The BBC just announced the release of a Doctor Who social game from the makers of the excellent Puzzle Pirates and Spiral Knights. True to form, it’s a solid game with simplicity for the new players, depth for the experienced ones, and plenty of clever Doctor dialogue all along.Doctor Who: Worlds in Time is a 2D, browser-based, Flash-powered game based on the BBC’s long-running sci-fi series that heavily features mini-games riffing on some classic puzzle games like Bust-A-Move, Pipe Dream and even Tetris.As alluded to at the outset, it’s developed by Three Rings Design, a San Francisco-based casual studio recently acquired by Sega. Three Rings made a name for itself with an online collaborative puzzler, Puzzle Pirates, and followed it up with a Diablo–lite dungeon crawler with a futuristic look, Spiral Knights. The studio’s reputation for quality and polish is evident here with gameplay that prioritizes depth over monetization.In Worlds in Time, players create their own characters who are then recruited by The Doctor to defend civilization by traversing several worlds (including Skaro, Messaline, The Library and New New York) and taking on the series’ well-known monsters (such as Daleks, Cybermen and Weeping Angels) to essentially save the world. The game’s 2D art reflects the dark palettes of the television series and has some solid attention to detail, as you can see in our screenshots.The gameplay is essentially a series of quests where objectives are accomplished by playing puzzle-based mini-games. Players are sent out to get fragments of Time itself and can get it back by playing games with some pretty familiar mechanics. Lockpicking, for example, is a vertical match-3 in the vein of Bust-A Move or Puzzle Bobble. Rewiring devices is a twist on Pipe Dream where players rotate pipes to complete a path for a flowing current.Other RPG-lite elements, such as dialogue and combat, are also handled with puzzle games. Dialogue is accomplished by winning at a Puzzle Quest clone, and even the Barricade task is a cleverly disguised drag-and-drop Tetris.While these things may sound incredibly basic, they’re proven gameplay mechanics that are easy for almost anyone to pick up. For those searching for more depth, there are crafting features that allow players to get assistance and power-ups for winning more difficult puzzle rounds.All the while, players are treated to humorous dialogue from The Doctor himself. He provides tutorials early on and also gives direction for where to go next. He’s fantastically written, so much so that he beckons for a voice actor to give him life. Also outstanding is the music, which follows in the Doctor Who tradition of vaguely electronic sounds and stands heads-and-shoulders above the usual cheap MIDI loops that comprise Flash-based social games.After clearing the tutorial levels, the game’s multiplayer features open up. Like other Three Rings games, players can form loose groups to do individual quests together. In the absence of real-life partners, the game assigns you AI minions who you can assign to take on certain actions. Dislike the combat puzzle game? Send a “partner” to do the fighting while you repair a device or pick a lock. This feature isn’t common in your run-of-the-mill browser-based game and adds a touch of depth for players who would be getting bored of straightforwardly solving puzzles to advance the quest.It wouldn’t be a social game without a place to spend some money on virtual goods, and Worlds in Time is no different. The requisite virtual store is there and allows purchases of cosmetic changes (new outfits to replace your default pajamas) and crafted items for use in puzzle games. Still, there’s a noticeable lack of pay walls as seen in the Facebook social game du jour.As an open beta, the game isn’t flawless. Flash performance can get sluggish at times from all the action on screen, even on a modern machine and in a modern browser. There’s also a minor hiccup in the registration process – after creating my character, I’m then ripped out of the game and forced to click a link inside a confirmation email to start playing. Logging in via social media services such as Facebook or Twitter would be very welcome here.Still, these are minor quibbles. All told, Worlds in Time is a very good use of the BBC’s popular licensed IP and a social game that’s really worth the time put in.Verdict: If you’re a Doctor Who fan who’s bored of social games like FarmVille and looking for something more, this is the game for you.Doctor Who: Worlds in Time is currently in open beta and playable now.