Spotlight: Get up to 90% off at GOG's big fall sale on over 700 DRM-free games!

Doctor Who: Shadows of the Vashta Nerada (Windows)

Published by
Developed by
Released
Also For
...
MobyRank
100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
...
MobyScore
5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  RussS (781)
Written on  :  May 24, 2011
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  3.57 Stars3.57 Stars3.57 Stars3.57 Stars3.57 Stars
write a review of this game
read more reviews by RussS

Summary

A bit of Christmas spirit thrown into an otherwise standard mix

The Good

It's the season finale, the fourth and final Doctor Who adventure game of 2010. Not that you'd know it was the finale from the scope of the game itself but it does have the interesting facet of being set at Christmas though, albeit a fairly tacked on facet.

It's the future and rising sea levels have caused some drastic measure to be taken to stop overcrowding on the shrinking surface of our planet. Namely the creation of underwater colonies such as the one the Doctor and Amy find themselves on. As ever they've managed to wander straight into a trouble zone as the colony – named Poseidon – is under attack from what appears to be a giant mutated shark. Of course appearances can be deceptive, and it's not the only mystery as the pair discover once they evade the shark and find the crew. There's also the appearance of one of the scariest monsters from the revived series – the Vashta Nerada, the shadows that kill.

The game uses the same engine as the rest of the series and it's nice to see it put back into proper use after the previous game, TARDIS. Here it's back to the familiar running as we are given large chunks of the large undersea base along with plenty of windows to show it's size. The base is in the standard chunky futuristic style, similar to the George Clooney version of Solaris. It's fun to explore and enjoy the view, especially watching the fish outside.

My wish has been granted as gone are the repetitive steady-hand puzzles from the previous episodes in favour of all new types, such as timed clicking and keeping in the light. The puzzles are a lot more time based which was very refreshing and helped keep within the theme of the plot. There are still quite a lot of fetch quests and the usual splitting up of the Doctor and Amy.

The story is very straight forward with only three (four if you count a computer) characters to interact with, in a plot that's kept very clear. The space is well used as you constantly have to go back and forth through the deadly tunnels. Though the Christmas element felt fairly peripheral and not obviously part of the original script it does add a festive cheer since the game was released at Christmas.

The Bad

Whilst a big improvement and a return to form after the previous game, this instalment still rates lower than the first two games. The Poseidon base is a nice place to run around but it lack the variety of the first two games, being constantly confined in unchanging grey corridors. A nice excursion outside the base into the ocean would have been welcome without upping the budget too far.

The plot is quite thin too and very linear. The base feels sparsely populated, despite there apparently being a whole crew, you only see three people and it never feels like there's more waiting in the wings. The characters are shallow, existing only to give new quests and providing the Doctor little to spark against.

The news puzzle types are a nice change, though they too get repetitive. One has you copying a numbered sequence to open doors with about eight doors to get through, which can get dull. The physical puzzles are nicely executed, but can be so hard so as to become frustrating when you know what to do but the game doesn't react fast enough. This is due to the ongoing problem of oversimplified controls, shared with all the episodes in the series.

The biggest let down I experienced was the lack of horror. In the TV series, the episode featuring the Vashta Nerada was scary as you feared the shadows. It seem that here so much leeway had to be made for the control scheme that you often blundered into shadows with no ill effects. The game shows a lack of imagination in having the Vashta take over corpses in diving suits, exactly like the TV episode, only to then walk around like zombies, identical to the Cybermen and Daleks in the previous games. It would have been more scary to have to play a guessing game as to who'd been affected and who hadn't, therefore who to trust.

The Bottom Line

This is a return to the more expansive Doctor Who games that still falls short of the first two instalments. I managed to complete this in three quarters of the time it took for those games. Still it's OK and provides a fresh set of skill puzzles to broaden the scope of the Doctor's talents. It's a satisfactory, if not stellar, end to an enjoyable series that will hopefully return in 2011.