Let's get this straight right away... the free iOS and Android game Doctor Who: Legacy is basically Marvel Puzzle Quest: Dark Reign, which in turn was just Puzzle Quest. It's a turn-based match-3 RPG game chock-a-block full of collectible characters from BBC's beloved sci-fi adventure series, centering around the plot that the Doctor has to travel through space and time to assemble all of his friends and former Companions to thwart a war that threatens... well, everything. If you're hoping for some epic universe-trotting adventure where you'll get to participate in exciting stories and action sequences... well, this isn't that. But if you want some simple, addictive gameplay and some "gotta catch 'em all" style fever on top of some stunning artwork, Doctor Who: Legacy is still worth checking out.
Gameplay is simple enough, consisting of matching coloured tokens that correspond to different characters in your party to deal damage against opponents. The more matches and combos you make in a single turn, the more that damage is multiplied... even if the tokens you made a combo with don't match the colour of the character dealing damage! You can drag a token anywhere on the field, making matches even if the tokens you want aren't adjacent. Enemies may deal damage, inflict status effects, alter the board, and so forth. Characters can unleash special abilities once a certain number of rounds has passed, and you can match pink tokens to heal your party. Your party's health is determined by the characters that make it up, and of course, different characters have different strengths and abilities. As you win battles, party members that participate will level up, both learning new skills and earning points you can choose to distribute to raise their statistics. By spending certain amounts of coloured Time Fragments, you can also improve their Rank and thus unlock new abilities for them, and at certain level milestones they'll be boosted dramatically. You can only have one Doctor active in your party at a team, and he only has Ranks rather than levels as well.
Some characters will automatically join you as you play through the game, while others must be won as rare drops from battles, or outright purchased through microtransactions if you're impatient. While a lot of the big name characters are harder to get, like River Song, the game is actually pretty solid about delivering fan-favourite characters freely on a regular basis as you play, like Madame Vastra and Jenny. Other characters are more of a disappointment... hooray, a random unnamed Ood and an unnamed soldier! Still, each character can be valuable when you take their strengths and colours into account... some are best brought along for their healing statistic, while others are powerhouse of attacks and can be devastating when combined with another character who uses the same token. The developers also periodically issue free codes you can redeem for special characters, outfits, episodes, time crystals (also won in battles and used to purchase things), and more.
Doctor Who: Legacy is a game whose reception is going to be determined by your expectations and what you actually wanted it to be. We've been dying for a big, epic, Doctor adventure, and, well, this ain't it, but that doesn't necessarily mean that it's a bad game. That being said, however, what people love about Doctor Who is the story, and having its beloved characters reduced to little more than pretty sprites on the screen that might spout a single line in the course of the game stings. Rory will join your party, for instance, but there's no tearful reunion, not even a single mention or reaction to it. There's no interaction between characters beyond a few plot-centric lines, and considering how varied the cast is here, it's an enormous missed opportunity. It's Doctor Who without the heart and soul, at which point you've got to ask yourself... is it really still Doctor Who?
The biggest complaint I actually have with the game, as the game it is rather than the game I'd want it to be, right after "THE DOCTOR DOESN'T FIGHT AND DESTROY ENEMIES", is that the main UI feels a little clunky, with separate screens and menus for everything that are a little tedious to click through. Why can't we immediately apply skill points when a character levels up instead of having to navigate to a different menu? Did the TARDIS menu really need to be separate from your Party menu? The game itself takes a long time before it offers any sort of challenge, with most of the difficulty coming from how low the heal bonuses are, but it does have a satisfying amount of depth to it when you start taking colours and special abilities into account. Each stage is actually carefully designed in terms of the colours it offers the most of and the enemies you face as to encourage you to develop strategies with different teams of characters best suited for the job. You can replay levels until you're blue in the face to grind items and levels, which is a good thing since some of those random rare drops can take a long time to get.
Doctor Who: Legacy is fun, if simple, but best approached by fans as a game about collectibles since it's impossible to care about the plot. The game earns points for being fairly liberal with its item and character drops, as well the Time Crystals the store will sell you more of, so it never really feels like you're being nagged to spend cash. Since everything can be earned through playing, the only reason to pay for Time Crystals is if you want a particular character right away, or don't want to grind for the fragments necessary to upgrade. If you lose a battle, you're just booted back to try again. The developers are clearly extremely dedicated to the game (most recently developing their own keyboard to work around a bug Android users experienced), as well as taking in player feedback. It's clear they care about what they're working on. Though it may not be the game we're still wishing and hoping for, Doctor Who: Legacy is still gorgeous and entertaining as a stylish match-3 game without the typical restrictions of a free-to-play title.
NOTE: This game was played and reviewed on the HTC One S. Game was available in the North American market at the time of publication, but may not be available in other territories. Please see individual app market pages for purchasing info.