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Top Trumps: Doctor Who

For: DS   Also on: Mobile

Just like the Tardis, this is deceptively deep

Product: Top Trumps: Doctor Who | Developer: Ironstone | Publisher: Eidos plc | Format: DS | Genre: Card/ board game, Film/ TV tie- in | Players: 1-2 | Networking: wireless (adhoc) | Version: Europe
Top Trumps: Doctor Who DS, thumbnail 1
Everyone has a Top Trumps memory. It usually involves a certain pack and certain set of circumstances that made playing Top Trumps absolutely essential in order to stave off a degree of boredom that threatened sanity.

Mine was during a rainy caravan holiday in Beetham near the Lake District where the wonderful British summer had battered our static two-bed and our will to go out to play Swing-Ball into submission. All that was left to do was to play Marvel Superhero Top Trumps repeatedly until every stat and ability was ingrained into our tiny brains.

The key card was the Silver Surfer, whose 10 for Special Powers was unbeatable. He was blessed with decent Physical Strength, too, so selecting Weapons was your only way of defeating him. Then you had the anomaly of Galactus's Strength being only 8, while the Hulk's was 9. This effectively meant that despite Galactus being capable of destroying the planet that Hulk was standing on, he wouldn't be able to beat the angry green guy in an arm wrestle.

Now while I'm fond of those memories, the Top Trumps pack was eventually tucked away once there were better things to do. And there are many, many better things to do than play Top Trumps.

So it comes as a huge surprise to see a Top Trumps games on the DS. I'll admit my initial reaction was that it just seems such a waste of beautiful machine. Well, I soon changed my opinion once I got into Top Trumps: Doctor Who because it's a far more addictive game than it has any right to be.

At its core it's Top Trumps as we all know it, so one player turns over a card and selects a rating or stat. If this is greater than the corresponding stat of their opponent's card, they can add that card to their pack. If it's lower, they lose the card and the other player gets control of the game. The game is over when a player has lost all of their cards.

In the Adventure Mode this is all done against AI opponents that take the form of characters from the Doctor Who universe, and you too assume the role of one. The reason for this comes down to the fact each one has a special power that can be activated during the game. So Captain Jack can scavenge cards and the CyberMan can temporarily upgrade a card's stats, for example.

This isn't the only intergalactic skullduggery that can be pulled off, though, as you're allowed to take three power-up cards into battle.

The choice is yours between those that reveal the name of your opponent's card to others that enable you to use a strong card repeatedly. Now this may sound like a contrived way of complicating a simple idea but it adds an extra layer of strategy and the timing of the use of these cards is essential for whittling down your opponent's hand. It also makes games against other DS owners using the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection particularly bitter and petty, though.

Further adding to the concept are bonus levels between rounds, which comprise simple memory tests. Complete them successfully and you go into the next round with a couple of cards' advantage.

This pattern of 'battles then bonuses' becomes addictive due to the constant extras you unlock. As you progress and the bigger the pack becomes, you assume the role of different characters, add new power-ups and unlock new mini-games. It's predictable and slightly childish, but also incredibly exciting.

What helps draw you in is the bold presentation that uses a mix of stills from the TV show and animation from the Infinite Quest cartoon. Also the game is very responsive and snappy so you can zip through the options screens and the battles.

There is, however, one major problem. To choose the category of the card you must tap on the screen with the stylus but all five options are bunched up tightly at the bottom of the screen. This means it's very easy to tap the wrong category and end up losing that hand. When things are becoming tense it takes surgical precision and steadiness to tap on Monster Rating and not slip onto Intelligence, something that some, more giddy gamers may feel impossible and so will find incredibly frustrating.

So it's flawed, childish and eventually limited but can also offer moments that are utterly riveting. The way battles sway between each player as power-ups are used and seemingly unstoppable marches to victory are halted make it 'punch-the-air' exciting.

Those wishing for a Doctor Who action game will probably turn their nose up at this virtual card game, but it'll be their loss as this is a surprisingly enjoyable gem that younger gamers are likely to remember fondly for some time.
Top Trumps: Doctor Who
Reviewer photo
Dave Harrison | 23 May 2008
Simple but engrossing, even for those who aren't avid followers of the Timelord's adventures
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