Game Review: Red Dwarf XI: The Game

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All images are photos of the game and copyright belongs to the creators of the game and the BBC. I’m just using them for review purposes

 

I’ve been a fan of Red Dwarf for years, we used to watch recorded VHS tapes of it when I was younger, so when I saw that they were releasing a mobile game alongside the newest series I had to get it. It costs £1.99 on the Apple app store and Android store, though it is available outside the UK as well so search your country’s version to see if it’s available for you. So far only the first part has been released as it’s done in episodes alongside the TV series itself. Each episode is released on the same day as its equivalent TV episode’s release in the UK (for the UK app stores anyway) and does contain spoilers for the TV show itself, you’re warned of this at the beginning of the game.

I only have the first part available to play, though I’m looking forward to the other parts so I might do a general review of the whole thing at the end to see whether these first impressions change or not.

Adding this on Saturday as there was a recent update and it fixed the driving parts, they work fine now so no more rage quitting! They also added health as things to pick up alongside the energy in the levels so it’s a lot easier to finish them in one go and get a better score. One level I had a score of around 900, now it’s over 4000 so it does make a difference. I’m leaving the post the same as the rest of it’s still the same.

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Just so you know, any of the pictures in this post are literally photos of the screen on my iPad and I have made sure they’re all early parts of the game with no hint at storyline. The quality of the photo is the same as showing up on my screen on my iPad but then it is an iPad 2 so it may be the later ones and other tablets have higher definition. Also all photos have been taken of a second playthrough, which started when the episode ended without me realising it would. I’m hoping it will just open up episode two when it starts rather than having to go through the rest of this playthrough first but we’ll see when that’s released.

The idea behind these episodes is that they follow the episodes of the TV series, which in itself is both a positive and a negative for the game. It’s nice that there’s a tie in to the TV series and there are some parts that could be seen as bonus things alongside the storyline of the TV episode, though they aren’t really necessary or add anything to the storyline itself. The negative side of this is that the dialogue is just lines taken from the TV series, word for word on the most part. There isn’t all that much dialogue in the game, it’s just something to move the storyline on, and it’s all typed out rather than using lines from the TV show, which, given they’re pretty much pulled straight from there might have been a nice touch without the need for recording more. If you’re playing this game and watching the TV series it does give you the sense of déjà vu and it’s a bit repetitive if you’re doing both close together. I think it might be a good one to play and come back to later when there’s been a bit of a gap after each episode rather than on the same day, or not long after.

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The game itself is basically a group of mini games put together to fit around the plot of the episode. In this game episode you have some where you need to sneak around, some driving, some with the standard shooting rocks in space and some flying Starbug with odd controls for clockwise and anticlockwise. The games themselves are OK, most of them are pretty standard and don’t stand out as anything special without the tie to the TV show. The shooting one does work well with the touch screen of the iPad I played on, you tap on things to shoot them, and the sneak and escape parts are ok when you get the hang of the mechanics. I’m not including all the game levels in here as I think it could be considered spoilers with one of them but they do use the touch screen pretty well on the most part with different mechanics and ways of using the screen for the different mini games.

The most frustrating part of this game is the driving, at least on the iPad. I think this is one of the only games where I actually had to put the game down and walk away before coming back and trying again (I had to give up three times) as the parts where you turn a 90 degree corner do not work well for me. The only way to get beyond them without getting shot at points is to turn, hit people, and stop at the corner while the camera catches up and orientates it to the new direction. It’s just so annoying that the part of the game that kills you every time is the corner where you have to wait for the game to catch up rather than any bad driving. Add in that sometimes it would randomly seem to decide at these corners that, say I’m turning left, it would suddenly turn the opposite way and head straight on into the wall and cause a lot of damage as there’s no reversing so you just have to turn and scrape along the side. This part feels a bit like a rant, and to be honest it’s the only really negative thing about the game but it was a level type that was repeated and it really stuck in my head and made the game as a whole less enjoyable for me.

The graphics for this game are pretty good for a mobile game, they’re nothing very detailed but then it’s only £1.99. I didn’t get any jumping around, despite my iPad being at least three years old, and the loading times were fast. The mini games themselves are probably pretty standard definition for a mobile game and seem smooth enough from what I’ve played. In between the mini games the dialogue is a photo of the actor playing the character in front of a photograph of the set as a background. The poses seem a bit odd but I guess they’re meant to be exaggerated and are probably promotional shots for the TV series. There are some of the characters from the episode included in this but those pictures seem to be a lot lower resolution, they look like they’ve been taken from a still on the TV show and not from the HD version. I’m half tempted to believe this is deliberate and both the poses and lower definition pictures are maybe poking fun at games that use this idea in a tongue in cheek way but it’s probably wishful thinking.

There are collectibles, so far I found one but I’m not sure if I was meant to find more, and you do collect energy spheres that level you up and upgrade your ship. So far I haven’t seen much use for any of these aside from leader board and the completionist inside me wanting to have collected everything by the end of the series but maybe they come into play later or I’ve just missed something with them. The UI is nice, it fits in with the Red Dwarf look, and the screen that flashes up when you fail a level and asks if you want to retry has classic Red Dwarf style graphics so it does tie in well with the show. The tutorial does give a brief explanation of what you do and each level I’ve done so far explains the mechanics at the beginning, even if it’s rather brief and could be a bit confusing.

Overall this is a nice enough game for a Red Dwarf fan but I was hoping for something more. The price should have given away that it wasn’t going to be some in depth thing but I think some more tie in with sounds and lines would have been nice, especially with the dialogue being near identical. This is only really a game I can see a fan of the show wanting, there’s nothing to make it stand out otherwise from a lot of other mobile games, and the fact that the storylines are identical to the TV show ones is a bit disappointing (at least the one so far and that’s what I believe the rest are meant to be as they contain spoilers and are released alongside it). As there are going to be more episodes I will reserve judgement on whether it’s worth the £1.99 and, so far, I’d say that by the end of the series it probably will be. I just hope there’s no more driving levels and that there’s a good range of different games in the future episodes. If it carries on like it has this time I won’t say I’d be unhappy, I have managed to lose a few hours in there somewhere, but it’s not what I was hoping for.

I feel like I may be being a bit harsh on this but I guess it comes down to the fact that I have seen so many adverts for it and sort of built it up in my head. I know games for TV shows don’t normally stand up to the same quality as the TV show itself, I’ve played the NCIS and CSI games along with others I can’t remember, but I guess I was hoping for more from the BBC with this. I did quite enjoy some of the Doctor Who games, I’m not sure how popular that opinion is, and was hoping for something more open world or where you could at least wander around a bit rather than having a very linear path. Maybe they have that planned for future episodes, I’ll cross my fingers and hope.

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