Friday, 14 September 2012

Star Trek: 25th Anniversary (MS-DOS)

Star Trek 25th Anniversary Enhanced CD-Rom title screen
I just found out it's the 46th anniversary of Star Trek, so I though I'd celebrate this monumental occasion by playing an original series Trek game. Okay maybe I'm a few days late, but apparently the original version of the game came out an entire year late (and the other versions even later), so hey I'm not doing so bad.

This is the PC/Amiga/Mac game I'm playing by the way. There's two other games with the same name, one for NES and one on the Game Boy, but it seems that they're all entirely different.

Star Trek 25th Anniversary intro orbit
Amiga
The game begins with the original TV series intro remade with Wing Commander style scaling sprites. The CD version actually has a proper narration by William Shatner as well. Also the proper theme from the series... in midi! Can't screenshot a voiced narration though, so I've used a screenshot from the voice-less Amiga version instead. So far they both look absolutely identical to me.

It's not just Shatner doing voices, they've got the entire original series cast and... hang on, these text boxes are automatically closing after they've finished their lines. Message boxes aren't subtitles, they should only close when I'm done reading them!

Hang on, the Republic is arming weapons? Crap, they've thrown me straight into a mock battle with another starship and I don't even know how to raise shields. I've only just turned the game on!

Star Trek 25th Anniversary PC bridge
I have played this game before, a long long while ago, and I remember there being keyboard shortcuts for most commands. So I just need to keep hitting keys until I figure them out again.

Okay, W and S has gotten the weapons and shields on line, I'm steering with the mouse, and the mouse buttons are firing phasers and torpedoes. See, spaceships aren't so hard to figure out.

Actually it has the same mouse control system that Freelancer used a decade later. I'm actually aiming the weapon crosshair with the mouse, and the further I pull it off center, the faster the ship turns. So basically the ship naturally ends up pointing towards whatever I'm shooting at. I've never found a better way to dogfight using a mouse, so no complaints here.

Hey, I managed to switch to viewscreen cam as well. Look at those beautiful high definition watercolour explosions.

Well it's nice not to be stuck peering out through a tiny letterbox view, but I've noticed one small downside: there's no radar. If my evil twin flies off screen for a second I've lost him.

Star Trek 25th Anniversary Amiga bridge
Amiga
Does this guy ever fly the right way up? I'm starting to wonder whether it's him or me that's upside down.

Anyway, sensors report that the USS Republic is covered in flashy red blocks now, and if I know anything about sci-fi games that means this fight should be over soon. It's funny how my phaser beams are as slow as the photon torpedoes. I don't know if there's any difference in range or power, but it feels like I'm just firing off red bullets and blue bullets.

Oh, this is a screenshot from the 1994 Amiga version again by the way, showing off the awesome graphics power of the new AGA chipset (over a hundred colours on screen at once!) This was one of the first games for the system to require a hard drive, which the average Amiga gamer still wouldn't have owned. Kind of shows how left behind the poor machine was getting by this point.

I won the mock battle with the USS Republic just in time to get my new orders. Hey, this anonymous admiral actually has a pretty decent voice actor as well. Surprising for a game that pre-dates the PlayStation.

Okay, my mission is to go visit Pollux V, and sort out their antagonistic alien problem.

This bridge just looks like the original series set, except with a movie budget. Everything's bigger, and shinier, and looks like it's actually made of metal. They've even given Kirk a widescreen TV. Reminds me of Starfleet Academy on the SNES/32X.

Plus I have these cryptic icons popping up whenever I click on a crew member. Who knows what any of this does. Also I thought that mouse cursor was giving me a gold plated middle finger at first.

Okay Mr Sulu... or Mr Chekov, whichever one of you has the navigation button, set a course for Pollux V!

I finally managed to bring up the star map to set my course, and now I've come across the first real puzzle in the game: trying to figure out where I left the paper map with all the locations written on.

You see, this is the copy protection for the game. The stars are all unmarked and if I visit the wrong one bad things happen.

Star Trek 25th Anniversary Romulan viewscreen
Uh, I think I accidentally hit the space bar on the star map before setting the correct destination.

Well okay, all I have to do is fight off a pair of Romulan Birds of Prey. Shouldn't be so hard, not after my 30 seconds of mock battle training. I know how to raise shields and fire weapons from the start this time!

Star Trek 25th Anniversary Romulan cloaking bridge viewscreen
See, this is what happens when you go with a budget cloaking device. 'Invisibility' isn't so useful when you show up as a silhouette against anything that isn't pure black.

Well, time to make 300 or so alien crewmembers pay the ultimate price for my dumb mistake on the navigation console.


LATER.


I actually managed to blow up both the Romulan ships and then quickly ran away to Pollux V where it's safe. Hopefully neither of them managed to contact home to report what attacked them or else I might have just triggered a full-scale interstellar war.

That's Pollux V behind me, by the way. I'm just entering orbit now. It's a planet, in case you couldn't tell.

Amiga
Oh there you go, I've finally managed to find a difference in the Amiga version. The message boxes aren't semi-transparent.

Hey wait a minute, Uhura just told me I was being hailed by the High Prelate Robert Angiven, not some nameless priest. Get off my viewscreen. If your boss wants to send me a message, he can do it in person.

Okay, what other buttons do I have here. Scotty fixes things, Uhura chats to people... Hey, clicking on Spock lets me type in things to look up on the Enterprise library computer, like an early version of Mass Effect's codex. Okay Enterprise, lets see if you know... High Prelate Robert Angiven.

Wow. Okay Enterprise, you win this round. Alright, lets go beam down and solve this crisis then.

Star Trek 25th Anniversary Transporter room
It's a bit of a shame that I can only tell what characters they're meant to be by the colour of their shirts, but then there's not much you can do with a 10 pixel wide face. Nice transporter effect though.

Now I'm on the planet, the game has turned into a point and click adventure game, where I control Kirk. I can choose between different tones of dialogue, ranging from 'something Captain Kirk would say' to 'something Captain Kirk wishes he could say'. It's a bit more Mass Effect than Monkey Island in how the conversations go, except that I get to see exactly what he's going to say before he says it. And poor William Shatner had to read out all of it.

Hey, we brought a redshirt! That's pretty cool. I wonder how long I can keep him alive.

Prelate Angiven explains that his people have been attacked by literal demons, and that I should go and chat with them for more information. His people I mean, not the demons. Also one of his group was trapped during the attack and ended up being left behind, but I think I should get some intel first before rushing off on a dangerous rescue mission.

Well talking to people turned out to be a waste of time. Everyone's too busy moping around or being wounded to help me out. Though Doctor McCoy tells me that if I can find a certain type of berry, he can synthesise a cure for the sick man.

One of the space monks helpfully points out that he knows where the berries grow: in front of a gate to hell guarded by demons. Let's put that that one on the back burner for now then.

I wish they wouldn't get into formation every time I walk into a room, it's holding up my adventuring. Okay, well this room seems filled with potentially useful things that are absolutely no use to me at the moment. The computer does nothing at all, I've got nothing to do on the workbench, and the glass cabinet is locked.

Oh by the way, that golden torso up there is my interface to issue commands. I click on the eyes to look at things, the mouth lets me talk, and the hand holding a ball is the shot put command. I can also use my crew on things, for instance Spock is good with tech, Dr. McCoy has medical skills, and Ensign Everts makes a good human shield.

So I'm headed off towards the mountain then, to rescue this poor monk/pick some berries. Whichever I find first. Fortunately I can save the game, so I'm in no danger of the demons ending my Trek prematurely.

Star Trek 25th Anniversary inventory
Oh shit, pop up Klingons! Fortunately they're just kind of standing around right now, looking confused, so I've got plenty of time to dig around in my inventory to pull out a weapon. I think I'll go with.... the lime flavour phaser this time.

Amiga
Meanwhile, over in the Amiga universe, I left it just a little too late to draw my pistol, and poor Ensign Everts paid the price for my deliberate indecision.

But it turns out their weapons were set to stun, so our redshirt still lives! For now.

You never know when you might need a Klingon's detached hand.

Oh by the way, these guys turned out to be fake Klingons. Robot doppelgängers. Spock finds it interesting that the god-fearing space monks saw demons, while the Starfleet officers met enemy soldiers. He claims he has a theory about what's going on, but of course we're not allowed to hear it until we figure it out for ourselves.

Star Trek 25th Anniversary he's dead jim
Amiga
But then, in the Amiga universe, some careless rock shooting by Captain Kirk leaves him in the path of a rogue boulder! Ensign Redshirt heroically dives into the way, and fate finally finishes him off. Bones takes a minute out of his busy schedule to give him a quick scan with his tricorder, but even an expert in 23rd century medicine has to admit he's just roadkill.

Wow, I've only just noticed how tight those uniforms look. You can see Kirk's ribcage sticking through. Actually I think that might be Kirk's stunt double.

Anyway, back in the PC universe, Ensign Everts is still alive and well, and we've even rescued the trapped space monk. But I'm not going to get any further unless I can figure out how to use this HAND security panel.

Now, what do I have with me that can be used on a hand scanner? Hmmmmm.

No, I didn't mean YOU Everts, I was trying to... damn!

Everts walked off and got himself electrocuted by the hand scanner. And lived! Amazingly I still have my redshirt. But I'm going to have to fix this fake Klingon hand if I want to to get inside. Hey, wasn't there a workbench all the way back at the monks' base?

Back at monk HQ, Spock is able to fix the fake Klingon hand to be functional enough to activate the hand scanner. Though I'm still not sure why it has to be working to read correctly in the machine. Maybe he just glued a finger back on or something.

Now that the Brother Stephen is around, I was finally able to unlock his junk museum, but there's nothing much of interest in there. I grabbed some stuff anyway, though the monk made me promise to bring it back after I'm done with it.

Right, now I've got to walk all the way back down to that cave again. That's probably the worst bit of this game so far, that it takes so long to get around.


LATER, BACK AT THE CAVE.


That's interesting. It turns out that the 'gateway to hell' actually led to a bunker created by a highly advanced civilization! It's weird how often that happens.

Spock says that the slider puzzle on that machine on back wall shouldn't be hard to figure out. The clue is in the diagram above it.

Straight away I figured out that the solution must be to adjust the coloured bars to display the amount each corresponding object is lit. The yellow sun is fully lit, the red moon is half lit, and the blue planet is one sixth in darkness.

Totally wrong.

After a few minutes of just trying things at random I gave up and looked up the answer. Turns out all the bars must be set to '1'. And I honestly don't get why. It's the first actual puzzle in the entire game, and even knowing the answer I'm still entirely lost. Not really a good sign.

Uh, that's not how we shake hands on my planet.

Anyway, everything worked out fine in the end. Turns out that the fake demons and pop-up Klingons were of course generated by a security system designed to imitate a person's worst fears to scare them off. Resetting the computer system has turned them off, and awakened this hibernating alien who immediately wants to join Kirk's Federation. He's been asleep for thousand of years though, so it's a mystery to me how he even know what the fuck a Federation is.
"Hi I've just woken up from a thousand years of suspended animation, but I assume you guys are representatives of a vast interstellar alliance of planets, and I think I speak for my entire race when I say that we'd like to join immediately."
"Well I've no idea about your civilization or culture, for all I know you could be a janitor looking after a society of fascist xenophobic cannibals, but I see no reason why we can't put you on the fast track to membership. I'll get the paperwork sent over right away, and by the time the rest of your people wake up you'll be able to tell them they're now governed by an alien council."
But it's not my problem, I'm out of here! And I'm not even going to give Brother Stephen his junk back. Kirk to Enterprise, four to beam up. Yes Enterprise, Ensign Everts is still alive.

Woo, 97% performance, plus 3 commendation points, whatever they are. Starfleet really seem to appreciate it when you bring their redshirts back in one piece. Nice to know they're not angry about all that business with the Romulans earlier.

And that's the end of the first story. Each section of the game is its own self contained episode, so the next chapter is an entirely unrelated crisis in some other corner of space. Seems a good place to stop playing.


I think as point and click adventure games go, 25th Anniversary seems fairly average. It has solid graphics, sound, voice acting and it even made me smile at times. Intentionally. But on the other hand it also has a lot of tedious walking between screens, and some frustrating space shooter levels. Overall though I think out of all the Trek games I've played so far, this actually comes closest to capturing the feeling of the TV series, though for some reason all the actors sound 25 years older than they should...

Oh right, I guess it's earned a gold star. Though I'm sure I'd change my mind about that in a hurry once the space combat levels begin getting serious. I hear they get ridiculously tough later.

8 comments:

  1. Not bad graphics for such an early game

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  2. In all honestly, the best Star Trek game ever made. They actually seemed to know what they were doing with the license.

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  3. This and Judgement Rites (sequel/mission disk) are my favourite Trek games. You're right about them capturing the feel of the tv show.

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  4. I'm a huge Star Trek fan. This is one of my favorite pc games! I still enjoy playing it to this day as well!

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  5. I used to play this game as a kid back in the early 90s. I just loaded it back up on my computer, emulated with DosBox, and had some fun with it. What a blast from the past! This game is actually very entertaining and well-made.

    It really captures the "feel" of the original Star Trek and there are many interesting variations throughout the game, such as engaging in dialogue with different people at different times, looking at things, using various inventory items in combination with different people, etc.

    Thanks for the write-up!

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  6. Found this CD-Rom in a stack of music CDs at a thrift store, this write-up helped equally as much as a scanned copy of the manual that I found online. I played a few 90's dos games as a kid, but I wasn't a Star Trek fan back then. :) I just finished the first mission and I look forward to playing this game.

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    Replies
    1. I KNEW that if I kept writing about games for long enough I'd eventually be helpful to someone!

      Good luck with the game, especially those later space fights.

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