Doctor Who Infinity returns, and once again goes well beyond the average mobile puzzle game to give a proper Doctor Who adventure
TinyRebel Games first joined the Doctor Who family in 2013 with the launch of popular mobile game Doctor Who Legacy. That game set out to honour five decades of the show’s history with an unfolding narrative that saw players collect and combine all the Doctors and many of the companions, from Susan to Bill, to form teams with which to save the universe. Legacy ended earlier this year, but already TinyRebel were ready with a worthy successor – Doctor Who Infinity. Now Infinity completes its own mandate to deliver five individual adventures. This week the final entries – The Silent Streets of Barry Island and The Horror of Flat Holm – arrived.
Video games have always had a tough time translating the Doctor Who universe to their medium. Which has made what TinyRebel have accomplished all the more remarkable. The uninitiated may assume they’re simply standard puzzle games. But both Legacy and Infinity have actually created strongest sense of the Doctor and his companions as characters yet. This is particularly true in Infinity due to its hybrid nature – being game, comic book, and audio drama all rolled into one. Previous entries recruited the likes of Michelle Gomez (Missy), Ingrid Oliver (Osgood) and Katy Manning (Jo) to reprise their roles. While established Doctor Who writers like George Mann pushed their narratives forward. So how do the two new entries compare?
A playful script from Jacqueline Rayner keeps things light and fun
The Silent Streets of Barry Island comes from the keyboard of Jacqueline Rayner, herself an iconic part of Doctor Who prose since the 1990s. And it finds Rayner in particularly mischievious form. The story begins when the Eleventh Doctor, Amy and Rory arrive in Barry Island in the Autumn of 1966. Immediately they throw themselves into the sixties vibe with delight. Particularly Amy, with a running gag being her finding excuses to change from one outrageous sixties outfit to another in almost every scene. If you ever wanted to know what Amy Pond would look like cosplaying as Mrs. Peel from The Avengers, The Silent Streets of Barry Island is the game for you.
Elsewhere the Doctor gets to recreate one of his Seventh incarnations most well known scenes. However, this time with mods and rockers kicking off instead of interdimensional knights. While the finale features a continuity twist so outlandish that it will continue to make you smile long after you realize it makes no sense whatsoever.
Art by Doctor Who: The Eighth Doctor artist Emma Vieceli enhances the sense of a comic come to life
The whole thing is accompanied by strong stylish art by Emma Vieceli, who’s jumped into the task of illustrating the TARDIS team’s fab new threads with gusto. While the twanging guitar of the Shadows inspired soundtrack (‘Barry Island Rock’) creates a lively atmosphere. It also doesn’t leave you wanting to tear your ears off like some mobile game music Blogtor Who could mention.
The action is narrated by Stefan Rodrhi as Ted, owner of the local fish and chip shop. Ted’s good heart makes him a natural to get pulled into the Doctor’s mad world. The absence of an actor from the TV show itself makes it tempting to think of Silent Streets, like The Lady of the Lake before it, as a lesser entry in the series. But it’s a fun, sprightly tale of killer moths harassing a Welsh seaside town in the off-season. Moreover, it feels true to the spirit of Matt Smith’s era while making room for the mechanics of the game. In fact, it’s probably the most successful Infinity story yet in terms of meshing game and story. Every scene flows naturally into the next challenge, with each side of the equation enhancing the other.
The variety of gameplay ensures the player never gets bored
As always with Infinity, one of the strengths of the game is its ability to pivot the basic game system of matching gems into a wide variety of sub-games. The Doctor and company try to trace the moths, find out where they’ve come from, and send them back. While the player’s challenges fit (mostly) seamlessly into that narrative.
The standard game types are still present and correct, plus some innovative new ones. In one you might be combing three gems of one colour to charge up the sonic screwdriver to three gems of another to activate it and repel the moths. In another you might be rewiring a fuse box in an amusement park. Accomplished by orchestrate all the gems into the exact right place in a single move. In yet another, snow gems slowly makes its way down the board, turn by turn, threatening to extinguish your bonfire while you try to keep it fed with wood gems. The overall effect is of an adventure that moves with the same breakneck pace as the Eleventh Doctor himself. As well as giving you more than enough variety to stop you getting bored.
The gameplay represents an improvement on Infinity’s already high standard
With this new release TinyRebel also seem to have cracked one of the niggles with the previous three storylines – the balance of difficulty. The ever-changing nature of the levels means that players continually re-learning the game and tactics over and over. And previously this has led to some levels being infuriatingly difficult, or sometimes even to understand what you’re expected to do. But here that seems to have settled down. Levels gets progressively more challenging, but never impossible. And the instructions seem to be better pitched than before, too, with very little head scratching too. The ‘Skip Board’ option is still there too, for those who just want to get on with the story. But any old pros of the Infinity format should find themselves not needing it too much.
One word of warning, though. Infinity is available on different platforms but by far at its best as a mobile game. It’s perfectly playable with keyboard and mouse, of course. But in particular the levels where you need to shift multiple gems into the correct slots in a single move are much more challenging with the clumsiness of a mouse.
Whether you’re looking for a new distraction for your thumbs on your daily commute, or a new outing for one of Doctor Who’s most popular TARDIS line ups, The Silent Streets of Barry Island will hit the spot.
The Silent Streets of Barry Island
Written by Jacqueline Rayner, drawn by Emma Vieceli and colored by Kris Carter.
It features the Eleventh Doctor, Amy Pond and Rory Williams in mods-n-rockers era Barry Island. It’s a summertime love story in an unseasonably snowy Barry Island which is plagued by mysterious, gruesome deaths and disappearances. They’ve arrived for a planned holiday but quickly have to ditch the beach gear and blend in with the locals. Their guide is Ted, a down-on-his-luck fish ‘n’ chip shop owner, voiced by Steffan Rhodri. Look for a startling reveal for Doctor Who fans!
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.
Doctor Who Infinity is being published and developed by Tiny Rebel Games in collaboration with Seed Studio, and is 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.