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It's quite hard to describe my feelings for Doctor Who in a way that does not include the phrase "unhealthy obsession." I have waited many a year for a decent Doctor Who video game and Doctor Who: Top Trumps on the Wii, DS and PS2 is the first such option since the series returned in 2005. Of course, I'm somewhat torn since I don't much care for Top Trumps and I get disproportionately angry at cheap cash-in merchandise.
Still, I decided to pick this up out of curiosity more than anything else. After tip-toing between the different version, I settled on the DS. I can't imaging Top Trumps pushes the boat out graphically enough on the Wii to justify the extra pennies and the touch screen seemed like a good choice for a card based video game. So, how is it? Rubbish... obviously.
Doctor Who: Top Trumps is one of those classic examples of when merchandising goes wrong. Firstly, it is based on what is already a pretty terrible piece of licensing. Top Trumps has been going for longer than I've been alive and despite the presence of much more interesting, well though out card games on the market now, it seems intent to claw some of the market share by optioning to rights to stick any tat on its cards. BBC Worldwide, ready as ever to stick the Doctor Who name on anything, were laughing all the way to the bank. For those of you who haven't played Top Trumps, happy people with lots of interesting things to do in their spare time, the game is very simple. One collects cards based on a theme, for example; cars. Each card will display a model of car along with a few statistics about its engine, top speed etc. Players get together in a group to play, each puts down a card, a category is picked such as horse power, the player who holds the card with the highest horse power wins and collects everyone else's cards. Doctor Who Top Trumps is that, but with Doctor Who characters/monsters and categories such as "height" or "monster rating." And that's it. Of course the game isn't really the main focus, rather the fun is in collecting the cards. Usually the themes encompass a huge range of cards and as always, children love collecting these sort of licensed trinkets; be it the old cigarette cards or even pogs. Fans of Doctor Who can collect all their favourite monsters and companions and so Top Trumps still appeals to the little collectors.
Doctor Who: Top Trumps on the DS is that game. Except you don't get any real cards so there's no fun in collecting them. Starting up the game, you're greeted by the 2007 version of the theme tune and some nice themed menus that all operate via the touch screen. Things are easy enough to use and the graphics are clean and sharp, still they don't make use of the DS' 3D capabilities in any way so they should be. Once into the game things are very simple, holding the DS like a book you are shown your card (randomly drawn) on the right. You then pick from the list of categories, your opponents card is then shown on the left. Some attempt to liven things up is introduced through the "special skills" feature, this gives each card a special skill that might help you win, it might increase one of your own attributes or affect your enemy's card. It doesn't really make much of a difference as it amounts to little more than a randomly obtained advantage in a game of chance. There's no skill required to win at Doctor Who: Top Trumps and no mistakes to contribute to your downfall. You just draw cards, pick categories, win or lose. The goal is to work through these "battles," winning enough to work through the laughably short main game. There is no attempt at a loose story mode, no real rewards for finishing the game an not much else to do. Even if you happen to really enjoy Top Trumps in real life, Top Trumps offers no incentive for winning and ultimately no reward.
I'm sure some of you reading this will probably think I'm being unfair, it is after all a game rated 3+, based on a simple card game. However, I have a very good reason for believing games such as this can offer more to children (and adults.) As you are no doubt aware, the most successful collectable card game for a long time was the Pokemon Trading Card Game. A very well designed card game that offered both a simple yet varied gaming experience and the collectability kids love. It arrived at the peak of the franchise's popularity and was also largely responsible for the massive Pokemon backlash, it was however, a nifty little card game. What you may not know is that the was a video game for the original Gameboy based on the Pokemon Trading Card Game. Ostensibly, Doctor Who: Top Trumps and The Pokemon Trading Card Game are intended to fulfil the same demand and replicate the fun of the real life game in an authentic way. Where the Pokemon version differed however was in offering a fully developed role playing game as well designed as any RPG on the Gameboy before it. The player controlled a character who traveled the world trading cards, competing in tournaments and hunting down rare cards. It had a witty and original story, an adventure and all the fun of collecting in a handheld game. It replicated the card game perfectly in battles but also succeeded as a game in its own right, something Doctor Who: Top Trumps fails to do. It always feels like a smaller part of a much bigger game.
A lot of effort has gone into making Top Trumps a well presented affair on the DS. Sound quality is nice for the console, lots of familiar effects from the series crop up and it uses a nice strong interface to keep things playable. The problem is that the core game is so tedious that it barely kept me interested. I don't know how a child would fare with this game but frankly I wouldn't risk shelling out the £15 to find out.
I first brought this game for a budget price of 15.00 otherwise I do not think I would have purchased it. I love The Dr who series on TV. And when I first saw there was a Doctor who game out for the Ds I thought "Great" but then I read further and saw it was a top trumps game! Of all the fantastic games they could make with the Doctor Who licensee they chose a boring top trumps game?? I could have been using my sonic screwdriver, blasting cyber men and Daleks and get to pilot the TARDIS but know instead I get to pick stats from a picture card....
Well after you get over the face that this is just a top trumps game you might be pleasantly surprised it is a well made top trumps game and for what it is it works well.
It is multi player so you can play with friends over Nintendo Wi-Fi which in my opinion is the best way to play. But even in single player it is strangely addictive you get to play all sorts of different characters from the Doctor himself to the cybermern.
And each character has a special player they can use during play. Such as the doctor can travel forward in time and see your next 3 cards and the daleks can use "exterminate" which beats all butte strongest cards.
There are also various poseurs you get from playing the single player game which you collect from progressing. Such as health items that bring your special attack power to the max, and poweups that put the card in play to the back of your pack if you don't like the look of it.
The Cards themselves look straight scans from the original top trumps Doctor Who card game and have the same pictures and stats.
The sound is passable with voice samples now and then and the Doctor Who theme sampled well
Graphics do the job and have a pleasant enough style to them
Game play is just like playing top trumps in real life if you switch off the power ups.
Overall the game is ok but I don't see why you would choose to play this over a real deck of Top Trumps. That being said it is strangely addictive in one player mode and hard to put down.
Very disappointed when given all the options for Doctor Who Franchise they chose a card game?