As a Doctor Who fan I have always been disappointed in the lack of actual main console platform video games based on the show. There have been attempts with free to play Flash browser experience games which are short, throw away and not very memorable. In recent years only LEGO Dimensions saw any real use of the Doctor Who license but it was a very monetized experience locked behind the pay wall of the game itself and the cost of the toys you needed to access the Doctor Who content. Earlier this year I had the opportunity to review Doctor Who: The Lonely Assassins, a game brought to consoles from the original mobile game and due to the very puzzle solving nature of it, it translated very well. Now we have Doctor Who: The Edge of Reality which was originally a VR game which is a very different experience to turn back into a stand video game. So, the question is, was it a success?
In short, the answer is almost as The Edge of Reality has some elements that managed to transfer across well but there is a huge chunk of it that will leave you wondering how on earth it managed to get past the feedback of any QA team. The story is rather fun, as you the unnamed and voiceless character, finds yourself in a very traditional British Launderette (Laundry Mat for our American friends), when all of a sudden a door intercom buzzes and with no one else around, you answer it to find The Doctor (Jodie Whittaker’s 13th Doctor) in a panic and asking for help for she has been kidnapped and needs your help to save all of reality and the life within it from a Reality Virus threatening to destroy it all. Standard Doctor Who Saturday night story really.
Immediately you can really feel the VR nature of the gameplay with limited movement such as no ability to jump but then the location designs only require you to move around in a very limited way as you would expect. Puzzles often resort to nothing more than collecting items to be combined to make a device or to repair something before the, admittedly, fun mechanic of using the 13th Doctor’s Sonic Screwdriver to activate the device or open a lock and door. The puzzles are guided, often with a companion character to hold your hand and constantly verbally tell you what you need to do or might need to solve a puzzle. As such this is very much a linear experience for the most part with the only reason to have a look around is to find pages to fill in your Journal which explains where you are, who all the rogue’s gallery of Doctor Who monsters is which is great for fans and new Doctor Who fans. The most challenging part of this game is just putting up with all the bugs and issues this console port of a VR experience has sadly.
Visually Edge of Reality is a very average, even by last generation console titles for PS4 and Xbox One, game. Levels are just paths to move around with little to do other than the very short and again, handheld all the way, puzzles to give some Doctor Who reason to use the Sonic Screwdriver with common sense puzzle solving needed on rare occasions. The controls always feel clumsy and janky which again is a big part of why it would work so well as a VR experience instead of holding a full console controller with limited things to do. There are sections where the game fails to render in all the elements and dare to look too closely and you will see some terrible resolution and textures. At times it can be very off putting especially in sections where you come across the old guard of Doctor Who iconic monsters with the DALEKs and Cybermen. The Dalek section becomes a clumsy first-person shooter which puts you inside a DALEK shell to ‘EXTERMINATE’ any and all DALEKS before you but on my run through the game, the heads of the DALEKS fail to render at all so just floating eye stalks which refused to load in no matter how many times I reloaded the game. For the Cybermen, well they just posed no threat at all, their animation so terrible that you could simply run to get away from them and they failed to have any weapons such as their arm lasers so instead just shouted that they wanted to delete you but looked as though they were just offering you a hug.
It was not all bad however as the Weeping Angels section was incredible fun and worked brilliantly well, so well that I do wish I could experience that entire section as VR as the sound of a Weeping Angel moving when you turned your back on them to continue through the maze of corridors was legitimately thrilling to play through. It was so good that it made the other sections with the DALEKS and Cyberman feel even more poorly done, whilst they may have worked for a VR experience, for a main console game it lacked substance to make it as detailed and well thought out as the Weeping Angels. Getting to be in the TARDIS was also quite fun as a Doctor Who fan though it was the 13th Doctor’s TARDIS interior and the which I am not a big fan of, there is still some fan moments as the TARDIS helps teach you how to work it and a particular moment right at the start which at some point, all Whovians have dreamed about having.
The story is actually very good as well having the 13th Doctor explaining by not fully explaining what is happening in the way only she can but for me the biggest joy came from the cameo of the 10th Doctor (David Tennant) who just adds so much every time he returns to the fold in any way he can, which despite the visuals and animation not really doing him or the 13th Doctor credit, hearing his voice and returning to the lore of his adventures was very satisfying. Though there is only so many times you can here “Alonsy” thrown into dialogue before it just feels forced!
Overall Doctor Who: The Edge of Reality can at times bring the Doctor Who experience, and nostalgia fans have been looking for but at its heart it sadly is full of so many faults and average elements that can stand out far more than the positives. It needed more refinement and content when making the jump from VR to a normal video game experience and just makes me wish that someone would take Doctor Who and just make a fully developed gaming experience for consoles rather than taking a mobile game or a VR game and trying to make it work just to re-release it one more time. At a play time of 4-5 hours if you try to find all the collectibles, it does offer a Doctor Who experience which is better than not having one, but one for the sales of which I sense this will very quickly land in the bargain bucket of the TARDIS before too long!
Just give Doctor Who fans the LEGO Doctor Who 60th Anniversary Special game we ALL want on our Consoles!