mobile game pricing to be announced at that time. PC pricing options to include:
- PC Bundle: Includes stories 1 and 2: $11.99 US / 9.29 GBP / 9.99 Euro
- PC Large Bundle: Includes stories 1, 2 and 3: $14.99 US / 11.99 GBP / 12.49 Euro
- Story 3 and subsequent story launches: $5.99 US / 4.79 GBP / 4.99 Euro
The Gallifrey Times will also be reviewing The Orphans of the Polyoptra and The Lady of the Lake, which are the second and third stories for this game. Be sure to subscribe to and follow us on social media to ensure you never miss an update!Twitter: @GallifreyTimes