Doctor Who and I go
back to the 80s when the series, produced by the British Broadcasting
Corporation, was released on public television in the U.S. I watched
nearly all of Tom Baker and his successor, Peter Davison, as the
time-traveling Doctor. The older Doctor Who stories were sometimes
campy, sometimes eerie, and featured tongue-in-cheek special effects.
To Know Who is to Love Who
If you've never heard of Doctor Who, you should
watch a few episodes on television or read about the series before
playing The Gunpowder Plot (see the links at the end of this
review). This episodic adventure game, like the previous games, is aimed
at avid fans. Unless you have some introduction to the Time Lords'
universe and the anti-establishment Doctor, you will probably be
befuddled by the various characters and aliens, not to mention the
unusual means of transportation.
The Gunpowder Plot begins when Doctor Who's
Tardis (time traveling police box) accidentally collides with another
spaceship, forcing the Doctor and his companions to land in England in
1605 amidst the Catholic/Protestant imbroglio. The collision leaves
several dimensional lesions, which must be patched before stuff leaks
from other times/places to contaminate Merry Olde England.
As it turns out, "stuff" has already oozed into
London in the form of aliens who look like giant rutabagas. With alien
invaders gliding around the Parliament Building, will Guy Fawkes' plan
to eliminate King James (along with anyone else in the general vicinity)
have a better chance to succeed?
Remember the Fifth of November
This is the Doctor's fifth episodic adventure (for
a review of the first three episodes of the Doctor Who series,
click here). The idea behind the series: the gamer assumes the role
of the Doctor or one of his companions and participates in the Time
The series also introduces historical information
about the places the Doctor visits and the people he meets (in this
case, Jacobean England and the volatile Guy Fawkes). While exploring the
gameworld, you can peruse optional explanations of historical items,
from ducking stools to chamber pots.
In The Gunpowder Plot, the Doctor is voiced
by the current Doctor, Matt Smith, and his companions are Amy Pond
(Karen Gillan) and Amy's husband Rory Williams (Arthur Darvill). Since
the series actors contribute their voices to the game, the acting in
general is excellent, which compensates for your inability to click
through the dialogs. Adventure game luminary Charles Cecil (the Broken
Sword series) is one of the game's Executive Producers.
Give Me Liberty
The Gunpowder Plot is more ambitious than
the previous Doctor Who episodic adventure games. It features spacious
3D environments that are amusing to wander in and rewarding to explore.
The entire game takes place at night. Splashes of colorful, saturated
light contrast with the lattice panel Tudor buildings. London Bridge and
the backstreets give way to underground spaces and the innards of an
alien ship, which is eerily organic.
Game controls are smooth and responsive, though
they require practice. The mouse is used to aim the camera while (at the
same time) the player character is controlled using the keyboard. The
game autosaves at frequent checkpoints.
Multiple cut scenes carry the story along nicely.
Added together, the cut scenes alone seem about the same length as a
traditional episode. The atmosphere is intensified by orchestral music
that suits the tone of each location. The story hooked me; the
characters had me laughing one minute and fearing for their safety the
And Give Me Death
About a third of the gameplay in The Gunpowder
Plot is exploration. Another third consists of inventory puzzles
(including item combinations), dialog challenges and mini-games. The
rest are timed challenges -- these include stealth sequences and
disabling anyone or anything that is overly aggressive.
I suspect that The Gunpowder Plot's stealth
sequences aren't meant to be dastardly. Each patrolling bad guy emits a
green light, showing how far he can see. Stay one inch outside the green
light, and you are safe. Let any part of your body (or your companion's
body) be caught in the light, and you are instantly killed. Despite the
green light feature, the creeping nearly ruined the gaming experience
for me because I flunked the sequences repeatedly.
Some of the inventory challenges are also timed;
for these you access and use an item before the bad guy can respond. The
game lets you know where to stand to talk to your opponent (talking to
him results in death, of course), but not where to stand to whack or zap
him. Even after accessing the correct item, I couldn't easily find the
spot close enough (or far away enough) to deliver the item's payload. I
tried and died over and over, dashing to various distances and angles
from the target, until I happened to trigger the correct placement.
You Can Blink Now
In many ways The Gunpowder Plot is
surprising. The full experience is a lot longer than a Doctor Who
television episode -- it took me about five hours to complete. The plot
weaves history and science fiction together ingeniously. The situations
are dramatic and the dialogs are amusing. The gameplay and the settings
are engagingly varied, tasty enough for jaded gaming palates.
The chief downside are the many timed sequences.
For an adventure gamer, The Gunpowder Plot plays more like an
action game, because the timed sequences repeat if you fail, causing
them to stretch out interminably. For an action gamer, The Gunpowder
Plot plays more like an adventure game because you will likely
breeze through the timed sequences and expend more energy addressing the
inventory puzzles and talking to the characters.
So should you conspire to become a part of The
Gunpowder Plot? If you're a Doctor Who fan with quick reflexes, it's
a no-brainer -- you should play this game. If you're a Doctor Who fan
with slow reflexes and no action game experience, you can still make it
through the game with determination and practice. If past is prologue,
there's sure to be creeping in the next Doctor Who adventure game.
Consider sneaking through this one to be a type of training mission for
what is yet to come.
Quick List for Doctor Who: The Adventure Games
-- The Gunpowder Plot
Game Five in the series of Doctor Who Adventure
Games. You don't need to play the previous adventure game episodes to
enjoy this one, though I suggest watching some of the television series
before playing the games. (Links to the Doctor Who websites in the U.K.
and U.S. are below.)
The Doctor (Matt Smith), Amy Ponds and Rory
Williams arrive in London in 1605 when Guy Fawkes is still on the loose.
The action-packed story unfolds through exploration, dialog trees and
frequent cut scenes. Optional historical tidbits are scattered about the
Unusually large and varied environments for an
episodic game. 3D graphics. Significant amounts of dialog -- most of it
well voiced. You can't click through the dialogs.
Inventory challenges and mini-games. Frequent
clicking on hotspots will elicit a hint. No mazes, no sliders, no color
or sound based puzzles. Lots of timed challenges and stealth, some of it
frustrating. Death is a constant companion, though you regenerate
One glitch/feature where Rory falls through a wall,
apparently eliminating a stealth sequence. No problems with
installation. About five hours of gameplay.
Third person perspective. The interface requires
you to pan with the mouse while moving the player character with the
keyboard. Autosave only. Appropriate for older children and up.
Aimed at fans of the Doctor Who television series
and adventure gamers who enjoy sneaking through outlandish settings and
meeting historical celebrities.
Final Grade: B(oom)!
Doctor Who: The Adventure Games -- The Gunpowder
Plot is can be
downloaded for free for those who reside in the U.K. If you don't
live in the U.K .you can purchase the game via download at
Legacy Interactive. For more
information about the Doctor Who television series, check out the
official BBC U.K. website or the
BBC America website and/or
What I played it on:
Dell Studio XPS 8000
Windows 7 Home Premium
Intel Core i5-750 processor
6GB DDR3 SDRAM
1024MB NVIDIA GeForce GT 220
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