Well look at that…so much can happen in just the blink of an eye…even more so when there is a big ball of timey wimey wibbly wobbly stuff involved.
Genre: Mystery, Found Phone
Developer: Kaigan Games OÜ
Publisher: Maze Theory,
Franchise: Doctor Who
Release Date: 19 Mar, 2021
I have been a long time Doctor Who fan, preferring the classics to the modern, but I have kept up with the modern spin on the franchise. Of the new Who reincarnations, David Tennant is my favourite Doctor. He had an episode called Blink, which introduced the Weeping Angels. It is considered to be one of the better episodes of David Tennant’s era. I have decided to write this review without actually telling you anything about the Weeping Angels other than they exist in the Doctor Who series. Because if you know too much it would spoil the game, and both River Song and I agree that Spoilers are bad. I was going to make a joke about the game really phoning it in, but that would have worked better had the game received a lower rating. I could also try making a joke suggesting that it should be called Doctor Where rather than Doctor Who due to the Doctor not really being in the game, but again, that seems a bit cliché and I am familiar with the franchise the game is tied to.
TARDIS: Thoughts and Review Details Inclusion Section
Doctor Who: The Lonely Assassins is a follow up to Blink, however, in my opinion to get the most out of this game, you are better off not knowing anything from Blink even though the game does refer back to the episode. The reason for that is simple, you spend the bulk of the time investigating what a Doctor Who fan will already have figured out in the opening moments of the game meaning that you are more or less guiding the protagonist and Osgood to come to the same conclusion eventually. I feel that if you are a found phone genre fan that you might be turned off by the fact that this is tied to a major series you might not be familiar with. The unfortunate truth is that this game is more likely to be enjoyed by someone who does not know anything about Doctor Who because the game does such a good job introducing what you need to know and helps you solve the mystery using the clues provided rather than just automatically knowing what is happening based on the title of the game and the picture associated with it. As a Doctor Who fan I actually found myself wondering how the protagonist and Osgood could be so oblivious until I took a step back and tried seeing it from the protagonist’s viewpoint, that being someone who found a phone and a mysterious lady named Osgood called and asked for help finding Lawrence (the owner of the phone).
The game has you poking around Lawrence’s phone looking for clues to his disappearance and sharing the clues with Osgood. You encounter corrupted data which eventually gets restored as you progress through the game. By carefully reading everything presented you are able to do a few tasks to gather more information. For example: connecting the dots on where Lawrence lives, the name of the person he was looking for, what that person was to him, and looking at photos, you are able to find the missing person’s report online. You do similar tasks a few other times as well. Eventually it leads you and Osgood working together to solve all the mysteries. There are various endings based on how good you do, but the game doesn’t make you do absolutely everything before it is over.
The game is broken into a few different things, one is the text stream with Osgood where you get to choose which clues to upload and which dialogue choices you want to make. There is reading his past conversations, looking at his photos, checking out his Internet history, watching videos, taking calls, and performing scans of interesting things. It’s probably a good idea to play this game with a notepad handy as you will likely want to jot things down. It makes it easier to cross reference things to find solutions or at least to give you another thread to pull to see what unravels. The overall game took less than two hours to complete so it should be easy enough to do in one sitting.
The game utilizes a wide range of deliver styles all derived from doing things on a phone. The bulk of your time will be going through phone menus and sending text messages. The phone interface is deliberately glitchy at times which does enhance the feeling that you are using a hacked and glitchy phone. Admittedly this would likely feel even more real if I was playing this on my phone rather than a computer, but regardless the game does a good job simulating it. There is a bit of footage from the show snuck into the game as well, but it is mostly new materials that build off the episode the game is a sequel to. Old videos feel old without being overdone on the degradation and despite them being simplistic, they really get their points across. Lawrence’s own videos feel very amateurish, but they are supposed to be that way so they did an excellent job there. I have to say, given what limited graphics the game does have, it utilizes them very well through out the duration of the game. It is an honest to goodness realistic visual simulator of a phone.
The game is very atmospheric and utilizes sounds to simulate a real phone. There is sometimes static on the line, you can hear the person breathing as they talk at times, and the various little sounds that occur when things start to go a bit sideways really help bring you into the game. There are jump scares too that are accompanied by suitable sound effects. Since this game is relying on the limited visual elements to be supported by the sound effects to help tell the story, I have to give them credit that it does that very well.
Controls and User Interface
The controls for this game are very simple; you can do almost everything you need to do with the mouse. There is some typing involved too but it is very limited. The controls and user interface work very well here. As mentioned in the Graphics section, the interface deliberately gets glitchy at times. This works well when they do it although sometimes it is a bit overdone to where combating the glitches can get a bit tedious rather than enjoyable. The only complaint I really have about the User Interface is the simulated loading times when you are searching the Internet. I feel that I could probably load it up faster using dialup Internet than it does in the game. I mean the first few times that effect was kind of interesting, builds a bit of anticipation, but closing the browser, and then going back to it again and having to sit through the loading all over again was a bit annoying.
Speaking of annoying there is an interesting prompt when you start the game for the first time. I went back to try to take a screenshot of it, but even reinstalling the game did not cause it to come back. It was an opt in/out for system data and social media ad tracking. Not really sure how I feel about that being in a PC game, but that could be coming over from the mobile versions (where I also don’t really like things that I paid for selling my data to third parties for targeting ads. That is slightly more acceptable for free things…slightly…). At least they were very forthcoming about it and let you opt out if you wanted to, so I won’t fault them for that.
So, should you pick up Doctor Who: The Lonely Assassins? That really depends on what you are looking for. If you are a found phone mystery fan, then there is definitely something here for you even if you are not a Doctor Who fan. If you are a Doctor Who fan looking for the next great Doctor Who game… this might not be it. I found as a Doctor Who fan the pace was very slow and the conclusions being made by Osgood and the protagonist seemed to take much longer than they should however, not knowing anything about Osgood, the Weeping Angels, the Doctor, UNIT, or anything else the pacing likely would be fine. Osgood was great in the game, don’t get me wrong, she was a smart choice for a Doctor Who game not actually starring the Doctor, but it feels like she should have been quicker to connect the dots since she should have already known about the events of Blink (either through her own research as a fan of the Doctor or through UNIT whose job it is to investigate and protect against paranormal and extraterrestrial related things). With that said, had Osgood connected the dots faster the game would have been even shorter than it was. I sat down to preview the game as I always do and realized when I felt it was time to take a break that I was almost done it so I just pressed on. Due to its low cost, good production values and being an interesting Doctor Who story, I will give this game a qualified Save. Had the price been higher, it would have been a Save for Later, but I believe what the game provides is fair for its genre and even if the mystery is kind of spoiled for Doctor Who fans by the advertising that it is a sequel to Blink and that the Weeping Angels are in it, seeing the events unfold both before and during the game and then piecing it all together was a good experience.