Like the characters in the show it is based on, Tiny Rebel Games’ Doctor Who: Legacy faced a difficult challenge when it launched in November 2013: overcoming the negative preconceptions that often come with a tie-in designation. And as the Doctor almost always does, Legacy found a way to succeed, providing plenty of entertainment along the way.
On the surface, Legacy seems like little more than a match-three game, but Doctor Who is rarely so simple. Instead, Tiny Rebel augments gem-matching with turn-based RPG elements to deliver a customizable experience for fans of the series.
It works like this: You choose a Doctor and a team of up to five companions. The companions you pick each have their stats split up between three skills: health, attack, and healing power. Together, they determine the stats of the Doctor and the team overall. Once you have your team, you pick a level and fight against waves of enemies, dragging gems around the screen to create color-based combos that initiate attacks. Every few turns, the enemies unleash attacks of their own. Once all of the enemies are defeated, you win. If your team loses all its health, you lose.
This may seem like a fairly simple concept for a game, but the mechanics are actually incredibly representative of the Doctor himself. What better way to emulate the Doctor’s brilliance at solving problems than requiring the player to think quickly, looking for ways to succeed in an otherwise chaotic situation? Games strive for immersion in many ways, and Legacy’s goal is to put you in the same frame of mind as your favorite Doctor.
The game allows the player freedom in choosing their companions, offering characters from five different color combinations, each with unique abilities. In many ways, this can make Legacy a dream for Doctor Who fans. Maybe Captain Jack returns to fight alongside the Eleventh Doctor with help from a couple of Silents and Queen Elizabeth X. Or perhaps the Tenth Doctor travels with some of the other Doctors’ companions. You can decide.
While defeating enemies, you’ll earn different colored time fragments which can be used to improve your companions beyond the increases they gain from leveling up. Many characters even have additional outfits you can unlock this way, allowing die-hard fans a return to some of their favorite moments from the series.
Characters and their outfits are typically unlocked through mostly random drops while playing through specific levels. This provides the player with goals and offers a measure of replayability outside of leveling up characters. Tiny Rebel Games also frequently releases codes that allow players to unlock characters or outfits instantly.
Unfortunately, fans looking for a perfect representation of the show may be disappointed. The characters are cartoon portrayals that, while based on the actors who played them, are by no means perfect. The graphics are, however, consistent and, for the most part, appealing.
Zealous fans may also have some issues with the game’s dialogue. The game features its own unique story that starts with season seven and is slowly working its way back through the series with each update. However, this story is almost completely conveyed through still-frame cutscenes where predetermined characters deliver quick bits of information that never quite seem to match the quality of dialogue Doctor Who fans might expect.
One of the benefits of a story essentially going in reverse to the show itself is that it lends itself well to fan service. The backgrounds for most levels, for example, are based on scenes from the show, such as the Winter Quay or the Flagship of the 12th Cyber Legion. The story itself is rooted in Doctor Who lore with appearances of the Master and several of the Doctor’s other notable enemies.
On the technical side, the game does suffer from somewhat frequent crashes, though this may be due to using an older device. Additionally, the initial loading time upon opening the app is notably long, but the result is virtually no loading time after the game starts, which is preferable. Slow response times are occasionally an issue when dragging a gem around the board, but these events are infrequent and typically don’t hamper gameplay. The outlook for these issues, however, is pretty good, as the developers consistently release patches based on fan feedback.
Tiny Rebel Games still actively updates the game, having released their latest free expansion, The Hunt for Greyhound One, almost a year after the game’s initial launch. They also maintain an active presence in social media as well as participating in a weekly livestream through Twitch.
The developers are also user-friendly when it comes to micro-transactions. As a free-to-play game, Legacy naturally comes with the opportunity to buy your way forward, but it is never very obvious about it. Players can purchase time crystals to buy characters, time fragments, or an extra chance at a level they failed, but they can also collect time fragments randomly as they play.
The only part of the game that is cut off through micro-transactions is the Fan Area, which is only accessible by making a one time purchase of five or more time crystals. The Fan Area offers exclusive levels and early character drops, but does not otherwise improve or change the game. The primary purpose of the fan area is to support the developer, if you choose to do so. You would effectively be paying what the game might sold for if it were not free.
Overall, Doctor Who: Legacy is, without a doubt, the most successful Doctor Who game available. It offers quick, enjoyable levels that give you an opportunity to solve problems like the Doctor. Though the game has some minor flaws, it is actively maintained by its developers and should only improve.