First things first, I’m not the biggest James Bond fan in the world. I’ve seen all the movies a fair few times. They’ve been repeated endlessly on TV for many years so it’s hard to avoid them. And unlike many gamers out there I haven’t actually ever played the original Goldeneye for N64. That may be a shocking revelation to many of you out there (I was far too busy playing Final Fantasy and Tomb Raider on the PS1), but do not let it demolish your obviously high opinion of me. To be fair, neither of these points make any difference on my thoughts on Top Trumps- James Bond, which, if nothing else, is a great big trump of a game.
Okay I’ll keep the flatulence jokes to the bare minimum from here on in. For those unfamiliar with the Top Trumps trading cards legacy, it dates back to the late 70’s and was popular through to the early 90’s. Bands of schoolboys collected the cards and competed against other friend’s cards with stats and numbers. Think early Pokemon. The franchise was relaunched in 1999 by company Winning Moves, and has since expanded, not only into an endless list of genres and deck themes, but more recently into videogames. In February 2010 a ‘Ben 10’ edition was released as an app for iPhone, and now the James Bond edition has arrived. To be honest, I’m surprised that more haven’t surfaced in the 16-month gap between the two releases so far.
I know as a rule app games are generally lower spec than your average console or handheld game, but this is verging on basic. And even what is here isn’t done terribly well. From the warped remix of the original James Bond theme (seriously, it sounds closer to something from an 8-bit Castlevania than James Bond, but hey-ho) to the low-res card graphics used, I would have thought they could bash out a new Top Trumps app every couple of months. I question is the demographic this game is aimed at. I mean I know many will think this is purely for James Bond or Top Trumps fans, but I’m uncertain that either of those groups would get that much out of this either.
The basic premise of gameplay here remains unchanged from the early days of the card game. You are dealt a share of a pack of about forty themed cards, in this case characters from the James Bond films, from Dr No right up to Casino Royale. Some faces and names you will recognise from the films, even if you have seen only a few, but generally who they are is irrelevant. What matters here is the numbers. Each card has six categories, and a number for each that relates to the character on the card. These are date of Appearance, personal Style, Seduction, Brutality, how Twisted they are, and their Threat level. Although what the difference between “Brutality” and “Twistedness” is, is beyond me. And come to think of it you can’t be much of a “Threat” without being primarily brutal and twisted.
You see this is where the game begins to unravel slightly. The categories don’t quite work together to create a balanced deck. Of course some cards are better than others, but some of the characters have such low scores in almost every category that it is almost impossible to use them. When you go head to head with an opponent’s card, you choose which category you think your card is strongest on. If you win, you get to choose the category in the next round. If your opponent wins, they will more than likely hand the playing field back to you within three turns because the AI is as thick as Jaws’ cranium. I find there to be very little challenge in the game unless you are jazzing it up with some of the different game modes (more on those later).
I just struggled to find anything interesting about it, or even a desire to want to play. If you’re playing a full game with a deck of thirty-something cards, and your opponent does get a lucky win on a round here and there, on the odd occasion when one James Bond incarnation is slightly more stylish than another James Bond incarnation, then you can find yourself in a stalemate. Even if you have a good winning streak, one game certainly isn’t a fast affair.
The number system doesn’t help when you first get to play the game. As oppose to opting for a consistent numbering system for each category, such as a percentage score or an integer out of ten, each stat has it’s own scoring method. So while Style is scored as marks out of ten (I presume, not that anyone gets any higher than a seven), Seduction is scored out of fifty or so, and Threat around two hundred and fifty. The Appearance category is most confusing, as to win on this stat you have to be a more recent character, so Daniel Craig as James Bond will win over Roger Moore as James Bond, which is just bonkers. Also, all of the Bond’s have a score of 0 for Threat. Now I know Bond isn’t the “baddie” of the piece, but he certainly must be a threat to his enemies. And why does Q have Threat score of 15 at all? The arbitrary placement of figures is just mad.
There are special “power-ups” just to really tip the balance of gameplay, but I end up not using them, mostly because they’re rather forgettable and tucked away to the left of the screen a bit, just where my left thumb hovers. “Power Ups” include being able to increase a card’s stats by 10%, or let you peek at an opponent’s card. These are easy to abuse, as the 10% one adds the extra tenth to the year the character first appears. Quick example being that Dr. No, first seen in the year 1962, gets an increase to 2158. Therefore, even if you get lumped with one of the rubbish cards, like Miss Moneypenny or M, just up their stats and watch them win on the Appearance category. Speaking of M, Judi Dench has a Seduction score just three points higher than Jaws, yet five lower than Goldfinger. Cripes that’s a bad three-way waiting to happen…
You can play the game in Quick mode, using just a handful of cards each. Classic mode, as listed above. Remix, using a Wheel of Fortune style power-up system to pump some life (or, indeed, AI-friendly assistance) into the game, or Time Attack, a short-duration game challenging you to score as highly as possible, as quickly as possible. There is a fair amount of playability to be had if you want to check everything out, get some high scores, or even play against a friend or two. To really enjoy this game it is not necessary to be a James Bond or Top Trumps fan, but for a short burst of number related fun, for perhaps passing the time while strapped to a Death Laser, or using it to ward off sharks in the tank you stepped in to because you were too busy staring at your phone, feel free to give the game a go. It’ll certainly help you solve those age-old arguments, like who would catch your eye faster and give you a cheeky wink in a crowded cocktail bar, Oddjob or Nick Nack?
MLG Rating: 4/10
Platform: iPhone Release Date: 30/06/2011
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a digital copy of Top Trumps – James Bond for review purposes by the promoter. The title was reviewed over the course of one week on a iPhone. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.