The rarest of things, a full-on Doctor Who console game has crash landed. The Doctor really needs to learn how to drive the TARDIS. The Edge of Reality – The Finger Guns Review;
Hey there. Rossko here. Certified card carrying Doctor Who superfan and video game industry enthusiast. It’s rare the two meet, with only a handful of games over the years (including last year’s exceptional The Lonely Assassins) that have really made you feel like ‘The Doctor’. Of course, the main crux of Doctor Who is how our favourite Timelord (ish) can break down an alien ships security system with an empty packet of crisps, which is fun to watch but doesn’t necessarily translate to a fun video game. Doctor Who games should be about learning how to save the universe without shooting it to bits first.
The Edge of Reality leans into this fairly well from the off. Once again in the Maze Theory Doctor Who universe, you’re not The Doctor (what’s with Who games where you don’t play as The Doctor?), rather a nameless, faceless being that begins the game in a laundrette seemingly with the power to only pick things up and put them down again. It takes a minute to work out what you’re looking for, but when you do, the gloriously enigmatic face and voice of Jodie Whittaker appears on a nearby TV screen, enlisting you to help her get back to the TARDIS and stop the destruction of the universe. You know, Doctor Who stuff.
Playing the ‘companion’ role would be fun if we knew anything about the person we’ve inhabited. Instead, The Doctor tells you what to do, and you just go and do it. It all feels a little forced, though the fundamentals are present and correct which would put a smile on the face of any Who fan worth their salt. Before you know it, the laundrette has become a post-apocalyptic wasteland and the unmistakable sound of the Daleks are roaming the streets on the hunt for survivors. Something rather wibbly wobbly has happened to the timeline and it’s up to your silent protagonist to help The Doctor out.
The problem being they don’t feel threatening. They’re floating in the sky doing very little other than providing searchlights you need to avoid. Thankfully, you play video games so you know when to move and when they aren’t going to spot you, so the greatest threat The Doctor ever faced are easily tricked by simply moving at the right time. Their threat is played down considerably and it’s the first indication that this may not be the Doctor Who game you’ve been waiting for.
Then of course, you reach the TARDIS, and you have free reign to run around while The Doctor is awol. And yes, there’s absolutely a thrill in walking into The Doctor’s trusted blue box for the first time, and the game makes a huge deal out of it, as it should. Jodie’s design looks absolutely terrific in its full form, rarely in the series have we had a chance to really take a look this closely at its wholly unique design, exploring the console and pressing all the buttons hit me in the nerdy feels and I wanted to run around as much as I could. Of course, you can only explore the console room, the library and the swimming pool are nowhere to be found but that’s ok, it’s fun enough to imagine yourself as a companion seeing the interdimensional wonderment of the TARDIS up close for the first time.
Then there’s a reminder that you’re not actually a companion, but you’re just playing a video game and have to learn how to control the TARDIS. Rather bewilderingly, this isn’t fun. I’m not entirely sure how the puzzle which activates her is so mind-numbingly frustrating, and there doesn’t seem to be any reason why this particular section of the game stops you in your tracks. This should be the part of the game that puts the biggest smile on your face. You get to control the TARDIS! But no, another weary puzzle rears its head and suddenly the smile is wiped off your face and even The Doctor is getting frustrated with you. Nobody wants that.
Still, once the TARDIS is finally doing what the TARDIS is meant to be doing – flying through time and space with reckless abandon – you’ll find yourself in Victorian England and there’s a particular threat silently threatening the locals. Just don’t blink. The Weeping Angels are back in full force after their star appearance in The Lonely Assassins, arriving just at the time when photography was a brand new invention. Sounds cool, right? That’s a smart idea, being able to capture Weeping Angels in photographs, leaving them doormat for all time. A cracking idea for an episode (Russell if you’re reading this, you know what to do). You’re given a polyphon to jump between the past and the future and some puzzles here are smarter than most in the game – even if your AI companion basically tells you what to do, but the depiction of arguably Who’s scariest monster is played for cheap jump scares, removing any kind of threat those scary stone bastards could muster. They feel misplaced and completely wasted, bizarre when they were used to such great effect in The Lonely Assassins.
The threat you should feel from the Angels is ripped away because some genius decided to give them a voice. Even though, of course, in canon they are completely silent (I say, pushing up my nerd glasses). I’ll admit, I laughed when I heard an Angel speak. It was an unexpectedly hilarious decision that I still can’t quite believe didn’t end up on the cutting room floor. At one point, the angels use the term ‘big fat boy!’. The Weeping Angels. I had absolutely no words for such a line coming from the most terrifying of monsters. As a Who fan, I was horrified and sadly felt like once again we were being screwed over. There have been some shit monsters in Doctor Who canon but to treat one of its best like this is frankly an insult. Oh, and if you look away from them, they don’t move. I mean, come on.
And much like when every incarnation of Doctor Who media finds itself in a bit of a corner, who turns up? Well, David Tennant of course. The trusty Tenth Doctor lands in The Edge of Reality to add to proceedings, and it’s a bit of a treat to hear him back once again (if you haven’t been endlessly listening to his Big Finish audiobooks or the comics he’s in), and throwing us tantalisingly into the fandoms heart with a story based around one of his finest episodes, The Girl in the Fireplace. If you’re any kind of fan you’ll know the heartbreaking ending to that episode, and The Edge of Reality certainly explores it somewhat convincingly, even if Ten’s dialogue is a bit poor. This is a cut for the real fans, as the episode the story revolves around is now fifteen(!) years old. It’s a masterclass in Doctor Who writing, and for sure one of Tennant’s best, but if you’re not familiar, it’s utterly meaningless and you’ll wonder why a 900-year old Timelord wants anything to do with some lady called Madame de Pompadour. If there was an argument to be made that The Edge of Reality was for the fans, this pretty much confirms it. It’s a cool retread, but hell, you’ve already been burned by the dull puzzles and the terrible depiction of the Weeping Angels, not even David freakin’ Tennant can save this thing and that’s when you know you’ve really screwed up.
If you’ve made it this far and still want to give the game a go then I’m not going to spoil the story. As far as Doctor Who stories go, it’s one of the better ones of recent times. That’s not to tarnish Jodie’s tenure, I’m one of those fans who thoroughly enjoys the show and absolutely loves Jodie’s Doctor, but there’s something about a multi-enemy, multi-Doctor story that’s always going to put the hairs on end, you just have to wish there was a little more thought put into the overall arch, because it feels unfinished, rushed and with little attention to detail. Tennant’s appearance is a huge aspect of the overall story (even if his aforementioned dialogue is him just being an exposition machine), but there’s so little else to engage in, by the end you’ll feel a little short changed.
Both Doctors deserve better than this. And so do the fans.
It had a chance, and with plenty of nods that will please fans The Edge of Reality should have been the ultimate Doctor Who gaming experience. Instead, dull puzzles and a surprisingly flat atmosphere – along with a dreadful use of the Weeping Angels – leaves The Edge of Reality somewhere that should have remained undiscovered.
Doctor Who: The Edge of Reality is available now on Xbox One (reviewed on Xbox Series S), PS4, Nintendo Switch and PC.
Developer: Maze Theory, Just Add Water
Publisher: Maze Theory, Neon Doctrine
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a promotional copy of the game. For our full review policy, please go here.
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