It’s all a matter of Kraft. Cheese Singles.

Beside the gently rolling and surreal radio broadcasting, the sharp but scary television drama, and the wildly imaginative comic rests a video game, awaiting a player to grasp its mouse and keyboard. Offering a very unique entry point into a Doctor Who universe, by actually allowing a palyer to step inside of Doctor Who’s universe, one thing stands clear from stepping around in his shoes: he is a clumsy person, living in a very limited world.

I’ll explain the altter fault first, which is of course indicative of the game’s specific design rather than the medium which contains it. Now, Adventure games are all well and fine, and that is what Blood of the Cybermen purports to be. However, looking back to any LucasArt adventure game from the 90’s or even earlier to the text classics such as Zork, the quality is tested by how much freedom the game offers in exploring its world. You could explore Monkey Island or sail off with a ship without learning any backstory to the town. Even a modern ahndheld puzzle game, Professor Layton and the Curious Village, offers players more narrative rewards tethered to figuring out puzzles: if you can solve the puzzle of the cat in a tree, then you get to solve the puzzle of the cat intimidating a dog later. More importantly than that, you get to find out why the cat started attacking the dog.

Doctor Who offers none of that, with only a single narrative of saving the world from the Daleks. There was the time travel clever-ness to it, of course, but that felt like splenda in cheap iced tea, to me. It even passes as a stand=in for a Doctor Who story very well: good dialogue, very ably voice-acted in between scenes lures you into an imaginative world of time-pocketed alien empires, and some call-outs to British history even give the opening of the game a great dystopian feel, one which it has trouble maintaining. More damning, however, the game’s mechanics are just frustratingly clumsy.

Unlike this sci-fi action game, which makes you feel like a bad-ass instead of a human

The game attempts to be a stealth action game, with the vulnerable doctor needing to evade powerful, armored Daleks instead of directly confront them. Its mechanics and controls fail, are very jittery, as an accidental curving of the mouse could send your character into a Dalek beam, ending your story prematurely for little reason. Had the game’s clunky controls made one feel vulnerable instead of jittery, as the early Resident Evil or Silent Hill games can, then I might be extolling its virtues as a science fiction survival horror game, and one that actually stresses the survival or the horror of the game.

He's haunted by something he cannot define. Bowel Shaking Earth-quakes, of doubt and remorse, assail him, impale him, with monster truck force

More to the point, a greater variety of enemies and situations could make playing such a long game even more exciting when it doesn’t have any incredible narrative concerns other than computer generated apocalypse. Had other video games not given a much more distinct and engaging view of a future dystopia (Fall-out 3, Chrono Trigger, heck, F-Zero), then this game’s setting would perhaps save its gameplay deficiencies.

A lot of other things could have been fixed, too. Had the game embraced strategy in any other way than a queasy, shakily controlled metal gear solid game, a slower pace could let a more complex story to unfold, as we already have. Had the developer followed either path more strongly, either with a more precise control scheme, or with a quicker, and more daunting, pace that would eliminate concerns of narrative, a great game could have been made. Doctor Who, Metal Slug style has amazing potential as a quirky shoot ’em up! I’d totally buy, and play the joystick out of, that game. What we have with Blood of the Cyber-men is just so tepidly attached to a genre, and, thus, the feeling, of a video game.

In the opposite corner from the tepidly engaging video game, we have a story that more or less condense the same type of clever story into a much better digest comic. #28 really played to both of the Doctor Who franchise’s strengths. By having an entire alien race show up at the end of the story, telling us that the Doctor Who has been actively preventing the universe’s enlightenment, immediately pulls audiences into an absent epic. The narrative that we’ve just witnessed would be a disappointed footnote in the future’s astronomy textbooks, apologizing for the Doctor’s ignorance. And all of this narrative, in the last few pages, by just introducing a second motivation to the Doctor’s antagonism. I would say that little in the comic book demanded the usage of still images, although it did have particularly nice sound effects.

A page from Richard McGuire's Time, 8 pages told in the same point of view but with different panels from different time periods intersecting to form a narrative of urbanization and community's endurance

Whereas one could find an exploitation of comics’ specific advantages published at the same time, with similar authors, and publishers: #4 of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen, or even Grant Morrison’s own Invisbles having a time traveling rescue story employ a similar technique later. A similar technique is even more in evidence in Richard Maguire’s Time, an 8 page strip that captures the cacophony of displaced memories being recalled at the same time, making the comic’s point of view one’s consciousness more than a film’s more objective viewpoint of an eye. Images relate, but don’t necessarily cause one and the other: their juxtaposition, however, causes a story in the mind of the reader.

The television show continues the trend of intriguing narrative and playing to the comic’s strengths, too, and even employs a very visual approach to its horror, smartly applying the strength of moving (and, in this case, lingering) images to its story. The radio broadcast stayed a much more intimate of an experience to listen to, as moments of characterization hinged on a character’s phrasing of a particular phrase. This more intimate perception of the characters really made the disaster feel almost surreal whenever they went from quippy, bratty dialogue, to discussing matters of great importance. Whenever such moments occurred on the television screen, the quicker visual pace to their gestures heightened these moments of character as anxiety about distraction from saving the world. On the radio program, they came off as a more incongruent collage of interpersonal drama and world destruction level catastrophe. Thankfully, whenever characters weren’t being developed, surreal imagery was thrown out to let the mind linger in visualizing its always eldritch terrain, making the success of each story dependent, somewhat, on the larger story it constructs for itself, but more often on the strength of each part’s craftsmen.
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One Response to It’s all a matter of Kraft. Cheese Singles.

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