Doctor Who: Worlds in Time is a Web-based game based on the popular BBC TV series. It was developed by Three Rings, the Sega-owned studio also responsible for the popular free-to-play PC games Puzzle Pirates and Spiral Knights.
Doctor Who: Worlds in Time is an adventure game loosely based on the TV series. It features an original storyline for players to work through, casting players in the role of a custom avatar drafted to assist The Doctor in the retrieval of “Time Shards” from across time and space. Each Time Shard is protected behind a series of story-based puzzles known as an “intervention,” and by completing these challenges the player grows their character’s power and uncovers more of the story.
Basic gameplay involves watching short story sequences that are delivered mostly through text-based speech bubbles, then proceeding to the puzzle-solving component of the game. Each area of an intervention carries one or more tasks for the player to complete, and each has an associated minigame. For example, if the player is required to pick a lock, they will be presented with a minigame similar to bubble shooters. Hack a computer and there is a Diamond Dash-style challenge. Attempt to distract someone by engaging them in conversation and it’s a match-3 puzzler.
The twist is that there are sometimes multiple tasks to complete at the same time. If the player is playing solo, they will be accompanied by computer-controlled “Assistant” characters who can be assigned to various tasks at will — or, if left to their own devices, will assign themselves a job. It’s also possible to team up with other players, however, and progress through the tasks is then determined by the party’s skill and efficiency. It’s an interesting system that works particularly well during sequences where one player is distracting a person with the match-3 puzzler while others are attempting to sneakily hack a computer or pick a lock.
Where the experience falls down a little is in the curious disconnect between the gameplay mechanics and the story. The puzzles generally have very little to do with the task the player character is supposedly performing, so even though they add some fun gameplay to the title as a whole, the puzzles break the immersion of the story somewhat.
Despite this, Doctor Who: Worlds in Time is a solid game with generally good presentation — the comic-style visuals look good and animate well, but seem rather prone to dropping frames and “stuttering” even on powerful computer hardware. The background sound is atmospheric and makes good (and sparing) use of the iconic Doctor Who theme tune at appropriate junctures.
Social features, too, are good — players can connect their Facebook account to find others who are playing, but also add new friends within the game. The fact that Worlds in Time is not based on the Facebook canvas means it is free to use its own proprietary friends system, which is of particular benefit to those who do not wish to add Facebook friends purely for the sake of having someone to play a game with.
The game monetizes through the sale of Chronons, which are used for various purposes including immediately claiming treasures upon successfully completing tasks, “rerolling” if the treasure attained was not satisfactory, and unlocking stronger “powers” to make the minigames easier. The player is never bugged to spend money if they do not want to, and the game provides a perfectly satisfying experience for free.
Overall, Doctor Who: Worlds in Time is a good game with a few flaws — namely, the occasional minor technical hiccups and the disconnect between the gameplay mechanics and the otherwise-compelling and well-written story. It’s a good example of how to make a quality adaptation of a popular TV show, and there are plenty of developers who could learn a lot from taking a good look at how this game handles synchronous cooperative multiplayer, socialization and non-obtrusive monetization.
A quality adaptation of a popular TV show, albeit a game with a few minor flaws.