Visitors to Scary-Crayon may have noticed a certain lull in recent weeks -- part of which, I admit, must be attributed to my newfound compulsion to watch "Doctor Who" episodes. While I wasn't terribly keen on the 2005 series that recently aired on SciFi, it was sufficiently interesting enough for me to watch the 2006 series and seek out some of the older episodes. The latter are much better, despite having much lower budgets and slower, more plodding stories -- in fact, that's part of their charm! -- but even so I can't imagine this show having caught on without its real stars: the Daleks.
Ever since their televised debut in 1963, these loveable mutant creatures have charmed their way into the hearts of millions with their plunger arms and mechanized cries of "EXTERMINATE!!!" I mean, really -- robots shaped like salt shakers would have been cool enough, but said robots piloted by face hugger-esque things that are sometimes portrayed in the episodes by simple blobs of seaweed and even the occasional handful of toy slime? A race of former humanoid teachers and philosophers (at least until their history was rewritten in "Genesis of the Daleks") that was horribly disfigured by nuclear war and now roams the cosmos EXTERMINATING all other forms of life for no apparent reason? Opportunistic creatures that wait until humanity weakened by war and disease and then enslave the survivors, ravaging Earth with intent to remove the magnetic core and pilot the planet around the cosmos like a giant spaceship? That's the Daleks for you -- they're unimpeachably awesome. And they have their own video games! Not as many as you'd expect characters who've been around since 1963 to have (the Turtles have like billions and they only hit the scene in the mid-80s), but still. Let's take a look at a few.
Doctor Who: Dalek Attack (PC)
Unfortunately, as Acclaim has shown us on a number of occasions, terrific characters don't necessarily make for great video games -- and in the UK, Admiral Software seconded that notion with its 1992 release of Doctor Who: Dalek Attack. As one of three incarnations of the Doctor (and a sidekick, if you can brainwash a friend into accompanying you on this torturous and inevitably very, very short journey), your task is to stop those fiendish Daleks from once again invading Earth, murdering and/or enslaving humanity, and, this time, turning the planet into a Dalek production factory. It's not Shakespeare -- or even one of the earlier Doctor serials -- but it's a good enough setup for a platform shooting game that sees the Doctor blasting at Daleks in various Earth locations. Also, given that Dalek Attack was released three years after the television series was suspended in 1989, it arguably serves to explain why the Doctor didn't return for a 27th season: the Daleks fucking annihilated him.
From almost the moment the Doctor sets foot in the sewers of London in the first level, this game is about him getting his ass handed to him by any and everything in the world, not the least of which is a scattered army of Daleks screeching, "EXTERMINATE!!!" in that high-pitched robotic voice that is so delightful to hear when you're watching television but is not at all pleasant when you are playing a video game and the sound is accompanied by Daleks rushing up behind your character and literally shoving their plungers up his ass. I'm told that "Doctor Who" has been regarded as a kids' show for almost all of its lengthy tenure, but I can't imagine any child playing this game for more than several minutes without being overcome with the desire to shove his or her desktop computer through an open window and watch it descend into the fog and smash to bits on the street below after bouncing off the roof of a double-decker bus. I'm not kidding -- the aforementioned plunger rape happens like three seconds into the game. "EXTERMINATE!!! EXTERMINATE!!! EXTERMINATE!!!" Sick.
Admittedly, it's pretty cool to be able to play as the second and fourth Doctors, and I appreciate that the 2D Dalek sprites actually reflect the differences in their arms depending upon the direction they're facing, but even so I fail to see the fun in being massacred by screaming Daleks and the random thugs and Klingons in their employ. Oh, and here's another weird thing about the game: once you make it into London above, there are product and company advertisements all over the fucking place. I sure hope these companies didn't actually pay to be represented in Dalek Attack, but if they did the businesses with ads displayed in the later levels got totally ripped off because only three people in the history of the Earth have seen them. The rest were exterminated.
Still interested in being EXTERMINATED and giving Doctor Who: Dalek Attack a go? Download it at the Home of the Underdogs! There's supposedly a (sorely needed)
invincibility code for the game, but hell if I could get it to work.
Doctor Who: The Last Dalek (licensed Flash game)
Unlike the previous game, in which the player controls the Doctor in a fairly standard setup, Doctor Who: The Last Dalek has a much more appealing slant to it. Based on an episode of the 2005 series entitled "Dalek", you play as the sole Dalek survivor of the great Time War (as far as it knows, anyway), awaking to find yourself trapped in the underground bunker and research facility of the man who owns the Internet (that's not a joke). Considerably weakened, crippled and defeated, you are nevertheless a Dalek: and being a Dalek, you have one purpose and one purpose alone. Yes, you know what it is. And as the game begins on the bottom level of the complex, the last Dalek announces that purpose to the world in its chilling mechanized voice: "EXTERMINATE!"
Admittedly, it's not going to win any awards when compared with today's console offerings, but The Last Dalek is quite a bit of fun for a free Flash game available on the BBC website. As the titular Dalek, the player must traverse ten increasingly difficult levels in order to gain various artefacts and eventually break out of the complex -- and, like most games, the additional abilities are vital to accomplishing the main task. For example, you start off with only the ability to bludgeon people to death with your plunger arm. When these unarmed plunger fodder are joined by soldiers with energy rifles, however, more effective methods of extermination are necessary, so you'll have to seek out the necessary technology to repair your broken gun arm. There are various holes and staircases that Daleks cannot normally traverse, so you'll have to find a gizmo to enable the Dalek to elevate itself above them. The shield allows the Dalek to take more punishment and survive corridors filled with blasters, a logical processor lets it open encrypted locks, and so forth. You won't need to be a superior Dalek genius to figure out most of these puzzles, but it's nice to see that some thought went into the creation of the game.
Seeing as how it's free, it almost seems unfair to rag on the game for its shortcomings, but there are a few that bear mentioning. For one, the Dalek can only equip two abilities at once -- and while this is ostensibly to increase the player's involvement in the game in that it requires the player to switch abilities fairly frequently, it also gets somewhat tedious when multiple abilities are needed to navigate compact spaces. There's also one of the cheapest obstacles I've seen in a game yet -- a field of invisible mines. You eventually get a device that lets you see where the mines are, but before you acquire it you'll have to tiptoe across these areas with your shield equipped (without it, a single mine blast will kill you), stopping to wait for the shield to recharge every time you happen to trip a mine. It's annoying. The timed mazes are also pretty irritating. They're not impossible, mind you, and they do ramp up the challenge level quite a bit, but to a certain extent I don't really want to be challenged in a Dalek Flash game so much as I want to giddily EXTERMINATE everyone in sight. And there's another problem -- not enough humans to exterminate! There are, however, areas in which you have to exterminate all humans in the vicinity in order to progress (for some inexplicable reason, the complex has doors that open automatically when all of the guards in the room are dead). Exterminating is mandatory.
Some folks will also take issue with the game's length -- it's a bit short compared to other games -- but I actually think this is about the perfect length for a free Flash game. In fact, I'd say it were too long (I really took my time and read through all of the in-game documents and clocked 1:23 on my first playthrough, according to the stats at the end) if it weren't the first Flash game I've ever played that actually saves your progress when you close the browser window. It also remembers if you've beaten it previously, allowing you to begin subsequent games with all of the weapons and abilities you previously acquired. That's right; it's even got replay value! And then there are the boss fights with Chris Eccleston. They're not terribly difficult (with a bit of maneuvering, you can work the Doctor into a position in which his shots will keep missing you, thereby allowing you to exterminate him from a stationary position), but they do make for a satisfying conclusion to this day in the life of the last Dalek. I really don't understand why the Dalek is required to blow up the TARDIS at the end -- seems like breaking into it and learning its secrets would be the smarter course of action -- but ah well. Victory for the Dalek race!
You too can take on humanity and the Doctor in Doctor Who: The Last Dalek,
available on the BBC website! EXTERMINATE! EXTERMINATE! EXTERMINATE!!!
Dalek: Dissolution Earth (unlicensed Flash game)
The two titles above notwithstanding, however, Daleks have been woefully underrepresented in the gaming scene -- and to help rectify that oversight, various fans have made their own Dalek-themed games. Among them, Dalek: Dissolution Earth stands out for several reasons. Despite being really short and fairly simplistic -- it's essentially a single-level Dalek shooting gallery, with the ultimate objective providing a fantastic answer to the old question regarding why the chicken crossed the road (to get away from the Daleks!) -- the great graphics and background details from "Doctor Who" episodes make it a worthy playthrough for any "Doctor Who" fan with a few minutes to kill. Even the Kaled mutants appear in the game! Dissolution Earth's brevity also helps to give it tremendous replay value for casual and score-minded players alike, as it's not like one needs to set aside another hour to complete another playthrough. It's just good, clean, Dalek shooting fun! Highly recommended.
Escape from a London overrun with Daleks in Dalek: Dissolution Earth!
Remember, it is forbidden to dump bodies into the river.
As noted, these are hardly the only Doctor Who/Dalek-themed games out there, but the above titles are the most noteworthy of the ones I've played. However, in the grand scheme of things, I haven't played very many -- according to The Millennium Effect, there are dozens of related games for players interested in getting their Dalek fix, ranging from from online games like Dalek (mini-review: kinda dull; not entirely recommended unless this sort of retro gameplay floats your boat) to modifications for a number of popular first person shooters. That said, if you haven't played the ones above (with the exception of Dalek Attack, which is fucking murder), they're a fantastic place to start cultivating your love of Daleks. Love the Daleks. Obey the Daleks. Do not question.