Written by: Stoo

Date posted: August 12, 2002

Target their…engines!… Mr Chekov!

Okay, so the original Star Trek is looking a bit wobbly these days. In all fairness it’s hard not to laugh at Bill Shatner’s overacting, and the rubber aliens that chased him around shouting “raaar”,. Still, you can’t deny it was good fun, and quite forward thinking for the 1960s. Besides, cardboard planets aside, at least the storylines were better than much of Voyager…

There have been quite a few Star Trek games in recent years, and from what I’ve seen, most of them seem to hover around “pretty good, but not great” on the gaming-o-meter. At the risk of being cynical, Trek games are probably seen as an easy route to cash by games companies, as they don’t need to sweat too much over producing a top notch game. Just as long as it’s not really terrible then Trek-loving gamers will lap it up, and in all honesty there’s no shortage of that kind of customer. So we’ve seen Trek games in the genres of space-combat sims, RTS, FPS and more. Only rarely are they really impressive, but seldom truly awful too, they all end up somewhere in between. Still, if we turn the clock back a little, one or two examples appear that stood out in their time.

An unexpected encounter with Klingons.

25th Anniversary gets off to a good start, with as faithful a rendition of the opening title sequences of Star Trek as you could expect from VGA graphics and midi music. If you’ve got the “talkie” version of the game, the final important component is there too: Bill himself uttering that famous introduction, boldly splitting the infinitive. This is quite an appropriate way to begin the game, as it’s split into a number of missions, each laid out in the style of an episode from the show. You begin each mission with the bridge of the Enterprise before you, crew going out their business on some routine patrol or exploration. There’s then a call from Starfleet to investigate some incident or respond to a distress call. On your way there, you may well have to take command in a fight with some enemy ships. The next step is to beam down to a planet or another ship to deal with case in hand. This accomplished, it’s back to the ship for some jovial banter and on to the next episode.

So lets take a closer look at the various aspects of the game. Firstly, the space-combat sections which are fairly brief and simple. It’s really just a case of clobbering a couple of enemy ships for getting in your way, then carrying on with the mission. With fairly simplistic controls, objectives and flight model, we’re not exactly talking I-War here. Still, it exercises your trigger finger, and you get to give the “raise shield” order and hear Scotty moan about how she canna take much more captain. Meanwhile Spock hands out useful bits of advice and Klingons gloat at you on the viewscreen. So it provides for a fun distraction, and has an authentic feel of trek-ness about it, just don’t go expecting some kind of detailed Enterprise simulator.

Starfleet is meant to be dedicated to peaceful exploration, so try not to shoot every alien that you meet.

Now, the meat of the game is in the away missions, where it turns into a point-and-click adventure. You take control of James T Kirk, with McCoy, Spock and a hapless redshirt security guy tagging along. It’s a bright and cheerful affair, and does a great job of capturing the spirit of the TV show. You’ll find yourself meeting powerful beings, helping beleaguered colonists, and encountering exotic alien technologies. There’s some mildly demanding puzzle-solving along the way, which your comrades will offer hints to. I can safely say I was rarely resorting to the tactics of clicking each item in the inventory on every feature in the room, the bane of my adventure-gaming experiences, as the puzzles here are generally quite logical. It can get mildly challenging at times, but nothing too hardcore. Bear in mind that each mission is self-contained, so there’s no really lengthy sequences of actions to try and figure out.

Of course, since we’re in Captain Kirk territory, there’s a few opportunities for blasting as well as puzzling. In couple of places it pays to be quick on the draw with a phaser. Then again, perhaps it’s better not to end up needing weapons in the first place. You see there’s often more than one way to get past a certain situation, one of which is a “preferable” solution. At the end of each mission you are given a score by starfleet, and also up to 4 commendation points based on that score. These points are supposed to improve Enterprise’s performance in the space-combat sections, although I can’t say for certain that I noticed the difference. Note that if any of the three important guys dies on an away mission, it’s game over, but no such importance is placed on the poor devoted redshirt. Very true to form.

The game opens with a faithful vga-and-midi rendition of the classic Trek intro.

So then, 25th Anniversary is a faithful gaming rendition of the TV show. It makes good use of all the best bits – the humour, bickering between Spock and McCoy, the exotic locations and creatures. At the same time, despite being primitive graphically it can still happily dodge the not-so-great aspects of Trek, i.e. rubber suited monsters and dodgy-looking sets. All in all it’s a fairly uncomplicated romp through Trek, in fact it’s maybe a little too easy up to a point. You’ll probably find a couple of evenings’ playing will take you right up to the end, when you suddenly hit a bastard-hard final battle. So the long-term appeal factor is in all fairness limited. Still the game is good fun, and it feels like a real episode from TOS, which some of you will think is great, and others will run like hell from. Anyway, there have been since then Trek games that are far better technically but feel like entirely soulless affairs. At least this one has some character.