For such a diverse show, Doctor Who has always stuggled when it comes to video games. Could Worlds in Time be the one to buck the trend? Olivia Cottrell takes her virtual TARDIS for a spin…
Pity the Doctor Who fan who also happens to be a video game geek. While the Doctor might initially seem a perfect fit for the video game world – his universe of strange aliens, dramatic stories and quirky characters is already one with a touch of the virtual about it – the franchise’s attempts to cross into video games have so far been decidedly lacklustre. While perfectly decent for free titles, a clunky control system and broken AI meant that the recent range of downloadable 3D Adventure Games were frequently frustrating experiences. As someone who considers herself both a video games nerd (I’ve spent too many hours shouting at dragons over the past month to successfully argue otherwise) and a Doctor Who fan, I was ready for something more satisfying.
Worlds in Time is a ‘casual’ MMO (Massively Multiplayer Online game) designed to appeal to both hardcore Whovians and casual fans alike as a free pick-up-and-play adventure you can enjoy entirely in your browser. Developed by Sega-owned company Three Rings, also responsible for the incredibly cute 3D MMO Spiral Knights (incidentally, another free game), I was initially hopeful that the Doctor’s latest digital outing would finally be the one to break the curse.
For the most part, Worlds in Time is indeed pretty fun. You can customise your own character from a limited suite of options, choosing a race (Silurians, Catkind, Cheem or human), gender and allowing you to pick from a few different facial features and hair/spine/fur/leaf colours, before sending them off on an adventure with the Doctor. It’s a clever way to get the player involved and a nice way to live out every fan’s fantasy of finally becoming a Companion. Giving the player access to their own room in the TARDIS also allows it to function as a hub for the rest for the game while still staying true to the spirit of the show. Worlds in Time also cleverly circumvents the main hurdle facing any Doctor Who game: how do you show combat in a world that emphasizes its hero’s reliance on clever, often non-violent solutions?
The practical answer is that Worlds in Time is heavily puzzle-based, relying on a series of mini-games to portray events such as fighting off Autons, hacking into computers, and picking locks. While in theory this is a good solution that utilises Three Rings’ past experience with games like Puzzle Pirates, in practice this can quickly become frustrating as the puzzles can take some time to solve and are occasionally a little overly complex. The Tetris-style combat game is the worst offender here, as I found it nearly impossible to win and, unlike the hacking and lock-picking games, it did not correspond with what I was doing in the game world at all and thus broke immersion. While this is alleviated somewhat by the game giving you companions of your own- the Rories to your Amy, perhaps?- to solve some of the puzzles, the over-reliance on mini-games quickly becomes aggravating.
Another problem is that the player doesn’t actually interact with the Doctor all that much. He gives you your objectives at the beginning of every mission and helps with some of the tutorials, but for a game that’s essentially about being a Companion it would be nice if it capitalised on the Doctor’s presence a little more.
However, it’s a fun little game that offers a few hours of escapism (until you get bogged down by the puzzles, at least) and its cartoony aesthetic is very cute and appealing. It’s certainly better than the 3D games, and I’d recommend it as a way of taking the edge off the wait between seasons!
You can play Worlds in Time for FREE right now at www.doctorwhoit.com