Top Trumps: Doctor Who Developer Ironstone Partners Publisher Eidos Genre Other Platform Nintendo DS Release Out Now
If you've never played Top Trumps before, then the rules are insanely simple; you're given a deck of 30 cards, two players take half a deck each, randomly. You weigh up the card's 5 attributes, in this case: Height, Intelligence, Monster Rating, Darkness and Courage. Whoever has the highest rank, wins. Each card is themed to a character in the Doctor Who universe from The Doctor himself to the unloved living mannequins. The game, however, is very balanced and playing against human players, matches can last upward of 15 minutes. It's a fantastic time waster.
Normal rules for Top Trumps are exactly as they are above, you cannot shuffle through cards and no sneaking peeks at opponents cards. This game, however, includes a new rule set fitting to the Doctor Who universe. You're given useful advantages to help a player win. These include special abilities players charge up by beating an opponents card, these abilities change from character to character. For example, The Doctor's special ability is to see the next three cards your opponent holds and stats attached to them, while the Dalek card can "Exterminate" your next card, reducing all stats on the card to make it easier for him to pick off your card, however cannot see the new stats. You can also equip 3 special abilities which any character can use, these abilities range from draining your opponent's special ability gauge, seeing the next card the enemy has or boosting stats on your cards. These abilities have levelled up versions of them. You win abilities and powered up abilities by playing the Single Player Adventure Mode.
The game comes with a few modes, single player modes include a Free Mode, in which you can play either by Normal Top Trumps rules or play by special Doctor Who rules, an Adventure Mode in which you play as a character and fight 5 stages of enemies to advance to the next character's 'adventure'. In between each stage is a bonus stage. Multiplayer mode is basically a 2 physical player "Free Mode" battle, with being able to pick which character, what mode and what abilities you want, although there are no abilities with Normal Top Trumps rules. You can also replay mini-games you unlock through-out Adventure Mode.
Unfortunately, as cool as "Adventure Mode" sounds, you'll be utterly disappointed with the outcome. There's no story attached to it, while it may have taken them a few days to come up with some hair-brain story to attach to the game and have a few little Puyo-Puyo style cut scenes in-between matches explaining said story and bringing meaning to this nearly pointless round-after-round of card matching and slightly increased difficulty. Bonus rounds as well, sometimes rely on luck rather than skill to be able to complete and while you're given a total of 4 lives in which to complete them, you'll find yourself loosing with no control of the outcome.
Controls, another hurdle where this game falls down on is controls in the game. Since you hold the DS sideways like a book, you find yourself holding the DS in uncomfortable positions. Even worse is the fact that the whole game is operated with the stylus. Left-handed users will not be impressed as there's no option to flip the screens upside down to help left-handed users. Also, the touch screen interface is also highly inaccurate. Navigating menus will be fine, however when selecting attributes on cards to compare, there is no "Confirm" button, you press one attribute and that's it. Heaven forbid you press one pixel over the selection you wanted to make and choose pick a completely different attribute which you didn't want.
Sound, well, it could be worse. The title screen music is the generic Doctor Who theme music which yes... Loops over and over. It's very annoying and wont want to make you return to that hell any time quickly there-after. The game does save itself by having some nice music when it comes to the actual Top Trump matches. Fitting very well with the Doctor Who game, you wont ever feel yourself muting your DS after 5 minutes. Sound effects are also quite "Doctor Who-ish", being kind-of-sort-of cheesy Sci-Fi sound effects. Sound, however, is completely optional in this game and you can more than easily enjoy the game without sound at all.
Visuals, the game is quite pretty. The user interface seems a bit rough around the edges, there's no simple fade-in or fade-out effects for the start menu, which makes the game look and feel cheap. 3D visuals are used, however not to great effect and look poorly made. The game uses a mish-mash of real textures taken from real Top Trumps cards, however the character faces in top corner of screens are from the least-favourite and highly unloved Doctor Who Comics and Cartoons the BBC have made over the last few years. The game also doesn't make it quite clear who's turn it is. After a while you realise there's coloured lights indicating this, but only after hours of play is this made really clear to you. Card ranges also don't include newer characters from the just started 6th series of Doctor Who.
Overall then, this game is a perfect budget title game. Sadly, it's not budget priced, at an initial R.R.P of £29.99, this game is not worth that amount of money. No story mode, poor utilisation of the touch screen and more than underwhelming presentation of the game feels more deserving of a £14.99 price tag. But on balance, price will eventually drop and I wont let that bias this game's potential for fun. With more than enough gameplay time to be had with both Classic and Doctor Who rule sets, Top Trumps: Doctor Who is the ultimate car/plane/boat journey time waster for the DS. For this reason alone, the 4/5 score is justified. However, I would highly recommend you do not splash out the full £30 on this game. Wait until it is much cheaper.