I'll be the first to admit that I don't give one single heck about Doctor Who. I've seen a handful of episodes in my lifetime and, frankly, didn't much care for it. I will even go so far as to say that I was not particularly excited to give a Doctor Who mobile game a try when I saw it on the list of upcoming releases. However, as a lifelong player of the Nancy Drew series, I adore mystery games, and I'm pleased to report that Doctor Who: The Lonely Assassins is not only an excellent mystery game, it's among the best android games I've played so far this year.
One of the biggest strengths of Doctor Who: The Lonely Assassins is that it takes place entirely on "your phone." As Insert Player Character Here, you are meant to have found someone else's phone, which is getting hacked right as the game starts up. After this hacking succeeds, the phone rings. Once you pick up, boom, you're in touch with Petronella Osgood, a tech-savvy woman trying to reach a man called Lawrence, the true owner of the phone.
You gather through chatting with Osgood that she's a scientist and an ex-member of the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce, or UNIT for short and that she's been working with Lawrence on....something. But now he's missing, and you have his phone, which is chock full o' glitches and corrupted data. As you're the only one available to help her, Osgood recruits you to her cause and sets you to work trying to find out as much as you can about Lawrence and his whereabouts by scouring his phone for clues.
This is where the game really got fun for me. Lawrence's phone has its own user interface, which looks awesome. From the pleasing color palette, personal photo as the wallpaper, well-designed icons, and little touches like in-game Wi-Fi, network, and battery icons, the UI is the immersive window through which you experience the game. It won't come as a surprise that the UI is so good, considering that The Lonely Assassins comes from the creators of award-winning titles Simulacra and Sara is Missing.
Your primary methods of investigation lie in Lawrence's chats, emails, photos, phone records, and browser history. Prompted by Osgood, you begin to explore Lawrence's life through what's been left behind on his phone. Make no mistake; you can't afford to gloss over any piece of evidence, even if it's not "scan-worthy" to later share with Osgood.
Maybe you have what appears to be an innocuous text containing an address. Well, you might want to write that down; you might need that address later. Perhaps you've got a photo album full of the typical couple-type photos. Did you happen to notice what color Lawrence's wife's eyes are?
These little details and call-backs to other pieces of evidence create a wonderful sense of an intricately connected web where no clue is too small to overlook. The game gives a satisfying feeling of "Yes, I'm getting to the bottom of this!" as one small clue leads to another, and then more.
And the mystery you're getting to the bottom of is some fascinating stuff. By piecing this puzzle together, you discover eye-opening details about Lawrence, uncover a darker mystery, and all while trying to save yourself and your data from whatever is plaguing your phone! Luckily, by this point, you're beginning to see the connecting threads that seem to link this slew of misfortune together.
Through your sleuthing, it becomes clear that you and Osgood are up against one of the major sources of evil in the Doctor Whoniverse. I don't want to give the whole plot away, but hopefully, this has you dying to know more so that you yourself will pick this artfully executed mobile game up.
In addition to everything else, the acting and writing in The Lonely Assassins is pretty stellar. Osgood's performance, played by her original actress, Ingrid Oliver, and text interactions are believable and lively. Even more minor characters like Mr. Flint give stellar performances during the small amount of screen-time they have. On top of that, the game runs great on Android 10 with quick load times, no excessive heating, and good audio even without headphones.
There are, however, a small handful of complaints that I have about the game. First, it's really pretty short. All told, you'd probably only need a couple of hours of dedicated play-time to finish this one out, which is honestly a shame.
Second, Osgood, god love her, can be pretty hand-holdy. This is clearly an intentional function of the game to make sure you don't get stuck, but there were a few times where I got frustrated when chat segments would drag on even though I had already grasped what was happening and just wanted to act. It would have been nice to include a few more puzzles that you got to solve entirely on your own, without Osgood "helping" you.
It's also worth mentioning that players should be warned that there are a few jump scares and some scenes with bright flashing lights. Viewers who are sensitive to this kind of content may want to approach the game cautiously.
Finally, my last issue with the game is, admittedly, very biased. I realize it's a Doctor Who game, and of course, they're going to make references to their source content. Still, I couldn't help but roll my eyes every time Osgood made a vague and overly mysterious reference to a certain "person of interest," who is very obviously The Doctor. I think they're supposed to come across as cheeky or coy, but I found these interactions to be tiresome breaks in the flow of an otherwise interesting plot just to shoehorn in a reference. Again, I'm quite biassed in this regard, so take that with a big grain of salt.
That being said, I still had a great time with Doctor Who: The Lonely Assassins. The game has all the foundational pieces necessary to make a good mystery game. Creepy house down the lane with a terrible past? Check. Even creepier closed-off basement in the creepy house that must remain closed for unknown reasons? Check. Bizarre digital anomalies that you can't seem to explain away by conventional means? Check.
I would happily recommend this game to just about anyone and would be happy to play another entry if Maze Theory ever makes one. At $2.99, this premium mobile game is worth your time and money if you're into this kind of gameplay and enjoy mysteries.
You should pick up that call
Doctor Who: The Lonely Assassins is a great new entry in the found-phone genre. Even if you don't watch the show, you can still find the good writing, interesting story, mild spooks, and thorough investigation mechanics entertaining!
A lifelong gamer, Mogan has had a controller in hand since the PlayStation 1 ruled the world and Neopets seemed eternal. She loves to play new and old games alike, especially if it's something weird and charming. Puzzlers, JRPGs, adventure, and rhythm games are her favorites.