The Game: As one of three incarnations of the Doctor (only Patrick Troughton, Tom Baker and Sylvester McCoy are offered), and with the option of a second playing assuming the role of either Ace or an unnamed (and yet somehow familiarly mustachioed) UNIT soldier, you must navigate various environments from the sewers and streets of London to the Dalek-conquered ruins of once-proud cities like Tokyo and New York, defeating the Daleks and their allies to remove the evil scourge from Earth. Ogrons, hideous monsters, Dalek-possessed Robomen and ninjas, and – perhaps most terrifying of all – robo-sumo wrestlers will try to prevent you from completing your mission. (Alternative Software, 1992)
Memories: The first Doctor Who video game marketed for anything even vaguely resembling a modern PC (though other versions were available for such then-still-common platforms as the Amiga, the Spectrum Holobyte and even the Commodore 64), this straight-shooting scrolling quest game unashamedly goes straight for the classic arcade jugular, with game play and eye candy worthy of such all-time classics as Super Mario Brothers. It also displays a loving reverence for Doctor Who old and new, which is enough to tug at the heartstrings of the most cynical fans.
Granted, part of me cries foul a little bit at the thought of the Seventh Doctor riding a Dalek hoverbout (of which more in a moment) and blasting away at Daleks and Dalek-controlled combatants in any setting; whatever incarnation of the Doctor you’re talking about, in the strictest sense of the series continuity, the Time Lord is much more likely to be engineering a revolution from behind the scenes, manipulating the humans into remembering that they are capable of rising up and taking control of the situation again. This is a thread that goes straight back to the very first Dalek story in 1963 – but, admittedly, doesn’t make for much of a game. Just this once, I’ll let them get away with it. And besides, it’s cool to don the pixellated persona of Sylvester McCoy – complete with hat and question-mark sweater vest – or the other two Doctors, and go on a little adventure.
If anything, Dalek Attack draws heavily not from Doctor Who mythology itself, but from the mythology of such legendary 1960s comics as the TV 21 stories featuring the Daleks – stories which have also inspired such recent developments as the Doctor-less Dalek Empire audio drama series. Hoverbouts (allowing normally earthbound Daleks to fly), Slyther monsters, Ogrons…all the trappings are there. One wonders if anyone thought of adding Abslom Daak (the famous Dalek Killer who appeared in his own comics in the 1980s and 90s) as a third sidekick option. The comics references are further reinforced by Dalek Attack‘s intermission/game over “cut scenes,” expressed in comic book panel style. Despite the game’s age – it was distributed on floppy disk and required only 640K and a VGA display – the graphics are really quite good, though the Dalek voice samples can get a little bit old.
Joystick control is a bit dodgy, so keyboard controls are recommended, though someone’s going to get stuck with the stick in two-player mode. Anyone who’s spent a bit of time reliving the arcade past with MAME will quickly get the hang of it, though.
Dalek Attack was a lovely little slice of Doctor Who’s past, combining engaging game play with a more-than-adequate number of tributes to the show’s history (which, in the year prior to Doctor Who’s 30th anniversary, was almost a prerequisite). And if you’ve got an itchy trigger finger that won’t be content with the extended, Doom-like quest of Destiny Of The Doctors (released four years later by the BBC’s fledgling multimedia arm), Dalek Attack will certainly satisfy your urge to exterminate some pesky pepperpots.