What it’s like to play the new ‘Doctor Who’ virtual reality game
The long-running BBC One sci-fi series isn’t hosting a panel this year, but a new PlayStation VR game puts fans in the room with Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor 13
“Doctor Who” fans may be disappointed that the long-running BBC One sci-fi series isn’t hosting a panel this year at Comic-Con because filming for the next series is still under way in Cardiff, Wales.
But fans can still queue up for the next best thing at the BBC America’s booth (No. 4129) on the Comic-Con exhibition hall floor. This weekend, series star Jodie Whittaker is making a virtual appearance in “Doctor Who: The Edge of Time,” a new PlayStation virtual reality game, which is being demonstrated for fans for the first time in San Diego.
The game, produced by PlayStack and developed by London-based Maze Theory, puts players inside a three-dimensional world that unfolds like an episode of the time-traveling series. The player acts as the helpful companion of Doctor 13, Whittaker’s character. The game will go on sale in September for $15 to $20.
Maze Theory co-founder and CEO Ian Hambleton said it took about a year to develop the game, which he said picks up where the last season of “Doctor Who” left off, in terms of plot development, though this game is a stand-alone episode. As in the series, the time-traveling alien Doctor needs help from her companion to retrieve her missing time machine, the TARDIS, to stop a virus that threatens to rip apart the universe.
Along the way, expect encounters with two of the 55-year-old series most iconic villains, the giant gumdrop-shaped Daleks and the spooky cemetery monument Weeping Angels. There are also two new villain species that make their debut in the game, the slimy flesh-eating Hydrorks and vain zombies known as Zylisters.
The game has five levels and a play-through time of about four to five hours, depending on the skill of the operator. Hambleton said it’s designed for players ages 15 to adults. Although super-fans will spot numerous Easter egg clues hidden within the game, such as props and notes connected with Doctor 13, one needn’t be a fan to play.
Whittaker took over in 2018 as the 13th actor — and first woman — to play the Doctor since the series premiered in November 1963. The conceit that allows for actors to move in and out of the same role is that every time the Doctor is mortally injured, he or she can regenerate into a new body.
Hambleton said Whittaker spent 2 1/2 hours recording the audio tracks for the game, and she filmed some scenes for when her character makes holographic appearances. She explains to the player the goal of her mission and she offers hundreds of tips to encourage, guide and explain what the player is seeing along the way.
During a demo on preview night Wednesday, I couldn’t locate the car battery needed to power a satellite device to summon the TARDIS, so Whittaker’s voice helped guide me to a car in a windswept junkyard. The lavishly designed 360-degree world looks and feels just like that of the TV series and game play is not too easy or too difficult. The first demo scene doesn’t show Whittaker or any of the villains, but Whittaker’s voice can be heard along with the voice of a Dalek, who hovers overhead in a spaceship.
In the game, the player has control of the Doctor’s one and only tool, a sonic screwdriver that can be used in MacGyver-like fashion to do just about anything but hurt someone. The game begins in the junkyard, then travels forward to a post-apocalyptic era, then returns to Victorian England where the Weeping Angels are unleashed.
Just as in the TV series, if the viewer breaks eye contact with a Weeping Angel, they’ll be permanently transported back in time. And if they can’t outsmart the half-creature/half-robot Daleks, they’ll face extermination.
The demo at Comic-Con is just a portion of the first scene of the game and it runs about 10 minutes. Hambleton and other Maze Theory staff flew out from London to help get gamers set up and hear their opinions. Fans in line, many of them in costume on Wednesday night, can watch the game play on large monitors. Fans in line expressed excitement at the chance to step inside the show as a companion.
Hambleton describes the game as part experience, part dramatic episode, part escape room sleuthing, part stealth and part laser puzzle.
This game exclusively focuses on the travels of Doctor 13, but because there have been so many actors playing the part over the decades, every fan has his or her own favorite Doctor (mine is No. 10, played by David Tennant).
Hambleton said there are no immediate plans to create more games with different Doctors and their equally unique TARDIS machines and sonic screwdrivers. But his company has done extensive photography of all of the past props and scenery at the Doctor Who Experience museum in Wales if that becomes a possibility in the future.
The game will be playable on PlayStation VR, Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and Vive Cosmos. For more, visit: maze-theory.com.
Sign up for the Pacific Insider newsletter
PACIFIC magazine delivers the latest restaurant and bar openings, festivals and top concerts, every Tuesday.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Pacific San Diego.