The promise of a truly great set of games based on BBC favourite Doctor Who has had fans of the TV show salivating for years. Reduced to horrid tie-ins, such as the bonkers choice of bringing Doctor Who Top Trumps to the market, could DS title Evacuation Earth be the first Who game worth caring about?
The developers certainly know the audience of the platform, incorporating a myriad of elements from the hugely popular Professor Layton series for this, the second Doctor Who game for DS. An adventure title at heart you use the stylus to investigate various objects on each screen. The format has worked very well in other DS titles, and does the trick here too. The Layton style creeps in every time you investigate an object as each is coupled with a puzzle you must complete. This could be picking a lock, putting an object back together within a time limit, or something as obvious as a block sliding puzzle.
The comparisons to Layton’s puzzles stop there though, as while the intentions were good, nearly every puzzle is aimed squarely at the 3+ age bracket seen on the box art. Never challenging for those over this target age, the solution is usually too obvious for the process of discovering it to be fun. One of the main reasons why the aforementioned Professor is so successful is that his Brain Teasers live up to their name and are a genuine challenge to gamers of all ages. With some more variety – most challenges retain the same jigsaw puzzle aesthetic – and a tweaked difficulty, the tasks could have avoided feeling as irrelevant as most of the words that come out of the titular Doctor’s mouth.
Speaking of words coming from The Doctor’s mouth, there are a fair number of them in Evacuation Earth. Both Matt Smith and Karen Gillian reprise their roles from the show, voicing the more dramatic scenes the game takes you through. This may well be the most impressive part of the game, as despite the obvious shortcomings of voice acting on DS, both have the same inflections and tone seen on the show. Any fan of the series will feel right at home with these characters, another example of how the console can actually handle voice acting in its games.
The game doesn’t just sound like Doctor Who either, the cartoon versions of these familiar characters retain just enough of their live action flair that fans are sure to be happy. As an adventure game, the game looks decent overall with bright colours seen across every still image you are tasked with exploring. It never breaches territory other DS adventure games have failed to reach though, making the design serviceable, but rarely inspiring.
It’s hard not to be disappointed by yet another missed Doctor Who tie-in opportunity. As an Adventure title, Evacuation Earth could be one of the console’s best, and the genre suits the TV series extremely well given the episodic, task based structure of the show itself. The one thing missing though is some worthwhile puzzles to break up the story and exploration sections. Without this, the game is no fun to play, and can often fail to deliver that hectic ‘End of the world’ theme that runs through the best episodes of the show. Young fans may find something to enjoy here, but for the older Who followers, we still have a little while longer before the first true Doctor Who gaming experience.
Rating: 6/10 (Review scores explained).
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