Platforms: iOS, Android
Developers: Tiny Rebel Games, Seed Studio
Publisher: BBC Worldwide
Release Date: November 27, 2013
Considering he’s been on the air for 50 years, Doctor Who hasn’t been flattered too often when it comes to video games, regardless of platform. That hasn’t stopped developers from taking their own shots at doing the Doctor justice though, and the latest folks to give it a go are Seed Studio and Tiny Rebel Games. With “Doctor Who: Legacy,” players can expect tons of nods to the most recent seasons of the long-running TV show, wrapped in an extremely familiar (hint: it’s Match-3!) yet not unsatisfying package.
What’s the best way to deal with an alien who can travel anywhere in time and space? How about doing that yourself, fouling up his history and forcing him to go back to deal with his greatest foes all over again? Without spoiling the identity of the bad guys, suffice it to say that someone or something wants to start the “war to end all wars,” forcing the Eleventh Doctor—or possibly Twelfth, now that we know all about John Hurt’s so-called War Doctor—to gather a team of companions from throughout his adventures to put a stop to it.
A tutorial instructs you on how to deal with the many enemies standing in your way, though to be honest, it would be hard to believe anyone who has played any mobile games hasn’t tried something like the Match-3 mechanics that make up the bulk of “Doctor Who: Legacy.” The obvious similarity is to “Candy Crush Saga,” but more than one person has remarked how close this game is to “Puzzle & Dragons.” Just in case you’ve just materialized in 2013 in a Tardis of your own, the idea is to drag colored gems across the gameboard to make matches of at least three of that color, either up and down or across.
Matched gems disappear from the board, causing others to take their place, which can set off cascading strings of matches. Each color corresponds to one or more members of the Doctor’s team, and successful matches serve as attacks on the enemies. The bad guys have abilities that activate after specific nuumbers of turns, either dealing damage, debuffing one or more of your characters, or affecting the gameboard in some (usually unhelpful, but not always) way. Reducing all enemies to zero health before the same thing happens to your team advances you to the next wave, and each level has multiple waves.
There’s an RPG element as well, as the Doctor and his teammates all have their own abilities that charge when you make enough matches using their colors. This isn’t a new idea in the Match-3 sphere, but it’s still a welcome feature, giving you a reason to experiment with different combinations of companions to find the right mix of powers. Fans of the TV show will enjoy the fact that prospective team members include not only actual companions like Amy Pond and Rory Williams, but also supporting characters like Madame Vastra and Porridge.
Those characters can be leveled up to increase their attack power, healing affinity or hit points. But there’s a level cap on companions that can only be surpassed with time fragments that drop randomly during completed levels. The rates are fairly generous, as they are for crystals, the game’s premium currency, but that still doesn’t quite make up for the fact that advancing your companions is more or less left up to fate.
Additional characters and outfits also appear as drops, and the grinding through already beaten levels in the hopes of getting them seems to be a particular annoyance to players at launch. On the plus side, there’s no energy mechanic governing how much you can play in one setting, so you’re free to grind away to your heart’s content.
“Doctor Who: Legacy” renders both the heroes and iconic enemies like the Daleks, Cybermen and Weeping Angels in comic book-style still shots that have also drawn mixed reactions from hardcore fans. The likenesses seem to be more exact when it comes to the bad guys, though the Doctors and companions are mostly recognizable at first glance—with the possible exception of Jenna Coleman, who’s a lot easier on the eyes in real life than her depiction here as Clara Oswald.
So far the game’s levels cover only the sixth and seventh seasons since “Doctor Who” was relaunched last decade, but there’s plenty of room for the entire history of the show to be added in. Fans would probably love for that to happen, and it would go a long way toward making up for the fact that the core gameplay is something that’s been done so many times in recent years.
As it stands, “Doctor Who: Legacy” is a well done entry into a crowded genre that’s elevated by its obvious love for its source material. If you call yourself a Whovian, you probably owe it to yourself to at least give it a download, and non-fans could do worse than getting their recommended daily allowance of Match-3 play this way.