Taking control of the Tardis as it hurtles through the Time Vortex while the iconic Doctor Who theme plays is a brilliant idea for a mobile game (to the extent that it’s surprising no-one’s tried it before), and at first glance this creation by Goodboy Digital for the BBC competently provides gameplay that closely resembles the long-running sci-fi series’ opening credits.
In the game, you direct the Tardis to avoid pixelated asteroids, slip through obstacles and collect power-ups, in an endless runner-style format that only concludes when players are out of health/start thinking about Doctor Who too much and stop to watch that instead. Simple, right?
Well, not exactly – because the free-to-play Doctor Who Time Vortex 360 also includes (as the mouthful of a title suggests) the BBC’s first attempt at 360-degree gameplay. Players control the Tardis by physically moving their phone or tablet in the space in front of them, while occasionally required to turn around to dodge “attacks from the past” (which I’m not sure fits in with Doctor Who’s canon when it comes to the Time Vortex, but that’s one for the messageboards).
Except for the odd wobble the effect generally works quite well, though some colleagues in my office struggled a little and it’s clear this is not a game to be played at any location – you need to be able to hold the phone/tablet upright and flat in front of you, as well as have the room to turn around when the game requires (we found playing on a spinning office chair was an effective technique).
Still, if that’s an issue, you can instead play the Desktop version that essentially works in the same way but has the Tardis controlled by players clicking and dragging the mouse instead (which also highlights the fact that the 360 effect isn’t strictly necessary, but hey – it’s good to innovate).
This in turn, though, raises another issue for the casual gamer who fancies a go at some Time Lord action – the game isn’t downloadable and has to be played at a link on the BBC website, and while this isn’t necessarily a problem in the short term it does mean an internet connection or mobile data is necessary at all times, which could curtail use of it outside the house.
It’s a shame, because despite its pretty basic graphics and gameplay and the occasional control issue, it’s a fun little game that would sit happily on any sci-fi fan’s device of choice. Hopefully there’ll be some kind of more versatile version hurtling in at some point in the future – this is Doctor Who, after all.
Doctor Who Time Vortex 360 is available to play and rate on the BBC Taster website