Doctor Who: The Adventure Games: Episode Four: Shadows of the Vashta Nerada

Posted by Mervyn Graham.
First posted on 07 October 2014. Last updated on 08 October 2014.
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Doctor Who: The Adventure Games: Episode Four: Shadows of the Vashta Nerada
The Doctor and Amy arrive at a subterranean research facility called Poseidon Eight.
Doctor Who: The Adventure Games: Episode Four: Shadows of the Vashta Nerada
The Doctor engages in a witty banter with Jones, the facility's overzealous central computer.
Doctor Who: The Adventure Games: Episode Four: Shadows of the Vashta Nerada
The Doctor speaks to the surviving crew members.
Doctor Who: The Adventure Games: Episode Four: Shadows of the Vashta Nerada
The Vashta Nerada can reanimate the dead.
Doctor Who: The Adventure Games: Episode Four: Shadows of the Vashta Nerada
It is Christmas!

The game is available at GamersGate.

Doctor Who: The Adventure Games

The series is comprised of 5 episodes:

Episode One: City of the Daleks

Episode Two: Blood of the Cybermen

Episode Three: TARDIS

Episode Four: Shadows of the Vashta Nerada

Episode Five: The Gunpowder Plot

There are hardly any sci-fi fans who have not heard of Doctor Who. Created originally as a television series by BBC in 1963, Doctor Who is now the longest (though not continuous) running sci-fi television show of all time. In Series 5 (2010) of the show, the Doctor is the played by Matt Smith, and his travelling companion Amy (Amelia) Pond is played by Karen Gillan. Commissioned by the BBC, Doctor Who: The Adventure Games, is an episodic game series developed by Sumo Digital originally as downloadable games to supplement the show in the UK. The games have since been made available worldwide, published by BBC Wales Interactive. Episode Four: Shadows of the Vashta Nerada is the fourth episode of the series.

Doctor Who: The Adventure Games is a third-person point-and-click adventure where you take on the protagonist roles of the Doctor and his companion Amy. In this episode, the Doctor and Amy travel in the TARDIS (Time And Relative Dimension In Space), a time machine housed in a blue police box, to London after the Great Flood in the 23rd century. They arrive at Poseidon Eight, a subterranean research facility on the ocean floor that is in lockdown after the crew aboard is found to be falling ill from a mysterious illness. It is up to the Doctor and Army to discover the source of the contamination that is causing the illness, how it is tied to the alleged Philadelphia Experiment conducted aboard the USS Eldridge during World War II back in 1943, and the cure to save the dying crew. In the meantime, the Doctor must deal with the Zaralok, a monstrous shark like creature from the planet Shakara, and the Vashta Nerada, microscopic flesh eating alien creatures, that have come through a trans-dimensional gateway and are now attacking the facility and its occupants.

Downloading and installing the game is straightforward without any glitches. The game does not include a separate game manual. After creating a player profile, you are presented with the Main Menu from which you can select Play, Options, Help, or Quit. In the Options menu, you can select Controls, Display, Sound (including Subtitles), or Change Player. Once the game begins, if you are ever stuck, you can talk to Amy who will always provide a helpful clue on what you need to do or where you need to go next. If you are still stuck, you can also use the Esc key to get help on the immediate objective. There are no save game slots to make manual saves. Rather, after each milestone has been reached, an auto save is made by the game. If you want to return to the game later, you can use the available auto saves to do so.

Gameplay is mainly targeted at casual adventure gamers who are also fans of the show. Navigation is done by using both the mouse and the keyboard. I find it easiest to use the keyboard to walk and the mouse to turn or pan. Compared to previous episodes, this episode is much longer. There are more locations to explore but also more opportunities to die. The episode is fairly linear, though the 4 key objects you need to acquire can be sought out in any order. You get to play as both the Doctor and Amy in the game. As a bonus challenge, you also can find hidden collectable cards on the previous Doctors, past characters and monsters, and trivia about the show.

The plot is that of a typical episode of Doctor Who as seen on television. Although many of the details may make most sense to only diehard fans of the show, the story is sufficient to almost survive as a standalone adventure. My only criticism is that the game also follows the television show in its length, making it a rather short adventure. The story in this episode is particularly interesting and absorbing, and the tie-in to a controversial historic event is a nice touch. The Vashta Nerada has appeared in previous television episodes of Doctor Who (Silence in the Library and Forest of the Dead).

The character models for the Doctor and Amy are instantly recognizable and closely resemble the actors who portray them respectively. According to the developer, the characters are animated using rotoscope technique where actors' movements are captured and animators then trace over their footages frame by frame. Built using the proprietary Immersion engine, the interior of the TARDIS also looks like that from the television show. The large underwater facility is modeled in great detail. The game features the familiar opening Doctor Who theme composed by Ron Grainer as well as the voices of Smith and Gillan playing their own roles. As in the television show, Smith speaks with a very English accent whereas Gillan speaks with a broad Scottish accent. Lip synchronization is very good. The voice acting for the other characters are also well done. Ambient music, ranging from light orchestral to dramatic, is present throughout. Sound effects are aptly done.

In addition to some of the puzzles recycled from previous episodes, this episode introduces a few new puzzles in the form of opening coded door locks and aligning rapidly spinning lines to reactivate power. The puzzles themselves are very easy to solve. There are a few stealth and action sequences. If you die, you are automatically resuscitated to the proximity of your death. Limiting your resurrections is a feat within itself.

In sum, Doctor Who: The Adventure Games: Episode Three: TARDIS is quite an enjoyable game, albeit its shortened length. While fans of Doctor Who will undoubtedly relish the experience, non-fans of the show will also likely gain some pleasure playing the game. Compared to previous computer games featuring Doctor Who, this game is definitely among the better adaptations of the franchise.

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