|Dev: Sumo Digital|
|Pub: BBC Wales Interactive|
|Release: December 26, 2010|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
by Amanda L. Kondolojy
Although Doctor Who holds the record for the longest-running science fiction television program (or programme, if you like) of all time, I think it should have some sort of record for spin-off material as well. Between novelizations, CD dramas, comics, and video games, it's easy to fill your life with Doctor Who-related material, 365 days of the year. Around June of last year, the good Doctor made his way onto PCs with two episodic-style video games that featured familiar enemies and fun plotlines. Though the first two episodes were fun to play, they lacked depth, and weren't particularly memorable, even if you did take them more as interactive episodes than actual games.
The last two Adventure Games of the first season have largely the same issues. However, they are most pronounced in TARDIS, the third Adventure Game. On paper, the idea sounds pretty cool. Due to a hole in the space-time continuum, the Doctor and Amy get stuck inside the TARDIS, but at different periods of time. Although the Doctor is clever enough to figure out a solution, Amy accidentally releases an evil "Entity" from a case in the Doctor's drawing room. The game takes place entirely in the TARDIS, which could have been a good idea, as there are universes, libraries, and several swimming pools within the tiny police box. However, the game drops any expansive feel, and only takes place within the TARDIS console room and the Doctor's never-before-seen study room.
The game feels constrictive, which is disappointing considering the potential of the title. However, the setting wasn't the only part of the game that felt shallow. There is little to do in the game, besides pressing buttons on the console and "examining" artifacts in the Doctor's study. As a result, TARDIS feels more like an extended cutscene than an actual game. And the worst part is that it's not even a long cutscene. You can expect to be done with TARDIS in less than an hour, and you'll likely feel quite unsatisfied by the experience.
However, even though TARDIS represents the worst of the series, the next entry is easily its best. While TARDIS has you shuffling about pressing buttons, episode 4, Shadows of the Vashta Narada, has you running through a copious amount of corridors (in true Doctor Who form) and implements one of the best villains in new-Who: the invisible-but-deadly Vashta Nerada. If you missed season four's "Silence in the Library," here's a quick primer on the Vashta Nerada: these invisible creatures are flesh-eaters who live in darkness and can reduce a human to bone in mere seconds. Although we first see these creatures on a library planet, they return in Shadows of the Vasta Nerada at an underwater base in Earth's future. However, instead of wanting to get revenge, the Vashta Nerada are displaced in time-space thanks to a wormhole. Though their intentions aren't as nefarious this time, people are still being reduced to bones, and to make matters worse, there's a zombie shark in the water destroying parts of the base!
The plot is fairly tense, and this is the most story-heavy of the four adventure games. And surprisingly, Shadows of the Vashta Nerada also feels the most like an action-based game. Instead of just clicking through different areas, you'll spend a lot of time in maze-like corridors, solving puzzles to keep the lights on, and running away from skeletons in dive suits reanimated by the Vashta Nerada. There's a lot going on in this title, and though Blood of the Cybermen also featured a lot of action, Shadows of the Vashta Nerada feels a lot bigger, and will also take a bit longer to complete, as there is more to do in the game.