Blood of the Cybermen adventure game review

(This article was originally published on the 29th of June 2010 at the now defunct website Eye of Harmony. It is not up to my current standard of writing, does not accurately represent my current opinions in places, and has not been altered in any way from its original state. Just like the City of the Daleks review, you can expect painfully failed attempts at humour, endlessly nitpicking holes in logic instead of any actual insight or critique, mindless and out-of-place quotations of Nostalgia Critic and TheSpoonyOne videos, and having the experience massively coloured by the fact that I was playing it on a PC not up to the game’s minimum requirements. There’s also one weird moment where I say that old adventure games were bad and dumb… when in the first review I said the opposite. Also there’s a gay joke in this one. Because being gay is inherently funny, apparently. It is preserved here for archival purposes only, and that should be taken into account before reading.)

You people…

You people and your fast computers… It’s just perfect for you, ISN’T IT?! Runs like a dream… No worries… But you don’t know, man! You weren’t there!

You weren’t there…

Y’know, I wish someone else would review these games. I really do. As I mentioned in City of the Daleks, my 2005 laptop just isn’t built to handle a 2010 game. So, I have to sit through the opening titles for three minutes (I timed it), because it advances frame by frame every other second. I have to sit in total silence, watching the opening credits in ultra-slow-mo, for three full minutes. That may not seem like a long time to you, but trust me, it’s an eternity.

But no, it’s up to me and my craptacular PC to enter hell once more.

Once again, the screenshots have rendered a busy cursor that wasn’t there originally, as well as not rendering things that were…

So we start with a skidoo-riding man, and the oh-so-subtle framing informs us that this man is called Chisholm. He blabbers dementedly to himself, as he flashes back to being part of an archaeological dig in the Arctic Circle. Of course, being Doctor Who, they find something.

What could it mean?

Then, in quite possibly the stupidest thing I’ve seen in any game, Chisholm parks his skidoo next to a sheer drop, and gets off on the side facing the drop. This is bad enough, but then, for absolutely no reason other than convenience, suddenly loses his balance and falls off. What. The. Crap.

Well, I can’t see anything that could go wrong here…

First of all, why park it right next to a cliff? Sure, he’s panicked beyond rational thought, but good God man, if you’re conscious, basic survival instincts should still be working! And why, oh why, does he fall off? Yes, he’s on slippery ice, but the animation doesn’t suggest he misplaced a foot or anything, he just sort of bends over backwards and forwards like a bloody Looney Tune and falls off.

Meanwhile, back down Memory Lane, Chisholm holds up his discovery: a Cyberarm! DUN-DUHN-DUUUHH!

Oh, come on. At least with the Daleks there’s a tradition of having the appearance of a Dalek played up as a dramatic twist in stories with the word “Dalek” in the title, but now we’re pulling this stunt with the Cybermen too? Why do I get the feeling this is going to be a recurring feature?

So after the (THREE FRIGGIN’ MINUTE) titles, the TARDIS picks up a SOS call. Such a thing is so common, the TARDIS was nice enough to grow a special light to indicate incoming distress calls when it rebuilt itself in The Eleventh Hour. That was nice of it.

For no reason other than plot convenience, however, the TARDIS does not materialise at the source of the signal, established later as the GSO base, but in an ice cave which I assume is miles away from the base, as Chisholm would no doubt try to hide as far away as possible. Why? DON’T ASK QUESTIONS, YOU STUPID CHILD! JUST PLAY OUR GAME AND ENJOY IT, GODDAMN IT!

Actually, come to think of it, wouldn’t the story be far stronger without the pre-credits sequence? Think about it. It begins with the TARDIS picking up a mysterious SOS. They arrive in an isolated ice cave in the middle of the Arctic Circle, miles from anywhere and with no-one to help them if they got into trouble. Then, they come across an abandoned skidoo, with the rider fallen off a cliff, sprawled across the ice about a dozen feet below them. They revive him, and he babbles incoherently about some deadly force killing his comrades. Wouldn’t that be a much better opening? As it is, the opening only presents more unanswered questions. For example, how did the skidoo even get into the chamber? We see in the opening that the skidoo drives through an opening in the ice (well, it drives towards the video game equivalent of a matte painting, but you get my point). Then, when the TARDIS arrives inside the chamber, there’s no way to get outside. Why not? Surely they’d be nice enough to explain this? I think you give this game too much credit.

Speaking of the skidoo, examining it presents the titbit that it contains a working winch. Well, there’s a piece of information which will in no way be used know what I mean know what I mean wink wink nudge nudge say no more.

Also, in a rather hilarious blunder, Amy complains that she can’t go with the Doctor to rescue Chisholm because she’s in heels. A fair complaint, except SHE ISN’T WEARING HEELS. SHE’S WEARING THE SAME OUTFIT SHE WORE IN CITY OF THE DALEKS TO SKIMP ON BUDGET, WHICH DEFINITIVELY DOES NOT INCLUDE HEELS. IT INCLUDES EVERYTHING BUT HEELS. ALSO CAPS LOCK.

Our next ranting tangent continues on the theme of Amy’s costume. I can take the Doctor surviving the Arctic in a tweed jacket, we’ve established down the years that the Doctor is much more resistant to cold than humans, but Amy is an ordinary human. If you were wearing a mini-skirt in the Arctic, you’d lose your legs to frostbite pretty quickly. So, why no horrific amputation scenes? The Doctor explains “The TARDIS should keep you safe”. Oh, right. Thanks. You know, the movies based on The Next Generation gave us some doozies in the One-Line Hand Wave Explanation department (including perennial favourites “The moon’s gravitational field obscured our warp signature. The Vulcans did not detect us” and “Even holographic bullets can kill”), but even they weren’t this vague and non-committal.

The Doctor climbs down a series of ice blocks, each spaced equidistant from each other and in nicely descending order (how fortunate). It seems this was pointless, however, as Chisholm survived the dozen foot fall onto solid ice with nothing but a slightly sprained foot that is quickly forgotten about at the start of the next level. No medical attention required, all that is needed to revive him is some water. Go figure.

But how to obtain this water? Well, the answer is immediately obvious. Take one of those canteens with the top chopped off (a Something Caddie, I can’t remember exactly what it was called), melt some ice with the Sonic (Insulating Plot Cavities since 1968!), and give it to him. I then spend several minutes running around the room, looking at every last stalagmite to see if the game would be willing to let me use some ingenuity for once, but no. I come across a stream. That’s what you’re supposed to use. And yes, you take the water in the flask, and heat it with the Sonic. Marvellous.

Then… the Doctor gives it to Chisholm. Behold:

ACTUAL DIALOGUE FROM THE DOCTOR: Let’s get something warm inside of you…

Oh dear God, the RTD era is infecting the Doctor! Aaah!

Quickly moving on, being knocked out conveniently knocked the crazy out of Chisholm, and he duly follows the Doctor… slowly though, as his should-have-been-lethal made his foot owie. The Doctor attempts to get Chisholm into the TARDIS by winching him up the cliff using the skidoo’s winch (gasp! I totally would not have called that!) and a rope that was handily placed exactly below the winch. Did it fall off the still operational winch somehow, or is it just lazy level design? You decide!

You may not be able to see in this screenshot, but directly above that rope…
…is that skidoo with the winch that works. I wonder…

Speaking of poor level design, we move onto the icing on the cake (pun not intentional), as we move on to a platforming section. Of course, this being The Adventure Games, it’s as simple as walking up to the next platform and left-clicking. But, there’s a twist! Chisholm’s mildly injured foot! Well, maybe I can call him over, and then gently lift him by the armpits up each-

Oh wait, I forgot. This is the spiritual descendent of point-and-click adventure games. There is no using of brains or imagination here, there is one solution AND ONE SOLUTION ONLY.

Wow, that block of ice looks like it would fit perfectly into that gap. I wonder…

Yes folks, that’s the solution. Push a block of ice that just happens to not be frozen into the floor or the wall, as well as being perfectly sized to fit the gap between you and Chisholm, and, by an act of God, pushing in exactly the right place with the exact amount of force needed to get it into the perfect place to let Chisholm across.

In the next area, there’s yet more gaps to be crossed by running at them, butting against an invisible wall, and left-clicking so you-

Something pops up. In the split-second it’s there, I read “Avoid falling through the gaps” as I sprint towards the next invisible wall. Wait, what?

What ga- AAAAAHHHH!

AAIIIEEE! Thump.

Are you frigging real? All through both the last game and this game so far, you’ve established that you cross gaps by approaching them, walking against the invisible wall and left-clicking, then making sure that when you move in a straight line for any period of time you start sprinting, why in the name of everything holy do you put in an instant death drop disguised as a gap, then warn you of that fact two feet from the edge when you’re going to be sprinting towards the drop? Why, to give people who haven’t played the game before a hard time, of course!

After a reload, I find a standard 3D platforming trope before me. You know the one, there’s a sudden, sheer drop, there’s a platform floating back and forth, you jump onto it, it takes you to a non-moving platform, you jump onto that one, and then you wait until a second moving platform moving perpendicular to the first one’s path comes to take you to the next section of the level. Easy. If you don’t have a five-year old processor desperately trying to keep up, meaning lag, lag, lag. Oh, and remember how in most platformers it’s usually some weird, unexplained floating platform, like those creepy faces in the Catacombs in the Emperor’s New Groove Action Game (now THERE’S an Adventure- sorry, Action Game I’d like to do a Let’s Play of!)? Yeah, here it’s just blocks of ice breaking the laws of physics by swinging back and forth. I’d accept it if there were blocks of ice floating back and forth in a pool of water, hell, I accepted traversing a stream of lava by riding a blueberry (don’t ask) in Rayman 2, so why gravity-defying… Oh, forget it. The more I nitpick the longer this is gonna take.

So despite that, I make it across without incident. But what about Ch- Oh, come on! He’s got a sprained ankle, not a freaking disability! Why the hell do I have to provide wheelchair access for just walking across platforms that connect with each other before politely carrying you across? Oh that’s right, because the AI is thick. Luckily, there’s another platforming trope nearby: a very tall object handily placed right next to a gap which, when knocked over, bridges said gap. How wonderfully pointless.

Maybe I could use some string from my pocket to create a kind of pulley system with th-
Oh right, just push over the bridge-maker. Fine, be that way.

By the power of plot convenience, the force of the block of ice falling smashes the wall of ice between you and the TARDIS. Going back to when you first revive Chisholm, there’s a line of stalagmites blocking your path. Then, when you attempt to winch him up, the skidoo falls and conveniently (seriously, this should be a drinking game. Take a shot every time something convenient happens) smashes them, allowing you passage onwards. Now we see the exact same thing again. Railroading your players into staying in one spot to make them help the AI assistant through is not good level design! If you must ensure the player doesn’t abandon their compatriot, have the way open, but have the player character stop and turn back when trying to go that way, with thought text saying something like “I can’t leave Crappy AI!” or whatever. Don’t just have the action you take to help your ally cause the way forward to magically appear. Use your thoughts, designers! I know you’re not being paid very well, but come on.

Arriving back to Amy and the TARDIS, Chisholm suddenly reverts to crazy mode, and conveniently (*glug*) knocks himself out. How? By tripping over. Yes, really. Why? The script said so.

My only wish is that the game would flash something like that up for real.

Taking the Sat-Nav from the skidoo (makes sense that a skidoo would be installed with one, so that isn’t plot convenience), the Doctor takes it and Chisholm into the TARDIS, saying he’ll fix it.

Wait a minute, a device-fixing mini-game? No. OH PLEASE GOD, NO!

Oh, thank Christ. It’s just a retread of that fuse box mini-game. You know, the only one that was actually fun. Phew.

After rewiring the Sat-Nav, it somehow gives out co-ordinates for Chisholm’s home base. How? Why would Chisholm have the co-ordinates for the place he’s running AWAY from typed in? Wouldn’t that mean the Sat-Nav should have been screaming “MAKE A U-TURN! MAKE A U-TURN!” all through the opening scene? Okay, maybe it’s set as  “Home”, many Sat-Navs have that feature, but do many Sat-Navs list the co-ordinates? Longitude and latitude? You know, stuff that the TARDIS would need to land at the base? I don’t seem to remember seeing that kind of thing on any Sat-Nav I’ve seen. Whatever the excuse, it would have been nice to have some clarification from the actual game, instead of having to waste a paragraph speculating on how to fill in the plot hole.

Even Matt Smith didn’t react well to seeing the game’s beta.

So they arrive at the GSO base. Amy, upon looking over the Arctic base, lampshades over the ripping off of The Thing. The Doctor retorts whether she means the John Carpenter/Kurt Russell Thing, or the Thing with the giant carrot. You see? This is what I was talking about when I was discussing the MTV Movie Awards. If you go out on a limb and reference a movie that’s not ultra-popular at the time, then you make the nerds like me who know about them feel smart and people who don’t won’t care- oh wait, you didn’t get to see that post. Never mind, as you were.

Thanks to the magic healing power of Plot Convenience, Chisholm manages to revive himself in time to give some more babbling before being attacked by a Cybermat. Yes, Cybermats. Hooray for continuity and all that. He claims he is now one of them, and runs off. Well, I’m sure that’ll be the last we see of him, then.

Upon knocking on the door to the base, it magically opens for the Doctor. Inside JUMP SCARE BOOGAH BOOGAH BOOGAH is a Cyberman dressed in what looks like overalls. A more unintentionally hilarious image has not been seen in Doctor Who since the Vervoids. Who opened the door? Was it the Cyberslave? He was standing a few feet from the door, and seems too dumb to have done it. Maybe you clever people who completed this game are thinking that scientist did it. If so, why is she surprised when- look, if I nitpick every single plot hole here I’m still going to be here next year.

“Drat! I’ve been foiled by the power of LOVE!”

How do you defeat a Cyberslave chasing you? Why, run around the level like a maniac looking for something that you can interact w- I mean fiddle with some valves to make a blast of steam come out of a vent. Why does this incapacitate the Cyberslave? STOP. ASKING. QUESTIONS.

I assume this was because I just barely caught the Cyberslave in the blast, and therefore was further forward than the animators expected, but when the Doctor reaches down to get the Cyberslave’s old security card, he literally pulls it out of the Cyberslave’s posterior.

Cue extremely uncomfortable image in 3… 2…

Anyway, we’re now inside the base and… hey, why are you bending over? Oh crap, not a stealth scene! Thankfully no, the one Cyberslave in the area never moves, so you don’t have to deal with it. However, you do have to sneak around a Cybermat that doesn’t see you despite being within literal spitting distance. Whoopee.

After scaring the Cybermat away with the Sonic (there’s a drinking game rule for both these games and the series in general: every time the sonic screwdriver solves something), you find it was guarding a laptop. How did it know to guard this lap- WHAT DID I TELL YOU ABOUT POINTING OUT PLOT HOLES?!

“It looks like you’re searching for plot! Would you like some help?”

As it turns out, there’s nothing important on the laptop to guard. Or is there? As it turns out, the leader of the base decided to not only choose the most obvious pass code imaginable, her daughter’s birthday, but also left that information on a laptop in a store room that anyone can get to. Go figure.

Uncanny Valley Scientist Lady is about as impressed with the game so far as I am.

So we meet the scientist who left such a big impression on me that I totally remember her name. She exposits the backstory, the Doctor exposits that the Cybermen come from Mondas- wait, WHAAAAT?!?!?!

Are you telling me that these Cybermen obviously modelled after the Lumic Cybermen are actually Mondasian Cybermen? Wh- I don’t even know to begin! Where- the… AAARGH!

I’m sINgiN’ iN ThE rAin… jUST SiNginG In tHe rAIn… whAt a GLorIOuS fEeLiNG…

So if you survived your brain aneurysm, the Doctor heads into another store room that was not open before and conveniently opened for no reason (*glug*). In there, they find the gizmo transmitting the distress signal. The Doctor postulates that if he can fiddle with it, he can create a Cybermat-zapper.

*sniffs* I smell contrived Plot Convenience! (*glug*)

No… OH, PLEASE GOD-

Phew, false alarm. What you have to do here is get one sine wave to cover the other by fiddling with these controls… With these controls…

WITH. THESE. CONTROLS…

I literally tried every single button you see here, and none of them did a single thing. I should have seen this coming, I guess. The game barely works on my creaky old system, so it was only a matter of time until something didn’t work that was required to proceed. So, with a heavy heart…

#Regrets, I’ve had a few… But then again, too few to mention…#

Wait a minute, that means I don’t have to play this barely functional game anymore.

I’m free!

WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

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