There are few mobile games on my iPhone, even fewer that I still play. I took Tetris off my phone lest I get fired for not being able to stop playing it at my desk, and I gave up a lot of PopCap games when they started being money grabs. Since then, other than the occasional foray into things like Ruzzle or Two Dots, if I’m wasting time on my phone it’s probably reading Twitter or watching feelgood TikTok videos. All this to say–I’m a hard sell on mobile games anymore. However, I’m a huge Doctor Who fan, currently keeping my pens in a Dalek mug, with a “My other car is a TARDIS” license plate holder and plenty more Whovian tchotchkes throughout my house. Enter new mobile game Doctor Who: The Lonely Assassins.
Even given my skepticism and the protective attitude I feel towards this particular IP, I was excited. Doctor Who: The Lonely Assassins is based on the events of Blink, one of the most iconic episodes of new Who (and Doctor Who in general) ever, and features David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor. My excitement was guarded, because we all know how these things tend to go, and on paper it had a lot going against it, not only because it’s a mobile game, and that it’s taking on a fan favorite episode and enemy in the Weeping Angels, but also because it’s a sequel. So it’s with a great amount of relief and pleasure I say that The Lonely Assassins is hands down the best mobile game I’ve ever played.
In hindsight, maybe I should’ve expected this knowing that Doctor Who: The Lonely Assassins was the work of Kaigan Games, who also put out award winning titles Simulacra and Sara is Missing, both of which were also “found phone” horror games. And in fact, The Lonely Assassins looks a lot like Simulacra. Luckily for us Whovians though, it’s not simply a reskin using the Who franchise. Instead, Doctor Who: The Lonely Assassins takes care to craft a true to Who story around the events of Blink that not only references the source material frequently but builds on it in a believable way, and the result is a “can’t put it down” kind of experience that also manages to hit the horror adrenaline buttons, too.
In Doctor Who: The Lonely Assassins you’re the lucky (or unlucky) soul who happens upon the lost phone of Lawrence Nightingale, owner of a DVD and book shop fans of Who should know well for some of its rarer VHS tapes and their accompanying Easter eggs. Lawrence is missing, the phone has some sort of unusual corruption plaguing it, and you’re on the line with Petronella Osgood, another new Who favorite, who’s trying to onboard you to figure out what happened to Lawrence, first, and then to hopefully help find a few other friends.
Since I hadn’t played Sara is Missing or Simulacra, the first comparison I drew gameplay wise was to Her Story, a game I really enjoyed for its mystery and the sheer amount of sleuthing you had to do to uncover what actually happened. It’s similar to what you’ll be doing in Doctor Who: The Lonely Assassins. At first, all you know is Larry is missing and he’s an important associate of one of Osgood’s important associates. Since you’ve got his phone, you’ll be tasked with helping piece together what happened to him by searching through his photos, chats, emails and phone browser for more clues, scanning each of these and sending them to Osgood for analysis. For the most part it’s search and scan, but at certain points the puzzles will be more complex, requiring a good memory or a notepad to keep track of, and things you didn’t think were significant may come into play much later.
One of my favorite aspects of The Lonely Assassins is how well it nails the Who vibe and how true it is to the characters in the universe. Doctor Who: The Lonely Assassins takes place after the original events of Blink, but involves a cast of mostly the same characters as that original episode, and it seems the teamup with BBC Productions worked for the good of the story, as all the personality and humor of the Whoniverse is spot on in the game. Osgood is nerdy, dodgy and whip smart, and all things considered, Sally Sparrow and Larry are much the same as they were in Blink, too, though their circumstances have changed. This adds to the immersion and really makes me happy as a fan, since it also lends credibility to this new story about the Angels and Wester Drumlins.
See, it’s not as simple as one missing person. As it turns out, Larry’s disappearance is only the tip of the iceberg, and there’s much more sinister things afoot. As you can imagine, that wibbly wobbly timey wimey stuff’s gone all haywire, and the Doctor’s been hard to locate. On top of that, Lawrence’s wife’s disappearance may well be the reason why he’s gone, too. That’s to say nothing of the disappearances at the Wester Drumlin house, and the eerie cherub statues that appear to change locations on the property.
Sleuthing is straightforward and will have you sifting through emails, texts, contact lists and web pages from Lawrence’s phone for intel–but it won’t be easy. Something is corrupting the data on the phone, and you’re in a race to get the details before the details are gone. I wouldn’t say Lonely Assassins is particularly difficult but it is challenging, and I did find myself stuck a time or two, wondering where the next piece of the puzzle would turn up.
Without spoiling too much, the titular lonely assassins, the weeping angels, are truly terrifying in the game, as they should be, since just the offhand sight of an angel statue has sent a little shiver down my spine since Blink first aired. When we last left the angels, though they’d had the phone box for a while, the Doctor was able to thwart them and escape with the TARDIS, using a clever trick. Since then, though, the angels have perhaps continued their efforts to possess telecommunication–and the results are actually pretty frightening, with some crazy distortions, eerie phone calls and strange happenings going on right in your hands as you race to unlock the mysteries at hand before things really go south and the whole of London and the world are in mortal and imminent danger.
As I mentioned before, I couldn’t put Doctor Who: The Lonely Assassins down, and played through it in its entirety in the space of several hours in one evening. Thanks to good storytelling and attention to detail in the story’s role in the Whoniverse, I was never bored, always wondering what was around the next corner, and who would pop up next in this tangled web of mystery. Not only did the story pacing keep me interested, Kaigan kept the game interesting by adding new mechanics as the story’s conclusion came nearer, introducing video footage expertly acted and shot and a few new ‘minigames’ that helped amp up the tension, ultimately leaving me with a thrill of adrenaline and satisfaction when the story finally concluded. I had a great time with Doctor Who: The Lonely Assassins even if it did make me a little wary of scary noises coming from my basement when I was done, and based on their partnership and handling of Who lore, would absolutely be interested in any other tales they’d like to tell in the Whoniverse.
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