The Horror of Flat Holm brings Doctor Who Infinity to its greatest heights yet, in a tense and smartly plotted adventure
With TinyRebel indicating that there are ‘no further plans’ for installments of Doctor Who Infinity, it appears that this week’s releases – The Silent Streets of Barry Island and The Horror of Flat Holm – bring us to the end of an epic journey. And what a journey it’s been since 2013 and the launch of the original Doctor Who Legacy. Legacy was highly addictive, with its combination of playing through levels, accumulating experience points, and unlocking new playable characters,. It quickly became a daily part of many Who fans daily routines. In fact, when Blogtor Who’s own phone fell and smashed just four days after Legacy was taken off Google Play, the resulting howl of anguish was more for the loss of the game than anything else. (After all, we hadn’t gotten Missy to Level 60 yet).
Infinity followed soon after. This new game has set the balance with a stronger emphasis on story. Infinity is perhaps not as compulsively replayable as Legacy. All the same, it’s provided five new adventures which are some of the most immersive Doctor Who tie-ins yet. The premise of combining mobile game, audio drama, and comic book in one worked exceptionally well. It’s no wonder it’s received justified plaudits in the industry.
So it’s slightly bittersweet that with final outing The Horror of Flat Holm, the team have kept the best until last. In every department, this is Doctor Who Infinity firing on all cylinders. It provides both their best story, and their most exciting and innovate gameplay.
The clever story structure features two separate UNIT teams, decades apart, investigating the same menace in parallel
That story comes from Mike Collins. Better known as a comic book artist for Doctor Who Magazine, storyboard artist for the TV show itself, and even designer of many of the retro styled merchandise for the franchise, this is one of his occasional turns as a wordsmith. Yet he has a undeniable talent for it, and turns Infinity’s most complex and interesting episode. Up until now, most of these games have introduced and explained the menace early on, while the Doctor and his friends spend the bulk of the game edging towards victory. But Collins cunningly runs two storylines in parallel – one in the 19[REDACTED]s as the Doctor, Yates and Benton investigate an attack on a fishing ship off the Welsh coast, and one in the present day, with Kate Stewart and Osgood responding to a distress call from a UNIT base on the island of Flat Holm.
This dual narrative extends the mystery and allows for twists and surprises along the way
Obviously, the two strands are linked, with the Doctor’s investigations quickly bringing his team to Flat Holm, while in both timelines the UNIT teams quickly come under attack by enhanced, altered wildlife. But the cause, and how the Doctor solved the problem present a mystery. As does why the horror is re-emerging now. Together they allow for a genuinely jaw dropping moment worthy of Steven Moffat near the halfway point. While there’s also a neat twist as we race to the conclusion. And, though its mixing of eras is the type of thing you could never do on television, a full cast version would sit happily on any of Big Finish’s UNIT boxsets.
The all-star cast of Ingrid Oliver, Richard Franklin and Nicholas Briggs provides an authentic Doctor Who feel
And speaking of casts, one of the other great strengths of The Horror of Flat Holm is the guest list. Because this time out, the adventure is narrated by Richard Franklin as Mike Yates and Ingrid Oliver as Osgood. More than that, monster voice supremo Nicholas Briggs is along for the ride too. Though he spends some of the time as incredibly chirpy UNIT soldier telling the player “You can do it!”
Oliver stands out in particular. She knows her character back to front and every line reading is given ‘the full Osgood’ and delivered with just as much intelligence, humour and commitment as if it were a TV episode. Richard Franklin, too, gives a polished performance as an older Yates remembering his past brush with death. He’s particularly good fun when the player messes up a game board. His voice dripping with gentlemanly disdain as he chides that “that’s not how I remember it.”]
Doctor Who Infinity continues to show huge creativity in the variety of gameplay it provides
The game mechanics are the best Infinity has seen too. All along one of the ways that TinyRebels’ approach has been ideally suited to Doctor Who has been the non-violent element of solving puzzles. So it seems a little strange to say how deeply satisfying it is to lead UNIT troops into battle. Several levels pitting them against an army of augmented beasts. Especially as the enemy begins to mix and match its forces, each with their own special abilities, keeping you on your toes.
Of course, the usual Infinity mainstays are also still present and correct. You still charge and then use the sonic screwdriver, rewire machinery and so on. But other boards do new and interesting things as you beat back continually regenerating tentacles, or pilot a boat through monster infested waters. The overall result is something which should be impossible for a puzzle game – genuine tension and drama.
The Horror of Flat Holm represents the gold standard for this type of game
As with this week’s other release – The Silent Streets of Barry Island – it feels like a perfect balance between challenge and frustration. There are no levels that feel impossible to get through, but few you can sleepwalk through either. In fact, there’s only a couple of tiny quibbles anyone could make about The Horror of Flat Holm. Osgood has a slight tendency to cheerily congratulate your good work, even when you’ve failed the level. While some of the lettering choices in terms of font and capitalization are a little eccentric.
It will be a terrible shame if this really is the end of the road for Doctor Who Infinity. But with The Horror of Flat Holm they’ve finished on a high, with a truly great slice of Doctor Who drama and action.
The Horror of Flat Holm
Written by the multi-talented Mike Collins, drawn by Patrick Goddard, and colored by John-Paul Bove.
An epic UNIT story told in several time periods. Captain Mike Yates (voiced by Richard Franklin) and RSM Benton join forces with the Fourth Doctor. While in the modern day Osgood (voiced by Ingrid Oliver) and Kate Stewart investigate. Also featuring Nicholas Briggs.
Doctor Who Infinity
Each of the stories in Doctor Who Infinity were created as a collaboration between Tiny Rebel Games and Seed Studio. They also include an incredible roster of primarily Wales-based artists and writers and each feature narration and dialogue from well-known British actors.
Created under official license from BBC Studios, the new game was funded as a joint effort between the Welsh Government’s Media Investment Budget and British game publisher/developer Double Eleven Limited.