App Reviewed on: iPhone XR
User Interface Rating:
Replay Value Rating:
When I heard that Kaigan Games was making a new title based on Doctor Who, I felt pretty conflicted about it. I'm not a fan of Doctor Who. It seems fine. That is to say: I watched the season starring Christopher Eccleston, came to grips with the show's corny charm, and didn't feel the need to come back. Kaigan Games is capable of making incredible "found phone" horror games, though they’ve been yet to recreate the magic of their first couple titles. I wasn't sure if a licensed game would be able to pull the Malaysian developers out of their slump. After playing Doctor Who: The Lonely Assassins, I'm not sure it has, but this game is certainly better than their more recent output.
Probing with Petronella
Doctor Who: The Lonely Assassins starts like all "found phone" games. You're initially met with a fake phone lock screen. As you try to guess the password, the phone is suddenly hijacked remotely by Dr. Petronella Osgood, who introduces herself as part of a special task force that investigates otherworldly phenomena that threaten Earth. She explains there is a mystery afoot surrounding someone named Lawrence, and its up to you (with her help) to sift through his phone and figure out what's going on.
What then follows is a cycle that begins with texting conversations with Dr. Osgood where she directs you to scan and upload certain clues to her so you can piece together the story and try to figure out what happened to Lawrence and anyone else involved in this caper. Since this is a Dr. Who game, you can certainly expect some strange happenings and a spotting of a TARDIS or two, though you come across these things looking through photo albums, emails, phone calls, and web links.
On rails research
Although there is a lot of stuff on Lawrence's phone to sift through, you're never at a loss of what you're supposed to be looking for or what counts as a clue to send to Dr. Osgood. Not only is Osgood very explicit about what she needs from you via text, but there's a menu at the top of the phone interface that lists all of your objectives. Also, when you come across a clue, a giant yellow button in the bottom left corner appears that you have to touch in order to scan the evidence for upload.
If that weren't enough, much of Lawrence's phone is "corrupted" at the beginning of your adventure, and only as your investigation unfolds can some of the data be restored. This makes it so there's only a limited amount of new things to look through at any given time, so even if you find yourself meandering through Lawrence's phone, you'll come across the things you're supposed to find within a relatively short amount of time.
All of the previous titles from Kaigan Games were pure horror games. This isn't quite the case with Doctor Who: The Lonely Assassins, though there are some creepy visuals and other trappings surrounding Lawrence's disappearance. Weirdly, there elements are probably the least affecting parts of the game. I found myself mostly bored by the reveal of what the lonely assassins are and was more intrigued by the fates of the characters themselves.
As a non-Dr. Who fan, it seems clear to me that all of the central characters in Lonely Assassins are deeply ingrained in the show's universe and have been built out rather extensively over the course of the series. Either that or Kaigan Games has really polished their ability to write well-rounded characters. In any case, I found myself pushing through this guided experience mostly because I wanted to know what happened to Lawrence and Natasha and could give a hoot about the doctor, the assassins, or how all that ties into the larger Dr. Who-verse.
The bottom line
Doctor Who: The Lonely Assassins is not the strongest title by Kaigan Games, but it's certainly better than their most recent efforts. A guided experience led mostly by a pre-established fictional universe takes a lot of the mystery out of searching through this lost phone, but it manages to do enough character work to keep you invested in seeing it through.