Don’t turn your back on this game. Don’t look away. And don’t blink.
The “found phone” genre of mystery games comprise one of the most exciting gaming and storytelling experiences in mobile gaming, and no one does it quite like Kaigan Games. The Malaysian game development studio has spawned hits like Sara is Missing and Simulacra, gaining widespread acclaim across different platforms.
Enter the British science-fiction phenomenon, Doctor Who. One of its most famous episodes, “Blink,” has cemented its spot in popular culture not only for its writing and acting excellence but also for the Weeping Angels concept. These malevolent otherworldly time-bending creatures embody the best of psychological horror – an idea ripe for the world of video games.
Doctor Who: The Lonely Assassins is a tie-in with the BBC show, becoming a sequel to the much-loved episode mentioned above. Will Whovians and beginners alike fall under the spell of this new mobile game? Read on to find out!
For players who are not part of the Doctor Who fandom, the show chronicles the adventures of the eponymous time-travelling alien. In the episode Blink, the Doctor fights off the evil extraterrestrial race of Weeping Angels by sending clues to two humans – Sally Sparrow and Larry Nightingale. The team succeeds in defeating these stone-like monsters through the Doctor’s tricks.
The Lonely Assassins picks up where the episode left off. The phone of one Lawrence “Larry” Nightingale has fallen into your hands, and the intrepid Petronella Osgood (formerly of the paranormal investigation organization, UNIT) has warranted a search into the device. Now, it’s up to you to search the phone for clues and solve the mystery of the abandoned Wester Drumlins house.
Players who have never watched the series will still be able to follow the game – but it will definitely be a bigger treat for longtime fans of the show, catching every reference made within the story.
The game’s narrative is presented straightforwardly – your interactions with Osgood offer some exposition on the setting of the game and the situation that is slowly unfolding before you. The interactions involve choosing some canned responses, and this kind of “communication” seems tedious, but it does help you role-play a character. Still, the interactions with Osgood don’t offer many variations.
It is fun to piece together the mysteries of the game via emails, voice notes, messages and more. There are some interesting and realistic exchanges in there – telling an unknown caller that you are uninterested in their telemarketing is an experience familiar to anyone. Uncovering new characters and learning more about their motivations via snooping around on Larry’s phone offers a great way of experiencing the story firsthand.
For a found phone mystery, you will never find yourself lost in your progress. This is because the game has a handy checklist for the things that you need to do in order to move the story forward. While it’s a great frustration-saving feature, especially for people new to the genre, more hardcore mystery gamers might be disappointed with the lack of challenge introduced by such a streamlined experience.
Unfortunately, as a puzzle adventure, the game tends to hold your hand through the puzzles you are expected to unravel. Most of the gameplay involves snooping around the phone and sending Osgood any vital evidence that will help you move the case forward.
Of course, it lifts the barrier for newbies, but feeling lost and clueless is part and parcel of a good mystery game. It does take away from the concept of a mystery, but the excellent atmosphere that the game pushes makes up for it. Perhaps the more minimal gameplay is to be expected from a title based on a TV show, but there is an excellent effort to make players think for themselves and still enjoy the ride.
Overall, the game serves exciting puzzles that require you to pay attention to every piece of media you come across. But don’t worry about not being the most attentive detective because the game will help you put the pieces together. It isn’t a long game, clocking in at around 2 hours worth of content, but it makes use of every moment and does not overstay its welcome.
Audio and Graphics
Found phone games have straddled the line between what is a realistic cellphone UI and what grounds the game in the science fiction source material. The game succeeds in immersing its players into a mystery world, pulling them from reality and into investing a couple of hours into the narrative. A large part of this is made possible by the game’s audiovisual design.
The in-game models give an air of authenticity and eeriness to the game, setting the same mood that Kaigan Games have been known to emulate in their titles. There are moments where the phone eerily glitches, which serve as warnings for a digital attack from the Weeping Angels. Great acting in little pieces of media like the video calls and “live feeds” is a welcome addition to this genre, really fleshing out the story.
The best parts are when the game continues to degrade as you continue to investigate. The music keeps you on the edge of your seat as ghostly specters and colors float at your fingertips. It accomplishes the air of dread, and this successful ambiance is aided by less cheap jumpscares, which is very commendable. Horror fans will enjoy the production quality and the genuinely unsettling feeling you get while playing the game.
Overall, the Doctor Who: The Lonely Assassins is a neatly packaged mystery that brings out all the strengths of the original story and the found-phone genre. The chilling atmosphere that develops throughout the game is a triumph for the genre that is just getting started. Being based on a popular TV show, the fans who have flocked to the game prove that there is a lot of potential for more mixed media collaborations in the future – and we’re here for it!
Doctor Who: The Lonely Assassins is available on mobile devices (iOS /Android) and PC. This review is based on a free copy provided by the developer.