Doctor Who: The Adventure game: Episode two: Blood of the Cybermen review

Posted on July 4, 2010 by

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The first few paragraphs of this review are in fact a rant, regarding the overuse of certain enemies within Doctor Who. The actual review starts a few paragraphs down, and is clearly sign-posted. If you actually like reading my inane, furious ramblings, however, then please enjoy the rant as well.

I’m afraid that I have something of a bone, or indeed any calcareous or chitinous structure, with Doctor Who as a series proper, and it is this- ‘Why,’ I ask myself in a state of weariness, ‘does it seem that the universe revolves around merely two enemies?’. The enemies I’m referring to here, the proverbial bone that I wish to pick, are the Daleks, and the Cybermen.

Since the revival of the show, there hasn’t been a major event (with two exceptions, each being the reappearance of The Master) has involved Daleks, Cybermen, or some terrible, horrifying intersection at the corner of those two streets of doom. I loved the episode ‘Dalek’ in series one, which established a lone, terrified Dalek as being a force capable of killing hundreds of heavily armed, organised soldiers, and defeating one of the most advanced security systems on the planet. It was a character defining moment for our mysterious new Doctor, fresh from the time war. This Dalek, we were assured, was the last of its kind.

Well 'armed'. Heh heh.

I was wary still when, at the end of the series, there was a whole fleet of them. That ‘one ship had fallen through time’ (Which are the exact words used every new time the Daleks re-appear now, like a secondary catch-phrase), but they presented a genuine challenge for the Doctor, and indirectly were the cause of his all-too-soon regeneration. Rose absorbed the time vortex, the very heart of the TARDIS, and proceeded to unleash a cosmic sized can of what I believe to be known as ‘whup-ass’ on their tin-plated butts (that said though, it could well be that Daleks have long since evolved beyond a need for ‘butts’) and wiped them, in their completion, right out of time and space. The ‘void ship’ in the second series finale was a surprise, and the spectacle of Daleks coming face to face with Cybermen (Albeit not our Cybermen, but those of another universe entirely) was entertaining, but once again the millions of Cyberman, and millions of Daleks, were defeated quite quickly and simply. True, it cost us Rose, but she was a Mary-Sue if I ever I saw one and I was glad to see the back of her.

Before I end up writing the vast majority of this review on this one point, a terrifyingly real possibility, dear reader, I will make the point, and move on. They continue to cart out these two same old baddies over and over again, because they’re supposed to be his greatest foes. They aren’t. Every time you raise the stakes using them, and they get utterly trounced, it just dilutes their power as icons of fear, to the point where a squirrel with a sign saying ‘boo’ has more fear value. And that you continue to use them after ‘completely destroying them’ with weaker and weaker excuses for doing so, when they could really do with not being on for a few series to rebuild their credibility as dangerous foes to be faced, is so obviously saying ‘well, we could be more original, but these are the guys the kids like so they rake in the cash from merch’. It’s abhorrent and I object most strongly to a culture where artistic integrity has to be sacrificed for money-making.

Actual review.

Now- the game. This is where you may realise why I went on that little rant just now my friend. The first two adventure games, the flagships of the proud armada that will be the adventure games empire, featured Daleks and Cybermen as their foes. Ugh. There is one redeeming feature as regards these fiendish automatons however, they are not the new Cybermen. Not the ‘Cybus industries’ ones invented by Trigger/Barty Crouch. These Cybermen be old school.

Out with the old...

Not seen since the original series episode Silver Nemesis in 1988 (Save for the cameo of one of their heads in the new series episode Dalek), the original Cybermen came from Mondas, a planet that was an exact mirror image of Earth- where all of the landmasses, and all of the oceans, are swapped around. Be that as it may, they are not the Cybermen your dad remembers. They’ve been upgraded, and look strangely almost identical to those young upstarts invented by Cybus industries (I like to imagine an elderly Mondasian Cyberman waving a cane at a pair of child-sized Cybus Cybermen romping on his cyber-lawn. I would include a picture of that, but according to my high-school art teacher, I am not an artist. At all).

...in with the new.

The gameplay here is identical to that from the previous episode, which is to say that it is once again engaging, challenging, and compelling. The only noticeable change, and it may not even exist, in fact being only a construct of my soft-drink addled cerebellum, was that the Doctor seemed to move noticeably faster this time around. There is more emphasis on the platforming element this new episode, with environment puzzles that require you to change the icy landscape to allow you and others to reach new areas.

The graphics are excellent once again, although, that said, there isn’t that much work required in making a white, icy tundra. Now, this next point is true of the first episode as well, but it took more prolonged exposure to the games to notice it, but the characters felt quite wooden. Matt Smith and Karen Gillan did their best to emote, but obviously voice acting doesn’t come as easily as proper acting because you have no context in which to place you words, and so far as I can tell, neither of them has done any voice acting before. I hope this is something that gets better over time, because it became my one niggle in an otherwise excellently produced package.

Wearing a mini-skirt in this weather shows true dedication.

The story takes a lot from Jon Carpenter’s excellent Sci-Fi thriller The Thing. Well, I say that it takes, but there is an old adage that I feel better describes how it treats The Thing as source material. ‘Good writers borrow, Great writers steal, and Doctor WHo writers get it wholesale off the back of a lorry’. And you know what the game does to get away with this blatant plot-theftery? It lampshades it, all cheeky and mischievous, and somehow, all is forgiven.

These Mondasian Cybermen (who have for some reason gained the ability to time-travel) crash landed in the Arctic circle 10,000 years ago, and froze up. In the present day, a scientific expedition digs them up after detecting unusual readings under the ice. They thaw them out. One by one, the scientists get bitten by the silverfish-like Cybermats, which causes them to slowly, painfully transform into Cyberslaves, mindless drones used by the Cybermen proper to free them from their icy prison, and then ‘deleted’ once their work is done. See what I mean? This is The Thing. Unabashedly, unashamedly, The Thing.

He only wants a hug...

Amy and the Doctor get drawn in by an SOS sent out by the Cybermen to lure them in and steal the TARDIS (Something I’m sure they wouldn’t want to do if they knew it was due to go all explodey). You run around some icy caverns, and then the research base, and finally the underground excavation site, solving puzzles (Much improved this time around, so much so that are seamless to the point where I don’t remember doing them, a sure sign that they didn’t take me twenty goes and three temper tantrums to defeat). There are several ‘action’ sequences included in this episode- where City of the Daleks was spent crouching and hiding from the Daleks, the Cybermen you encounter can often be fought and destroyed by using the environment, like steam vents, hanging electrical cables and even the sonic Screwdriver.

Overall, as part of series 5 of Doctor Who, and make no mistake, these games take place canonically within the most recent series, it doesn’t add anything new to that seasons story arc of the cracks in time, or lend any clues to that of next series- ‘the silence’. However, counted as an actual episode, Blood of the Cybermen is still well up to par with all the excellent stuff seen in the series, and once again, consider that this is free to download for both PC and Mac from the BBC website, and even the complaint that ‘it’s pretty short’ (coming in about about an hour and a half if you play at a leisurely pace and explore) falls, if not topples, onto its face. Download it, play it, love it. Recommended.

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Posted in: Games