Sunday, 15 June 2008

"Doctor Who - Decide Your Destiny: Dark Planet" by Davey Moore

The seventh book in the Doctor Who: Decide Your Destiny series, Dark Planet sees the return of Davey Moore, author of the somewhat disappointing Corinthian Project. One of the problems in that book was the obsessive creation of a future world to the detriment of a plot. From the blurb, it sounds like Dark Planet may suffer the same fate. In the future, "Earth is divided. The Upsiders live in luxury while the Downsiders scavenge in the dark world below. Can you help the Doctor and Martha bring the two conflicting sides back together?" Ooh, dystopian.

Luckily, despite my fears, Dark Planet isn't over-created. The 'society split in two' concept of the Up Side and Down Side may be far from original, but it's also quite a universal idea so that hardly matters. Moore doesn't waste time describing the intricacies of how it works, but reveals enough of how it came about and how it's sustained to satiate curiosity. The plot itself is engaging too, with a couple of decent incidents and a fair backstory. In the book's first entry (one of the strongest of the entire series) you're offered a choice between three random buttons, and a quick scan through the results of the two I didn't choose suggests that each provides a vastly different version of events. It would seem there are three notably different adventures to be had from this book -- good value for money -- and, for once, a nice clear way to see how to access each one.

There's a downside to this variety though, which I shall longwindedly explain. The story I followed seemed to present two notably different strands, as at a couple of points you can choose to follow either an Upsider or a Downsider; I chose to go towards the Downsider every time, but still wound up following the Upsider. There were other, even more specific instances where my choice made no difference -- in one, either option led to the same bit of exposition, just given by different characters, and both then led on to the same concluding segment. The book also too often succumbs to the disappointing trick of shuttling you from entry to entry with no choices at all. I would imagine this is the price one pays for squeezing three totally different stories into 101 segments -- there's very little room to have many choices within each. Arguably the illusion of choice, as in the exposition example, is better than shuttling on throughout, but your choices actually making a difference is what should happen.

Moore's previous entry in this range, The Corinthian Project, probably wasn't as bad as my review suggested. Nonetheless, Dark Planet has a better plot, and it's pleasing to see the same author adopt a different style of creating varied adventures -- in his first book it's by offering various routes of exploration around the same location, while in this there's a selection of totally different strands. In spite of the flaws, then, the fact that Dark Planet offers three different adventures -- and that I enjoyed the one I read -- marks it out as one of the series' better efforts.

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