Star Trek has endured all kinds of shapes and forms for many decades now, starting off as a low budget tv show in the late 1960s, then finding a resurgence over 10 years later in a brief animated stint and then being catapulted onto the big screen with six movies. That original series was also followed up with several Trek serials set 100 years later, what with The Next Generation, Deep Space 9 and Voyager, went back to the pre-Federation days of Enterprise, a series of Next Generation movies, and got reborn again in 2009 with a big budget movie franchise with a new Captain Kirk-era crew.
Likewise, the Trek video games have also come in all shapes and forms as well, probably starting with a Trek ASCII computer game as it’s earliest incarnation, along with those with barely any graphics at all (Phaser Strike for the blocky Microvision) to a couple of arcade ventures (Sega’s Star Trek Strategic Operations Simulator and the later Voyager two decades later), computer DOS and Nintendo NES offerings, 16 bit console games (Deep Space 9 and Next Generation games for the Sega Genesis and Nintendo SNES), surviving through polygon offerings (Sega 32X and Windows Starfleet Academy), bridge and mission simulators (Captain’s Chair and the Starship Creator programs, respectively), and even Star Trek quiz shows and learning Klingon (!) cd programs…among all kinds of other Trek stuff in between and beyond.
Star Trek has been through so many gaming incarnations that it also hit the vector sector (oy, pardon me for that bad rhyming pun) with the aforementioned Sega arcade game and Star Trek The Motion Picture (aka Star Ship in the overseas markets) on the Vectrex.
This game took on the persona of one of those kind of movie licenses where the game didn’t really have anything to do with the movie, as Star Trek/Star Ship is just constant battles, yet there was barely a battle at all in the movie (unless you count the one during the first few minutes with the Klingon ship vs. V’Ger, which you probably shouldn’t). Plus the Romulans never even MADE it to a big screen Star Trek movie until the fourth Star Trek: The Next Generation movie was released as well, years and years after this game came and went.
Anyway, getting to this release, this is a cockpit-viewed simulator where the player controls the Enterprise, mainly the ship’s photon torpedoes and shields. Wave after wave of Klingons and Romulans (the kind of enemies you face depends on what sector you’re in, as they alternate) attack, and you must blow ’em all away in order to advance to the next sector. Guess you’re not in that all-friendly Neutral Zone…
If you last long enough, you also get to face a vicious mother ship, who spews both Klingon and Romulan weaponry at you like there’s no tomorrow (or no Trek sequel to be seen, which is unlikely). It kind of makes you wonder what her problem is, but perhaps it’s because it took so incredibly long for the Romulans to make it onto the big screen, or maybe they weren’t made into enough favorable Trek merchandise or something. (Oh yeah, all the Trek merchandise of model kits, shirts, the mega rare [and really expensive nowadays] Trek band-aids, comic books, non-video games, etc., etc. would add another page or so to this review just by barely skimming over it all, so never mind!)
Your photon torpedoes and shields are limited (indicated by lines near the bottom of the screen), which, once you run out of one or both, you’re as dead a duck as one of the Enterprise members in a red shirt (note: the Trekkers would get that reference), as your viewing screen will crack, Battlezone-style, when you get smacked with a weapon while your shields aren’t up. You can dock with a starbase once per sector if you’re lucky, but it has this revolving docking door that’s rather tricky to latch onto, as you have to use the link command in order to dock to replenish your shields and torpedoes (which also doubles in linking with a black hole to transport you to the mother ship battle). Using shields is also a bit strange, since your cursor just grows in size, indicating they’re in use, no automatic shields here from engineer Scott. (I guess he’s on vacation, hopefully trying to land himself a babe, since, as us Trekkers know, Captain Kirk hogs them all to himself.)
The graphics serve fairly well, although there isn’t a lot of detail to them in general, especially with the Klingons just looking like outlines of ships (kind of the stick figures of spaceships, if you will), as they look about as wimpy as a Tribble (note: this doesn’t include the Star Trek Debugged hack, giving the Klingons a more ‘full’ look, along with adding a welcome pause feature). However, the way they bank around and all is pretty cool (try comparing that to the enemy ships of the similar Atari 2600 game StarMaster that came out in roughly the same time period, which the ships just got bigger or smaller, no breaking of formation or anything like that). The starbase looks cool though, even though it looks like a Mexican sombrero at the same time, and the mother ship, as I said earlier, looks especially vicious. The control’s also perfect, and the sounds are pretty good, especially with a nice recreation of a few bars from the movie theme during the title screen and when you warp through a black hole.
This game would get a 7 from me; however, there’s a bit of a problem in regards to not knowing how many enemy ships are left in a sector. At times you’d SWEAR there’s only one or two left, as you keep on flying around, looking for the space station to dock and replenish supplies before moving onto the next sector, but then more and more and more and more keep on appearing after you shot what you thought was only the last one or two ships left; WHAT IS THIS CRAP?! That happens quite a bit, which lowers my rating of this a little, since there’s no indicator of a ship count anywhere in this game. Other than that, this is a pretty solid mix of a shoot ’em up with a touch of strategy thrown in.
And, with this being one of the most common Vectrex games ‘out there’ (har), you can easily go where most men (and women) have gone before…but then, you know the rest anyway, if you’re at all familiar with Trek lore.
Review written by Daniel Foot
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