Doctor Who Infinity feels like it's meant to be played on a mobile device. That makes sense, since it's the spiritual successor to the better-than-it-should-be Doctor Who: Legacy, a game that made its home on phones. It's a game that pieces together the characteristics of what make mobile titles have staying power - it's episodic, with interested players needing to continue to spend money to unlock future stories, and it has the kind of addictive puzzle play that makes subway rides a lot more tolerable.
Doctor Who Infinity does not do nearly as well on a PC. There are some bright spots tucked away in developer Tiny Rebel Games' new offering, but for the most part, it's the video game equivalent of one of those middle of the series episodes in a Doctor Who season. You know the ones - the story is interesting, and The Doctor is still his charismatic self, but it feels a bit forced and it's kind of awkwardly hovering in between the more impactful, season-long narrative questions.
The idea behind Doctor Who Infinity is a novel one. The game doesn't tie itself down to one Doctor, instead offering up different eras in each of its episodes so far, beginning with a tutorial and first story that follow Capaldi's brow-furrowing Time Lord through an adventure that sees him partner up with Missy. Characters get a bit of voice-acting, too, with Michelle Gomez reprising her role as Missy from the television show to lend some welcome star power to the story. The game progresses through its chosen story, told through a mixture of comic book style artwork and a few more animated panels, and players are faced with challenges that must be solved through the time-honored tradition of swapping colored gems around a board until a bunch of them are lined up beside each other.
The puzzles of Doctor Who Infinity seem overly simplistic at first, but the game actually manages to deviate from its tried-and-true formula quite a bit. There are scenarios where certain board pieces need to be protected, or walls need to be broken down in a specific number of turns, that make things stay fresh longer than expected. Characters having different abilities to affect the board is also fascinating, giving some layers to the title while also offering a chance to bounce back from a temporary lapse in judgment. It's all very well thought out.
And still... there's just something about Doctor Who Infinity that makes it less compelling. Narrowing it down can be a bit tricky, but I've noticed that the longer the playthrough, the more frustrating the game becomes. There's variation on the theme, but the puzzles do start to blur together rather egregiously. While voice acting like Missy's is a welcome bonus, it's only present in bits and pieces, and she actually does impressions of Capaldi's Doctor when he's supposed to be speaking during the story.
There are two things missing in Doctor Who Infinity. One, the kind that keeps people glued to a mobile phone's screen well after the trip has ended. It really does feel like this kind of game is lost in translation on the PC, where there are so many distractions that the notion of sitting down and playing tens of levels of only slightly varied puzzle action borders on absurd. It's a good system, and the puzzles never feel unfair or poorly implemented, but there's nothing there that made me feel particularly clever in solving them, and that's part of the fun of truly successful puzzlers.
The second kind of magic that's missing is the one that fans will be most disappointed by. Doctor Who Infinity's stories just don't really feel like true Doctor Who adventures. The plots have some interesting beats, but the companions of each Doctor are often written in a way that makes them feel like NPCs. It's fine sci-fi fare, but it's not the kind of charm one would come to expect from a Doctor Who episode. On television, the show gets away with some weak plots thanks to its goofiness and a kind of fundamental joy that comes with watching The Doctor bumble his way through another mess of flashing lights and cheesy set design. Here, it's not present, and the game suffers for it, coming across a bit bland.
None of this is to say that Doctor Who Infinity is a bad game. It's a serviceable puzzle title that will surely appeal to fans of the show, who are typically so starved for extra content in the video game industry that they'd likely play a Dalek dating sim should it be made available. That said, there's nothing that makes it particularly memorable either, and I suspect that it's just reverent enough to attract passionate fans but missing just enough of that Doctor Who spark to reel them in. Players' mileage may vary, but Doctor Who Infinity isn't the long-awaited video game counterpart to the television series' brilliance just yet.
Doctor Who Infinity is available now for $11 for the first two episodes, or $13 for a bundle of all three, on Steam and Humble. Screen Rant was provided with a copy for this review.