“ Genre: Adventures & Role-playing / Published by Admiral Software / Release Date: October 1992 „
An early 1990s video game based on Doctor Who, Dalek Attack is one of those arbitrary artefacts - like The Raggydolls and Asda Billy Bear luncheon meat - that has the undeserved accolade of being a core part of my childhood merely through the virtue of being in it and taking up valuable time.
Fortunately not very much, as I couldn't even beat the second level.
It's not that much of a Doctor Who game, or at least it doesn't offer anything that will appeal especially to Doctor Who fans beyond the licensing and use of familiar characters. It's mainly based around doing big jumps and shooting baddies with laser beams, something I can't remember featuring too heavily in classic Doctor Who episodes. Maybe I'm wrong, and there really is an episode in which the Doctor floats through London's sewers in a hovercraft shooting laser beams at giant snake heads and collecting pieces of his own branded logo circa 1975 (I'll be honest; the further I got into that supposedly sarcastic sentence, the more I believed the first level might actually be an authentic adaptation of 'The Serpent of Flengroth' or something).
What I'm saying is that there's probably very little overlap on the Venn diagram of people who like Doctor Who and people who like repetitive, generic platform shoot-em-up games. Who am I kidding, there was never any difference.
Daleks have always provided an effective source of terror. Alright, so they may look like pepper pots and have the voice of Zippy from Rainbow, but their alien appearance means they aren't as time-bound as something like the Cybermen, whose design tried to keep up with the speed of technology and thus changed with pretty much every appearance. Daleks can be pretty terrifying, and unless you really have watched old Dalek episodes so many times that the effect has worn off - or simpler, watched any episode of the new Doctor Who - it's still pretty terrifying the first time you pop through a door and see one on the left side of the screen yelling at itself to exterminate your poor character. The fact that getting shot by a Dalek really, really hurts makes the threat all the greater.
The story's as basic and obvious as it needs to be, to justify inserting the Doctor into Dalek-occupied London of the late twentieth century. I can't really remember it, but I know it has something to do with their creator Davros, who presumably crops up at a later stage than I was ever able to access.
There were a number of video games we had for the Amiga that ended up being most memorable for the quality of their animated intro sequence (Bullfrog's 'Syndicate' springs to mind, mainly because I never worked out how to actually play the damn thing), and while Dalek Attack isn't quite in this league, the sad truth remains that the opening animation is a lot better than the actual game: a melodious synthesised rendition of the iconic Doctor Who theme accompanies a pretty basic visual of a swirling galaxy before a face that's supposed to be Sylvester McCoy's executes the most drawn-out wink I've ever seen, and after the title card appears we're given the brief plot exposition, with a nice backing beat.
Actually, for all its flaws it should be noted that this animation is only slightly worse than what actually passed for the show's opening titles in the 80s, and the synthesised theme only slightly less jarring. What was wrong with the murky tunnel effect of the 70s? That was brilliant.
Probably the best thing about the game, and its only real attentive detail for fans, was that you could choose to play as one of several Doctors, while the second player - if you plugged in a second joystick or, more hilariously and impossibly, a mouse - could play as what I imagine are supposed to be some of the more famous human companions that accompanied the Doctor on his televised voyages. I always played as Tom Baker, who could be known by his trademark scarf. I think another one was supposed to be Patrick Troughton, or at least some short, wrinkly get in a tuxedo, and Sylvester McCoy if you couldn't be bothered to change from the default, or were strange.
The gameplay is easy to pick up, and the same as thousands of other platform-based shoot-em-ups that involve leaping between platforms, going in and out of repetitive rooms, shooting the same sprites again and again and collecting things because they're there and presumably good for you. The worst aspect of the game was its sound effects, which - beyond the aforementioned title song and sampling of "exterminate" - were just terrible. There was a sort of grunt sound for deaths, pitched low when it was robot baddies and pitched high when it was unfortunate humans, and the lack of background music made the whole thing feel sparse and empty, and not in a clever way.
So it's not that much of a Doctor Who game, but I can't hold that against it, as anyone checking out the box - with its cover image of Dalek devastation and necessary Doctor Who logo shrunk to a size more fitting to its loose association with the series - would know what they were letting themselves in for. It wasn't a very good game, but it wasn't terrible. Nothing for you to worry about though, as there's zero percent chance you'll ever come across it or find it influencing your life in a signficant way. Makes you wonder what the point of me reviewing it is, really.