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The Doctor is in with new online game ‘Worlds in Time’

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Ever longed for a day when a madman in a little blue box would show up at your doorstep and whisk you away on a cosmic adventure to the edge of outer space?

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In "Doctor Who: Worlds in Time," the Doctor makes his most important house call yet as he steps into your room, recruiting you and other potential companions -- pajamas and all -- straight into a world of real-time Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) gameplay.

Developed by San Francisco-based Three Rings Design in conjunction with BBC Worldwide, "Doctor Who: Worlds in Time" is browser-based -- and completely free to play.

"It's the perfect balance between narrative and public play," said Robert Nashak, executive vice president of BBC Worldwide Digital Entertainment and Games.  "It invites players to save the universe by using their wits to solve time-bending puzzles and pulse-pounding challenges."

A mainstay of British popular culture and television for nearly 50 years, Doctor Who tells the ongoing story of a mysterious alien known only as "the Doctor," who, along with various companions from across the stars, travels though time and space in his TARDIS, a curious blue 1960's-era police box.

And while the Doctor has made the rare appearance in video games from time to time, this latest foray into the digital realm is a bit of a first in the history of the extended Who Universe.

"We worked within the continuity of the show," Max Engel, senior product manager of BBC Worldwide, told Y! Games. "We sat down with the executive producer and story editors for how to grow the game while adhering to 'Doctor Who' mythology. Although the overall narrative is predefined, the rest of the game is flexible and designed to incorporate the twists and turns and elements that happen when real fans play the game."

Players will have the opportunity to travel with the Doctor to familiar 'Who' worlds such as New New York, Messaline, Starship U.K., The Library, Ember, and even Skaro, the birthplace of the Doctor's most feared enemy, the Daleks.

But just who is it that you're up against?  The bad guy deck is stacked with some of the scariest monsters the Doctor has ever seen.  Old enemies like the Cybermen and Autons -- and new ones like the Weeping Angels -- do their best to thwart you at every turn.

"Each world that you visit is being invaded and in a state of chaos," Engel said. "Working together, alone, or in guild play groups it's up to you to save each world and restore order."

A demo of the game revealed a world that has been constructed from the ground up, complete with a cartoony style never before seen in Doctor Who.

"With this art style we can grow and expand the world over time and it's a great way for non- fans to be introduced to Doctor Who in other platforms down the road," Engel explained.  "There is a level of fidelity for what players would expect from the Doctor Who brand, so everything created is within the proper context of the show."

After being whisked away by the Doctor, your first stop is your own personal room on the TARDIS where you create your avatar from four different alien races including Human, Cheem, Catkind, and Silurian.

Don't worry about things getting crowded in that little blue box, though.  It's bigger on the inside than the outside, and there's more than enough room to accommodate you, the Doctor, and your friends.

And when you step out on your missions, you won't be doing so empty-handed.  Another interesting feature of the game is the ability to create contraptions and gadgets; over time, you can even use those gadgets to make your very own sonic screwdriver.

"You can tune your contraption to your specific strengths," Engel said.  "A big part of group play is making the gadget excel in your own playing style."

It's also littered with fan service. A keen eye might spot a tip of the hat to former companion Captain Jack Harkness's WWII era jacket or the Doctor's helmet from his adventures in the episode "The Impossible Planet."

But don't be intimidated if you're not a hardcore "Who" fan.

"There are new monsters and worlds that sci-fi fans will love," Nashak said.  "It has challenges that casual players will take a shine to with lots of replay value for both solo and group play.  There's something here for everyone."

While the game is free to play, you do have the option to accelerate achievements by purchasing extra cash (in this case, Chronons) to complete missions, customize avatars and upgrade contraptions.

Timed to coincide close to 2011's  'Doctor Who Christmas Special', the open preview of the game launches first at DoctorWhoWIT followed by the full game debut in the second half of March 2012, timey wimey shenanigans notwithstanding.

"Everyone will be able to access this game worldwide," Nashak said, keeping in tune with the Doctor's own mission statement of equality and infinite possibilities at every turn.

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