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 orbs  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.


Top Gear: Stunt School ($2.99 iPhone/$3.99 iPad)

Overview: I’m not very much of a car guy, but I still love me some Top Gear. It’s just a great show with a perfect mix of humor and actual information (unlike the Noisecast). It’s presented in such a way that even idiots like me can appreciate the automotive industry. One of the trademarks of the show is testing cars under absurd conditions. If you’ve never seen it before, watch the following for a good taste of what an average episode of Top Gear is like:

Top Gear: Stunt School takes this idea and runs with it (or drives away, as it were). The game features of wealth of extreme challenges like the long jump, loop-the-loop, and explosives course. Each event is broken up into four classes: Standard, Improved, Elite, and Experimental. Standard is just a basic run, Improved ramps up the difficulty some, Elite lets you customize your car a little bit, and Experimental is anything goes. Whenever you complete a task you unlock new parts that you can use in later challenges, or in the Stig Trial.

In Stig Trial, you can build the ultimate frankencar and pit it against Top Gear’s resident driver, The Stig. You get to watch him drive it around the Top Gear Test Track, and if it meets his approval you can then challenge him to a race. Of course you’ll never actually beat him, but you can see how your times stack up.

The Stig does not approve.

There’s also Test Track mode that gives you free reign to explore the Test Track on your own terms. There are gold medallions scattered around that you can collect, or you can just drive off ramps until your car explodes. Up to you.

Look Ma, I’m flyin’!

Graphics: The car models are reasonably detailed and everything just seems nice and polished. But there’s not really a lot to say here, so I’ll just tell you the graphics are good and we’ll move on.

Controls: There are two control options: tilt and touch. Personally I couldn’t get the on-screen steering wheel to work worth a damn, but the tilt controls work well. You can adjust the sensitivity if it’s too touchy for you, so that’s nice.

Audio: There a couple different tracks that play in-game, so it’s nice and varied without having to listen to the same tune over and over again. But the Top Gear theme song does play whenever you’re on the main menu, so that can get a little old after a while. Effects sound good and are appropriate for the vehicle/parts you’re using.

Fan appeal: While the game doesn’t feature any licensed cars (just generic descriptions like “4×4” or “supercar”), it captures the spirit of the ridiculous road tests that Top Gear is known for quite well. Also it mocks you when you fail.

Toilet factor: Some of the challenges are fucking hard, so repeated attempts may lead to extended time on the pooper. But if you just need something to distract you for a minute, the Stig Trial is amusing without getting you too involved.

Overall: Definitely recommended. Stunt School is not by any means a serious driving game but it is a lot of fun. Even if you’ve never seen a single episode of Top Gear, you will probably enjoy yourself. Even after you finish all the challenges the game is very replayable. You can spend a lot of time trying for new high scores or just dicking around on the Test Track. Absolutely worth the price of admission.


Top Gear: Where’s Stig? ($1.99 iPhone/$2.99 iPad)

Overview: Some say that his breath smells of magnesium, and that he’s scared of bells. Some say it’s impossible for him to wear socks, and he can open a beer bottle with his testes. Some say that his heart ticks like a watch, and that he’s confused by stairs. All we know is, he’s called The Stig. If you’re one of the people who didn’t know what Top Gear was before the previous page, the Stig is Top Gear’s in-house professional driver. He never removes his firesuit or racing helmet, so nobody knows who he is. He doesn’t speak, he just drives. Everyone loves the Stig

Anyway, Where’s Stig is actually the app version of a book that was released last year. I had given it to a friend for Christmas and was tempted to keep it for myself because of how cool it was.  If you couldn’t tell, this game is essentially just a Top Gear-themed Where’s Waldo. And if you don’t know who Waldo is, you lived a deprived childhood and I feel sorry for you.

There are two gameplay modes, Hot Pursuit and Test Drive. Basically the only difference is that Hot Pursuit is timed and you’re awarded points, while Test Drive lets you go at your own pace.

There are 11 levels in total, ranging from the Top Gear studio in the UK, the North Pole, to outer space.

Graphics: The art is vibrant and colorful, just like the real book. Everything is nice and sharp, especially on the iPhone 4. As a point of interest, some elements are animated. It really doesn’t matter for anything, but it beats staring at a completely static image.

Controls: There’s really not anything to talk about here. It works pretty much just like your photo app; tap and drag to pan the image, and pinch to zoom in or out. Simple and straightforward. There’s an option to use the accelerometer for scrolling, but that sucks. Don’t use it.

Audio: The game has music, but frankly it gets pretty annoying pretty quick. I turned it off. There are sound effects (a little chime) whenever you find something, too.

Fan appeal: There’s a bunch of amusing little Top Gear Easter eggs that fans will enjoy. So, ummm, yeah. They’ll like it.

Toilet factor: This one has the potential to be a huge time sink if you’re not careful. That mute bastard Stig is pretty well-hidden in a couple of the levels, so you might be sitting there for a while. Proceed with caution.


Overall: If you like Top Gear and liked Where’s Waldo books as a kid, then get this for sure. Even if you already have the physical book, I’m temped to say this works better. In the book it might tell you to look for something like “goth couple,” but that’s vague and you don’t know if you’ve actually found it or not. But the app will confirm definitively whether or not you’ve got the right thing. But you don’t necessarily even need to be a Top Gear fan to enjoy this app; if you like Where’s Waldo you’ll probably like this too. Replay value is not exactly high because once you’ve found everything in a level you already know where they are, but if you have a bad memory then that could work out to your advantage.


So there you go; two shows from the BBC in three apps. They’re all pretty good and well worth your money. It’s kind of BS that each one has seperate iPhone and iPad version instead of just a single universal version, but oh well. Keep in mind, all of these games are fairly large so make sure to clear out some space on your device of choice (you’re gonna need about 250MB for all three). Have fun, and if you decide to pick any of these up let us know what you think in the comments.

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