Today marks Star Trek’s 50th Anniversary and 24 years ago, in 1992, Interplay released Star Trek: 25th Anniversary helping to celebrate the franchise’s birthday, an adventure game that was mostly point ‘n click puzzle solving with a smattering of arcade tested reflexes. The game was initially released on 3.5″ disks in 1992 but later took advantage of the rising acceptance of CD-ROM tech to include voiced lines alongside enhanced sound and music effects. Though it just missed the 25th anniversary year, the game still stands out as one of the best Trek games in its long history making it well worth the wait.
Trek has actually had a lengthy history when it comes to games with titles ranging from an arcade shooter to text-based adventures like Trans Fiction Systems’ Star Trek: The Promethean Prophecy from 1986 which made the most of its story-focused format. And in 1992, Interplay would tap back into that adventurous angle with their 25th Anniversary homage.
The game centered on the TOS crew (TOS is an acronym that means “the original series”) of Captain Kirk, Spock, Dr. McCoy, Uhura, Chekov, Sulu, Scotty, and a cast of other familiar faces scattered throughout the game’s seven episodes. It was arranged like a short season which each episode taking place after one another with unique challenges and mysteries to solve, just like the original series. There are even neat references to later events in the Trek franchise, such as an early prototype of the Genesis Project being worked on in the third episode.
One of the great things about the game was its attention to detail to the original series right down to the tricorder’s sound effects, the wooshing doors, McCoy needling Spock every now and then, and even the musical cues for when the crew encounters danger in the field or a strange, new “thing” that they need to figure out. But the game also does a fantastic job in capturing the sense of wonder and exploration that Trek is known for with the stories behind each episode.
Although Kirk will do most of the talking (as usual), players can occasionally pick certain responses that range from interested queries to being a double dumb ass with as much diplomatic tact as a neutron star. By picking certain icons in your ‘inventory’, such as a tricorder, players can get the different members of your team to do things from scanning patients with McCoy or investigating plants and strange materials with Spock. Everyone will also have something to say in character, helping to make each episode feel like slices from the original show that never made it on air.
For example, in the episode “Feathered Serpent”, players are tasked by Starfleet to discover why the Klingons are sending a fleet chasing after a person they blame for the destruction of a planet in their space. It has a number of neat twists, not the least of which is that the person they are after is a humanoid alien that has visited Earth before as the Aztec god, Quetzalcoatl, but the ending is as unexpected as anything in Trek as Kirk faces off against a vengeful Klingon admiral.
Players were also “graded” on how well they did after each mission by Starfleet Command who gives them a percentage and a number of commendation points. Neither has any real impact on the game other than how the crew is evaluated at the end, but the ‘grade’ is affected by subtle things that the crew deals with from Kirk’s answers in dialogue to whether or not you’ve gotten someone killed…like a red shirted security guard.
The only thing about the game that I really didn’t like were the arcade space combat sequences. There’s just no way around them. No toggle to skip them for players that prefer to concentrate more on the game’s excellent stories and not-too-brutal puzzle solving than deal with a clumsy space fighter sim. If I wanted to play a space sim, I’d go back to Wing Commander.
The classic still holds up reasonably well today with its icon-driven menu system and neat, puzzle-driven stories that do the originals justice in capturing the spirit Roddenberry created them with. It also wasn’t the only “25th Anniversary” game.
Interplay also worked on a version for the Nintendo Entertainment System which came out in 1991 (which was the actual 25th anniversary year) and was dramatically different from this one featuring an adventure centered on a single storyline. Another “25th Anniversary” game was also released on the Nintendo Game Boy in February of 1992, this one also very different from both the NES and PC versions…and which received blistering reviews. Of the three “25th Anniversary” titles, the PC version easily stood out.
Players today can snag the game from both GOG and Steam, two digital distribution services. Though it’s been 25 years, and if you can stomach the space battle clunkiness, exploring the unknown with this crew is still one of the best ways to boldly go where no one has gone before.