Best Games - Star Trek : 25th Anniversary and Star Trek : Judgement Rites
There is a theory floating around that the music you listen to during your mid to late teens will shape your musical taste for the rest of your life. Some pattern of rhythms and tones gets etched directly into the topography of your brain, and any new music that fits that imprint will be much more appealing. If that’s true, and if it applies to media other than music, I have a Star Trek shaped valley in my brain.
My uncle would record Star Trek onto VHS tapes, label, organize, and store them in an end table cabinet. Netflix for me in 1990 was a VCR and every episode of Star Trek that had ever aired. I have watched all of the original series, Next Generation, and Deep Space Nine several times over. Voyager and Enterprise to a lesser extent, but I still found things to enjoy in those shows.
Video Games have a tendency to lean on the action and combat aspects of any other fiction that they adapt. It makes sense really. The typical input method of video games is joystick and button, and pressing a button doesn’t exactly lend itself to expressing the moral and intellectual grist of your average episode of Star Trek. The tools the player usually has to affect a game world are blunt and destructive. Shooting, punching, kicking, smashing, stabbing, are all a mainstay of video games, and none of them are really a big apart of Star Trek.
To be fair, Star Trek has a lot of space battles and punching, but all of that violence happens when diplomacy ends and intelligence fails. There is always a cost for violence in Star Trek. Most of the video game adaptations of Star Trek focus on combat, and it never feels right. These Star Trek themed combat games don’t fit in my Star Trek shaped hole.
Star Trek : 25th Anniversary and Star Trek : Judgement Rites are point and click adventure games. They tell tightly scripted stories and offer up simple puzzles for you to solve. The puzzles are fairly simple by adventure game standards, but they are logical and depend on a fair bit of character interaction and dialog. The characters from the original series are well represented, and even voiced by most of the original actors, even if they do phone in the performances. The games are broken up into several bite sized adventures that all begin with a title card and a captain's log voiceover or some other similar lead in technique lifted directly from the show. The games are designed to feel like the show, which goes a long way, but that isn’t what really makes them resonate as Star Trek.
At every step, these adventure games emphasize the use of intelligence and diplomacy over the use of force. They are written so that the characters and their interactions are more important than the mysteries being solved. The themes for each episode are high concept sci fi tropes, and occasionally a bit thin, but they make a good backdrop for Spock and McCoy’s brotherly bickering. If you can manage it, peaceful and clever solutions to every adventure will garner more rewards, and more importantly, keep your crew safe and your red shirts alive.
Other than Sam and Max Hit the Road, I think that Star Trek : 25th Anniversary might be the only adventure game that I have ever finished without ever looking up a single hint. Maybe that is because the game was quite easy or short, but I think it just felt so much like Star Trek that I was compelled to keep playing just to see what the characters would say and do next.
My adolescence has probably hardwired me to enjoy Star Trek in the same way as I enjoy Soundgarden songs, but I think I can still say that these are a couple of the best games.