Doctor Who: The Gunpowder Plot



Genre:   Adventure

Developer:   Sumo Digital

Publisher:    BBC Multimedia

Released:  November 2011

System Requirements:

  • Operating system: Windows XP / Windows 7 - 512 MB, Windows Vista - 1GB
  • Processor: Intel Pentium4 1.6 GHz+ or AMD Sempron 2800 + or higher
  • Memory: 3.3Gb (pus additional working space)
  • Sound: Direct X 9 compatible
  • Video: 100% DirectX 9 or above compatible. 128 Mb memory. Pixel Shader 2.0 or above with the latest drivers for your card.
  • DirectX«: Version 9.0c or better



by Becky


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 Lord's exploits.

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 next.

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 gameworld.

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 quickly.

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 Wikipedia.

What I played it on: 

Dell Studio XPS 8000

Windows 7 Home Premium

Intel Core i5-750 processor


1024MB NVIDIA GeForce GT 220

Soundblaster X-Fi


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