Should Next Level Games Make the Next Doctor Who Video Game Adaptation?
As various posts on sites like Doctor Who TV point out, the series has never had much luck in the video game sphere. Indeed, with such abysmal tie in efforts as Return to Earth and the Eternity Clock as pretty much all the representation the franchise gets, you could see it’s kind of been screwed over by just about every development team even attempting to make a game based on it (the Adventure Games are the only good exceptions here).
But then I thought a bit more, and came up with a possible good dev team for it, Next Level Games! And so here’s why the Dark Moon developers should be responsible for the next Doctor Who tie in game…
1. The gameplay of Luigi’s Mansion Dark Moon fits the Doctor Who series perfectly.
Which is surprising, because Doctor Who, is absolutely nothing like most video games on the market. The focus is on the Doctor’s intelligence being how he solves problems and defeats his enemies, not on some display of brute force in a James Bond style action movie thing. And one of the big things about it is the interesting new places the Doctor and his companions explore, complete with some sort of terrifying monster lurking just off screen to kill whoever happens to stumble into its path.
So why the hell do so many of the series adaptations try to turn into some generic action adventure instead of a more survival/puzzle focused game?
The Eternity Clock tried to turn it into a 2D platformer kind of thing, and failed:
Return to Earth tried to make some sort of action adventure thing involving the Doctor shooting orbs at floating faces for no apparent reason…
Heck, we’ve even had such stuff as Doctor Who puzzle MMORPGs (Bejeweled type puzzles, not Professor Layton type ones), Doctor Who Top Trumps (yes really, on a video game console) and some sort of SNES platformer that had him flying around shooting at Daleks and other aliens on a hover car:
So why not use Luigi’s Mansion 2 as your inspiration instead? Because for the most part, the gameplay kind of seems exactly like what a Doctor Who game might need.
For example, the main gameplay is pretty much all about exploring different areas and solving puzzles to find out what’s going on behind the scenes, before eventually confronting the local ‘villain’ and defeating them in a boss battle. Isn’t that already kind of like how a lot of Doctor Who episodes already work?
And in fact, quite a few of this games missions seem like things that you might almost expect in your typical episode. Find out what’s going on here, reach this abandoned part of the map, bring back something that was taken from the villains, you name it.
Additionally, I think the boss battles show that Next Level Games could handle the encounters in such a game well too. Because while many video game fights are just ‘beat up the monster until it dies’, the ones in this game actually change up and require new strategies after every single phase. Like the first fight with the spider/Grouchy Possessor:
Forget brute force, that’s how a boss battle in this sort of game should be handled. In a way that requires actual intelligence to beat and that rewards your ever changing strategies.
So to a degree, I think the gameplay of Dark Moon could make a good basis for a future Doctor Who tie in. Okay, it’s not a perfect match (they’d obviously have to lessen the focus on the Poltergust) and some things might need to be reconsidered like the ScareScraper (even if four Doctors running around a giant tower shouting ‘Good Job’ and ‘Over Here!’ would be kind of funny), but the core gameplay would arguably adapt pretty well to the series. Indeed, even some aspects from the original Luigi’s Mansion might adapt well like how I think the Game Boy Horror thing where you can comment on any item by scanning it would work well with the Sonic Screwdriver). Or how you could see a description of your defeated enemies including backstories in the menu. But either way, a Luigi’s Mansion like game by Next Level Games seems like a perfect way to faithfully adapt the Doctor Who license and still come up with a fun game.
2. And the atmosphere of their games is amazing
Which practically speaking, is almost a necessity for a game based on a franchise like this one. Just remember all the times you watched Blink (or the other episodes with the Weeping Angels as villains) and how absolutely creepy as hell the atmosphere created was.
And it’s not just the scary episodes either. Oh no, even the more action packed finales were absolutely dripping with atmosphere, complete with amazing settings filled with interesting background details with an incredible soundtrack playing in the background. Just watch the trailers for Day of the Doctor or the Time of the Doctor if you need proof of this:
Pretty great eh? Unfortunately, the tie in games did a terrible job at replicating that experience, with visuals and music best suited to an old Nintendo 64 game that one on a modern system. Like the awful look of the Return to Earth one that was released on Wii just a few years ago. Yes, Wii. Not Nintendo 64 or Playstation 1:
Heck, even the better looking titles like the Eternity Clock or the Adventure Games weren’t exactly marvels of technology:
But now compare this to what Next Level Games achieved with Luigi’s Mansion Dark Moon. Yes, in just one great game, they managed to make literally every ‘attempt’ the BBC’s affiliates made look crap in merely a couple of years. Just look at this game’s trailers if you need proof of that:
Dark, creepy locations to sneak around. Colourful (and generally quite detailed/expressive) enemies to fight. And what’s got to be one of the best soundtracks ever to boot:
If a Doctor Who game was ever made with that quality of soundtrack and that amazing level of detail, it would be absolutely incredible game, no question’s asked. Forget the idiots that made many of the older titles (that made a mockery of a great TV show), hire these guys and get it done right. And hey, if it was on the 3DS or something, they could even use 3D to make the experience even better (just imagine some of clever tricks they could do with the Weeping Angels and Augmented Reality!)
3. They can pull off the humorous feel of the show perfectly
Now don’t get me wrong, the show isn’t meant to be comedic in the same way as a sitcom or the like, but it certainly has more of a ‘funny’ feel to it than many such shows do, with the Doctor’s own strange behaviours and comments being a rather important element of the whole thing.
And for the most part, this kind of stuff isn’t usually done well in video games. Just look at the other adaptations, they basically turn him into your average silent protagonist outside of the odd custscene and lose much of the bravado and ‘arrogance’ that makes the character so beloved in the process.
The same stuff responsible for his awesome speeches in certain episodes:
So any half decent game would need to capture that sort of stuff. The speeches that drive away aliens, the quips that occur right before the Doctor does something insanely dangerous, the comments towards his companions in the face of danger. And I think Next Level Games could succeed at this.
How? Well, look at how they did Luigi’s Mansion Dark Moon. They managed to make Luigi an interesting and entertaining character with more depth than in any other Nintendo game in the last 20 years… and all with merely short lines and actions rather than text. And then with text alone, they managed to make Professor E Gadd in a comedic snarker for the video game ages. Okay, one annoying cynic who had an unfortunate tendency to never stop ringing you… but he was entertaining to listen to anyway:
I’m glad that the Toad curators are safe and sound. Although, I suppose this means I’ll have to give them their paychecks now…
That’s the world of paranormal research for you – one minute you’re having fun learning about ghosts… and the next minute you’re running for your life, scurrying about like a headless chicken! I hope we never get to that point! Ho ho! What am I saying? You’re always at that point!
Why the long face, Luigi? Well, genetics, I suppose…
What’re ya scared of, sonny? It’s only just a few harmless ghosts. Well…a few hundred ghosts. And they’re not exactly harmless.
That’s the exact kind of writing you need in a Doctor Who adaptation, the kind which both keeps the tense atmosphere and somehow manages to make you laugh at the same time. And so if Next Level Games could add the level of characterisations they added to Luigi and the funny comments from E Gadd and apply them both to the Doctor and his companions, they would probably have a game that captures much of the show’s feel perfectly.
4. The story in Dark Moon is already basically a Doctor Who game plot
No seriously. The entire way the story is presented is literally equivalent to a Doctor Who season, complete with smaller self contained ‘episodes’ and a story arc.
Think about it. You’ve got King Boo breaking the Dark Moon and causing ghosts to go beserk, and you having to go after him. That’s basically like the cracks or bad wolf or silence arc in Doctor Who, a background story you see introduced near the start of the series and concluded in the season finale.
And then you have the individual mansions, which act like episodes. Complete with unique monster that has to be defeated, a mystery to be investigated/solved, people to be saved in the locations (Toads in Dark Moon), clues to the overarching background story littered throughout… it’s pretty much the same structure.
In fact, I’d say the whole thing is pretty much Luigi’s Mansion as written by Stephen Moffat and the Doctor Who production/writing team.
You’ve got the arc which is made into the most important thing ever, complete with lots and lots of little clues that eventually add up…
The use of somewhat silly language for overly technical (and non technical things). Like pretty much everything E Gadd says, which is pretty much sort of like much of how th Doctor himself speaks.
Gimmicky things that you’d think would never be possible in the universe of the show/game. Dark Moon for instance has a level involving Luigi inside a miniature train exhibit in a museum (like all manner of Doctor Who episodes where similar things have happened) and one where he’s stuck riding a sleigh down a mine shaft after a ghost possessing an icy lake:
Heck, even the Possessor ghost concept seems an awful lot like something you’d see as a monster in the series. I mean, a mysterious creature that can take over the bodies of living beings and turn them into monsters? And can somehow also take over inanimate things like staircases, clocks and suits of armour? Possess multiple beings/things at the same time? That sounds exactly like a typical Moffact episode monster. Even the ways in which they get more powerful in each encounter (and develop magical new abilities out of nowhere) reminds me of stuff like the Weeping Angels and their gradual increase in powers with every appearance.
So given the similarities in story and setup, I don’t think it sounds too ridiculous to take the same general feel to use it for the next Doctor Who game.
All in all though, I think the choice is clear; get Next Level Games to make the next Doctor Who tie in game in a similar way to Luigi’s Mansion Dark Moon, and we’d finally get the sort of great game that people have always wanted to have based on the license. And perhaps another good Nintendo exclusive to boot.