iOS app review: BBC games

Recently the BBC was having a sale on all of their games available in the iTunes App Store for 99 cents and I took this as an opportunity to pick up a few games that I’d had my eye on recently (sorry for not letting you guys know, I’m an asshole sometimes). Now I’m going to tell you about them, because that’s what I do around here.

So lets get started.

Doctor Who: The Mazes of Time ($2.99 iPhone/$3.99 iPad)

If you’re familiar with my article history you’re already aware that I’m totally in love with Doctor Who, so it’s no surprise that this was the first game I grabbed. “Doctor Who goodness, in my pocket?” I said. “Sign me the fuck up!”

Overview: You take control of the Doctor and his red-headed companion Amy Pond as they scamper about trying to rescue the member of the Jones family. You see, some asshole Dalek got into the engine room of their ship made it get all explodey (someone didn’t read my another shameless plug handy guide). So now they’re scattered across time and it’s up to the Doctor to do what he does best: save some bitches.

Of course, nothing is ever easy for our brave Doctor, so along the way he’s gonna run into some classic foes; there’s the Daleks that I’ve already mentioned, Cybermen, and… I don’t know. I haven’t gotten that far. So far it’s all Cybermen. But the description in iTunes says Silurians too, so I expect to run into them eventually. And then naturally you’ve got your typical video game fare like spikes and trap doors that you’ve got to avoid as well.

The goal, simply enough, is to get from room to room and not die. That typically means avoiding the above enemies and hazards and solving some puzzles. The Doctor and Amy each have unique abilities: he can push boxes and climb over certain barriers while she can crawl through small openings and walk over cracked floors. You’ll need to utilize each of their individual skills to make it to the next area.

Yay, gender roles!

As a side-quest, each area is also littered with time orbsĀ  to collect (we’re to assume they’re wibbley-wobbley). Why? Um, just because. It’s a video game. Shut up and just do it.

Graphics: The visuals in this game are pretty nice, even if the human characters suffer from a bit of Uncanny Valley syndrome and the motions are a little stiff. Otherwise there’s not really much to complain about. The environments are well-designed and everything is nice and sharp. I’m playing on an iPhone, but there is also an iPad version that I would assume looks even better by virtue of the larger screen.

Controls: This is probably my only real beef with the game. Controls aren’t bad, but not exactly fantastic either. This game uses one of those floating virtual analog stick control schemes that I have never been particularly fond of. Most of the time the game can be played with one finger, except when you have to push boxes around as the Doctor (you need to hold down a contextual “grab” button).

Come along, Pond.

Audio: Sound effects in this game are done well. While neither the Doctor nor Amy speak, both the Daleks and Cybermen recite their notorious catchphrases as they hunt you down. However, the best thing in the audio department is that the music comes directly from the series 5 score and that really adds to the Doctor Who “feel.”

Fan appeal: If you’re nuts about Doctor Who like I am, Mazes of Time will give you a total fanboy boner. The developers really tried to keep the spirit of the show alive. Immediately when you launch the app, the intro screen recreates the show’s opening, including the Tardis turbulently flying through a wormhole and that distinctive sting. Like I’ve already said, you’ve got your classic enemies and authentic music, but also dialogue that is true to the characters. This game does not disappoint as far as the brand is concerned. The one nitpick is the death animation. When you die, the Doctor sticks his arms straight out to the sides and erupts in a stream of golden light. “Clever, he’s regenerating! Nice touch.”

And yes, that is pretty cool. But the problem is that Amy does this too.


So either this game is giving up major spoilers and Ms. Pond is actually a Time Lord, or they got lazy and didn’t want to program a unique animation for her. Which is unfortunate, given the attention to detail everywhere else.

Toilet factor: Okay, I should probably explain what this means first of all. Mobile games, by their very nature, are meant to be played on the go. And what better metric to use to measure this than when you have to go? Admit it, you spend a good amount of time on your smartphone from the can. So by “toilet factor” I mean how well suited a game is to playing in the bathroom.

That said, DW:MoT lends itself pretty well to playing on the ol’ John Smith. Since each room is a distinct goal, you’re given a clear place to stop. Even if you do decide knock out a few levels at a time, they’re not particularly long so you won’t be hogging up the joint for too long.

Oh, and remember to wash your hands you filthy animal.

Overall: If you’re a a Who fan, it’s a thumbs up; go buy it right now. If not, maybe you’ll want to pass. It’s a fun enough game, but most of the appeal comes from already being familiar with the franchise. If you don’t know anything about Doctor Who, there’s not a lot to keep you interested and the game is just aggravating enough that you’ll likely put it down and never pick it back up. So get your ass on Netflix, watch the new series(2005 onwards), THEN come back and buy this game. You’ll thank me later. For 3 bucks (4 on iPad) you get 10 worlds to explore, so it’s not a bad investment. It’ll keep you busy for a while, anyway.