LEGO Dimensions (with Doctor Who level pack)Bookmark and Share

Saturday, 14 November 2015 - Reviewed by Emma Foster
Lego Dimensions (Credit: LEGO)

LEGO Dimensions base pack, released 29 Sep 2015
(platforms: XBoxOne, XBox360, Wii U, PS3PS4)

Doctor Who Level Pack, released 6 Nov 2015

This evening I found myself watching Batman, Gandalf and Wyldstyle from The LEGO movie battle a huge robotic version of the Joker on top of a nuclear power plant hovering above Springfield with a massive grin on my face. From the moment the "toys to life" trend started it seemed inevitble that LEGO would be joining in sooner or later, with LEGO Dimensions they have done so with aplomb.

If you've ever played any of the pantheon of LEGO games before you'll find yourself in somewhat familliar territory when it comes to the control scheme, but the game play itself is taken to a new level with the interactive game pad which you will be using to solve puzzles and build customised LEGO teams. The game draws from a dizzying array of properties as diverse as the Ghostbusters films, Scooby Doo and the Portal series to send our motley trio on series of adventures to defeat the evil Lord Vortech. Of special interest to Doctor Who fans will of course be the show orentaited level within the game where our heroes find themselves bumping into the Doctor and ending up in the invitable creepy base filled with Cybermen and Weeping Angels. The level will probably take most gamers around 30-45 minutes to complete and if you're so inclined you'll be popping back frequently to pick up collectibles. Without venturing too far into spoilers there is lots of fun to be had with some excellent scary stuff mixed in with some genuinely tense moments trying to solve puzzles while under alien duress. In that respect the level could almost be viewed almost like an episode, albeit with some quite unusal companions for the Doctor.

This might be one of the greatest "family" games ever created, encouraging the adults to take to the carpet with the kids to move figures around the game board and help out with some of the more knotty puzzles. Some of the smallest LEGO fans may also need help putting together the base portal as it has quite a lot of fiddly, small pieces. Some adventerous parents might even be tempted to plug in a controller themselves as the game supports two player local co-op. For those of us adults playing the game while using the game board to move the interactive mini-figs around to solve puzzles and the like is innovative and fun it's also frankly a bit of a pain. I was playing on the XBox One and the game board plugs into the back of console via USB, the problem is that is where to put the blessed thing while your hands are occupied with the controller. It wasn't until I started playing that I realised just how much you're required to use it, so I found myself sitting on the floor next to it, ending up with an almighty crick in my neck. This being said though is minor complaint from a thirty something with a wonky back and the inherent satisfaction that comes from solving a puzzle using Gandalf to hop between portals soon cures all ills. Kids unencumbered by middle aged back woes will love it.

LEGO Dimensions: Doctor Who Level (Credit: LEGO) LEGO Dimensions: Doctor Who Level (Credit: LEGO) LEGO Dimensions: Doctor Who Level (Credit: LEGO)

Now on to the main drawback of LEGO Dimensions, the cost. The base game pack will set you back around £80 and if you want to buy some of the level packs and fun packs the effect on your bank balance will be ruinous. The temptation to invest in the many team and level packs so you can explore very nook and cranny of the enormous "multi-verse"of LEGO dimensions becomes irresistable. If you're a Doctor Who fan just looking to enjoy some of the Doctor in brick form this game may not be for you. The game relies on the user having at least a passing interest and familliarity with the properties it's "mashing up". If The Simpsons, The Lord of the Rings, the DC Universe and the LEGO Movie don't do much for you then you might want to wait for the Doctor Who LEGO sets coming in December.

Now on to the Doctor Who "level pack". Put simply and for those who wish to avoid spoilers about the content of the level itself, it is simply sublime, playing out like a TV episode and it even gets its own title sequence. For those of you who don't mind reading about the plot it's fairly simple as far as Doctor Who goes these days, The Doctor, aided by his trusty friend K9 and hopping from timezone to timezone using the TARDIS must destroy a series of shield generators in an effort to foil the Dalek's invasion of Earth. On the way you'll whizz breathlessly through 19th Century London, Skaro and even pay a visit to Trenzalore. You'll also be doing battle with Autons, Daleks, The Silence and even the Weeping Angels. It's quite incredible how scary the Angels manage to be, even when rendered with the inherently adorable LEGO faces. The main campaign of the level weighs in at over an hour, one of the lengthiest LEGO game levels ever and if you choose to hunt down every collectible you'll be spending considerably more time there. This is no bad thing as the main story is filled to the brim with background details that will delight fans young and old alike. 

In addition to the main campaign level buying this pack grants you access to the Doctor Who "hub world" where there are more mini missions to complete, baddies to beat up, races to run and collectibles to find. It's basically Doctor Who heaven and as a extra special treat you can choose between any of the Doctor's incarnations to play as while you're there, with little dialogue clips to along with them.

LEGO Dimensions: Doctor figure (Credit: LEGO) LEGO Dimensions: Doctor Who Hub World (Credit: LEGO) LEGO Dimensions: Doctor Who Hub World (Credit: LEGO)

The level pack was obviously put together by people with a deep and abiding love for the show and while any fan will enjoy what it has to offer the main issue must be with the cost of the pack. The set which includes three mini-figs (The tweleth Doctor, K9 and the TARDIS), the DLC Doctor Who adventure and access to the Doctor Who hub world retails at £29.99. This is roughly double what DLC costs for most other games and is more in line with the newer "Season pass" system that many AAA games are now utalising which generally speaking enables the user to get any and all future DLC releases, access to multi player and other bonuses. Ultimately it will be a personal choice if you want to invest in further Doctor Who LEGO adventures, especially as the level that comes with the main game is quite satisfying. However, the opportunity to run around Telos as the Second Doctor having just beat the beastly Daleks with a trademark Twelfth quip and some nose laser action from good old K9 is just enough to justify the investment. 





The Twelfth Doctor’s Sonic ScrewdriverBookmark and Share

Wednesday, 7 October 2015 - Reviewed by Matthew Kilburn

So much for that, one might think. For the Doctor, his once-beloved sonic screwdriver seems to be a compromised object, reminding him of failures of ethics and manipulations past. However, Steven Moffat has hinted that this is not the end for the sonic screwdriver; and The Wand Company will be hoping so too as they have launched a new Twelfth Doctor’s Sonic Screwdriver model in time for the Christmas market, a ‘fully-functioning gesture-based universal remote control’ and extendable replica of the most recent sonic screwdriver prop, with which one can control a vast range of gadgets around the home while remembering less conflicted times for the Doctor.

Speaking to a gathering of correspondents from several Doctor Who websites in September, Wand Company co-founder Chris Barnardo explained that although they already had a universal remote control based on this sonic screwdriver on the market, messages from fans since that product’s launch had convinced them to engineer an extendable version which more closely mimicked the action of the prop seemed on television. The old model, marketed as The Eleventh Doctor’s Sonic Screwdriver, had sold over 55 000 units.

The main difference between old and new models is the extension function, but there has been detailed retooling of other components. Just as the sonic screwdriver prop has become weathered since it was first used on set in 2009, the new commercial model now uses a darker, flecked ivory colouring in the acetyl handle to reflect the original’s greater age. Another challenge was the light, which needs to be part of the extending section. The barrel is too small to accommodate a connecting ribbon to carry electricity and data, so instead the electrics stay put and the sonic’s familiar green light is reflected up the extended barrel. The old ‘steampunk’ horizontal stand has been superseded by a clear plastic ‘Gallifreyan stand for vertical presentation’.

Chris Barnardo and Richard Blakesley, founders of The Wand Company, are both engineers, and Chris’s creative endeavours beyond his design work have included a speculative script submitted to Star Trek: Voyager. Chris was at pains to point out that the licence gives them no initiative in the design of the sonic screwdriver prop used in the series, or developments that may happen on screen, which is firmly the prerogative of Steven Moffat and the other writers. Other ideas which they’d be tempted by would be sonic lipstick, but they are wary of products which might only appeal to one sex; asked about a vortex manipulator model, Chris replied that if enough people wrote in and proved there was demand, they’d consider developing a copy and launching it on to the market.

While Chris chatted with attendees and advised on how to flick the sonic screwdriver in order to change its settings, representatives of BBC Worldwide were also present with various BBC Shop exclusives including Christmas jumpers and canvas bags, and early news – since developed further – on Lego Dimensions and the DVD release of The Underwater Menace. Most of Television Centre may be a building site, but BBC Worldwide in the former News Stage remain a centre of activity and their concern for maintaining the prominence of Doctor Who and communicating with the fan market was amply demonstrated.