Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Game 75: Star Trek: 25th Anniversary - Introduction (1992)

Written by Joe Pranevich


Adventure games… the final frontier...

It’s a wonderful coincidence that we are about to play this game, produced in honor of Star Trek’s 25th anniversary, shortly after that show’s 50th. I am thrilled to be able to play it for the blog! Star Trek has been a part of my life almost as long as I can remember. I watched the original show with my father as a kid, young enough that I would hide before the credits so that I did not have to see the “scary” face at the end. As a nine-year old, I debated the merits of the “old” and “new” Star Trek with my friends shortly after The Next Generation took the airwaves. As I grew up and the world became a more complicated place, Deep Space Nine infused that vision of the future with just enough darkness and complexity that I was hooked. By the Voyager finale, I was in the workforce and watched it surrounded by my friends and coworkers. Enterprise debuted on my birthday. It’s no exaggeration to say that Star Trek has been one of the yardsticks of my youth.

All that said, I had never even heard of this game before getting involved with the blog. I was aware of the Nintendo version, but I suspect that Paramount did themselves a disservice by releasing three different games with the same name. More on that in a bit, but the important thing is that I am coming into this fresh and excited. Did they build a fitting game to honor the silver anniversary of this beloved franchise?

Kirk, Spock, and McCoy: The Star Trek trinity

Not everyone out there is a “Trekkie” so I’ll recap the basics. Star Trek, the original series, debuted in September of 1966. It was the creation of Gene Roddenberry, a former World War II Air Force pilot and policeman who transitioned into writing for television. He envisioned something akin to “Wagon Train to the stars” for the series, mixing western and sci-fi tropes into a weekly anthology format where a core group of characters solve a challenge in the space-frontier involving the week’s guest cast. The show took place on the starship USS Enterprise and featured a core ensemble of Captain Kirk (played by William Shatner), science and first officer Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy), and Dr. McCoy (DeForest Kelley) with half a dozen more key secondary characters. Gene’s creation was an optimistic future where humans have their acts together in a United Nations-esque “Federation” of other worlds who share mankind’s interests in exploration. The show aired 79 episodes before its cancellation in 1969, although it found new life in syndication. It would be revived both in animated form (two seasons of which aired 1973-1974) and by a series of theatrical films from 1979 through 1991.

The next most important moment in the history of Trek came in 1987 with the debut of Star Trek: The Next Generation. After attempts to relaunch a series with the original cast failed, Gene Roddenberry advanced the timeline by a hundred years and built a new series with an all new cast, headlined by Patrick Stewart as Captain Picard on a more advanced version of the Enterprise. That show was a tremendous success and brought Star Trek literally to the “next generation” of fans. By the time of this game’s release, “TNG” was in its fifth season and was preparing to launch spin-offs of its own. We’ve since seen three more spin-offs (Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise) and a fourth (Discovery) is slated to air in January. We’ve also had seven more films: four starring the Next Generation crew plus three with an alternate timeline version of the Kirk/Spock/McCoy crew.


The very first Star Trek adventure game, published in 1985.

But you might not care about all that! What we care about here is adventure games. This is actually the sixth adventure game produced for Star Trek, the first five having been published by Simon & Schuster. Three of those were text adventures: The Kobayashi Alternative (1985), The Promethean Prophecy (1986), and First Contact (1988); and two were early point-and-click adventure titles, The Rebel Universe (1987) and The Transinium Challenge (1989). We have not looked at any of those titles before, nor have any of the developers from those titles worked on this one.

By 1992, Interplay seems to have won the Star Trek license from Simon & Schuster. We haven’t talked much about the history of adventure games at Interplay for one very good reason: there weren’t that many. By this point in their history, they were best known for their RPGs including Bard’s Tale, Swords and Serpents, Wasteland, and Lord of the Rings. So one of the biggest surprises for me was just how little adventure experience the team that built this game actually had. Of the five credited designers on this game-- Scott Bennie, Elizabeth T. Danforth, Jayesh J. Patel, Bruce Schlickbernd, and Michael A. Stackpole-- only Mr. Stackpole was credited with any adventure design for his work on a text adventure in 1985. (This was for 2010, based on the Arthur C. Clarke book and film.) Brian Fargo, the executive producer and CEO of Interplay, cut his teeth on adventure games with The Demon’s Forge (1981) and Tass Times in Tonetown (1986), but my guess is that he was not deeply involved with the day-to-day design of this game. The bottom line is that this game shares remarkably little DNA either with the preceding Star Trek adventure games nor any other adventures. The designers were working with both the Star Trek license and the adventure game format for the first time. What could possibly go wrong?


NES and Gameboy versions of this game are very different.

To add a further layer of confusion, there are three separate games called Star Trek: 25th Anniversary. In addition to a computer adventure game, there were separate Nintendo and Gameboy games produced. As far as I know, these games share nothing in common except the title. All three were released in 1992. I may take a closer look at them further down the road, but I’m avoiding them for now in case there are spoilers for the game that I am playing.

The manual explains some basics about the game: there are two modes of play, one on the bridge of the Enterprise and another when the crew is exploring a planet. The bridge sections let you talk with Spock (who accesses the library computer), Scotty (who reports on and repairs ship damage), Uhura (for communications), Sulu (controlling the helm and the ship’s shields), and Chekov (the star map and ship weapons). There is an awful lot in the manual about combat with other ships, how the shields and other systems work, and advice on not letting the enemy breach your hull. I have a feeling that ship-to-ship combat will be a major factor in this game. The controls in the exploration mode seem similar to others that we have played with left-click to move and right-click to access a menu of verbs. I’ll get a better feel for the interface when I play.

I also learn from the manual that the game consists of several “scenarios” and that we will get a rating at the conclusion of each one. It also recommends keeping a save from the beginning of each one as there may be multiple solutions. The stories in this game take place in the fourth year of the five year mission, so assumedly all after the TV series and well before the movies.


A lot of keyboard shortcuts. Will I have to remember them all?

Just as I did for some of my recent games, I’ll make some predictions:
  1. We will see major recurring characters or races from the original series. The manual already hinted at Klingons and Romulans so I’m going to wager that we’ll see others like Harry Mudd, Tholians, or Tribbles.
  2. There will be subtle (or unsubtle) references to The Next Generation characters or races.
  3. Red shirts will die!
  4. Even though the game is episodic, we will have a unifying plot or villain that spans multiple episodes. 
Before we begin, a couple of final notes: I will be playing the original 1992 version of this game and not the enhanced CD-ROM that came out later. If you are playing along with the GOG version, just be aware that I’m playing a less-enhanced edition of the game. At the conclusion of each post, I’ll try to also include any relevant Star Trek trivia that I find along the way.


Our first scenario! Sounds spooky!

I don’t think I can be much help in guessing the score this time. The only directly related game is Tass Times in Tonetown which scored a 47, but it was released six years earlier. Neuromancer scored a 43; it was also released by Interplay but had none of the same developers behind it. Good luck!

Note Regarding Spoilers and Companion Assist Points:
There's a set of rules regarding spoilers and companion assist points. Please read it here before making any comments that could be considered a spoiler in any way. The short of it is that no CAPs will be given for hints or spoilers given in advance of me requiring one. As this is an introduction post, it's an opportunity for readers to bet 10 CAPs (only if they already have them) that I won't be able to solve a puzzle without putting in an official Request for Assistance: remember to use ROT13 for betting. If you get it right, you will be rewarded with 20 CAPs in return.

It's also your chance to predict what the final rating will be for the game. Voters can predict whatever score they want, regardless of whether someone else has already chosen it. All correct (or nearest) votes will go into a draw. Mr. Valdez has also kindly donated a Humble Bundle key for Gemini Rue, which we will hand out as award for a person having the closest score guess (in case of several people having the closest guess, the award will be handed to only one of them).

40 comments:

  1. Exciting! I always wanted to play this, but reading about you doing so is almost as good. :)

    I think Discovery's been postponed until May 2017, now...

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    1. Oh. You are right. Drat. I was looking forward to it, but I suppose I can wait a few more months.

      Can you believe it's been more than 10 years since we had a real Star Trek on TV?

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    2. Kirinn: Don't forget to make a score guess if you'd like to play our game.

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    3. Well, there was a long time between TOS and TNG, so a 10+ year interim isn't entirely unheard of. I hope Discovery turns out all right.

      No guesses, I'm far too anxious for social activity like this. :p Re-engaging cloaking device...

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  2. Hey guys! Don't forget to put in your "full house" guesses over on our 1991/1992 post. We're accepting submissions until the SECOND final rating comes out, but the sooner the better. (http://advgamer.blogspot.com/2016/09/the-year-that-was-1991.html)

    I also want to thank Mr. Valdez again for donating the prize for Star Trek. Guess carefully!

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  3. "I will be playing the original 1992 version of this game and not the enhanced CD-ROM that came out later."

    Oh. :( I thought the presence of the original voice cast was by far the best part of the game...

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    1. I have both versions. I plan to do something like I did with SQ4 and review the enhanced version when I do the Final rating. But it's not that fair to rate a 1992 game with features that didn't appear until 1993/1994. (And it must have been late because the enhanced edition manual has an ad for the sequel.)

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    2. I understand; that was not a criticism of you. It's just that I didn't find the non-talkie version that great of an adventure game (just my opinion, of course, not an "absolute truth"), but the CD version -- basically the same game -- brought a smile to my face from the first minute on. :)

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  4. I think I've actually played a demo version of this game, didn't get far since I didn't understand english that well and I had no instructions so I had to learn the keyboard controls by testing them. I managed to get the shield to change colour from yellow to blue I think... still didn't help much since I didn't know what that did.

    And the dice says 50.

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  5. I remember enjoying this game very much, and I remember difficult puzzles...
    My guess is 60

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  6. I'm going to guess 63!

    I may also play along, although if I do I'll definitely go for the talkie version.

    Shame we didn't get anything similar for the 50th anniversary. Such an influential show.

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  7. I'll go 58. I know I played some of this or it's sequel on the Atari ST way back when. I never got a chance to finish it as it was borrowed and I had to give it back. I do remember enjoying it though, so when they showed up on Gog I snatched them up. Started to play and realised I'd have to read the manual to fly the Enterprise and haven't got back to it. Hopefully reading along will get me back into it.
    Also, I have to get back into following the blo\g more closely, I haven't been around here much for quite a while.

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    1. Nice to hear from you, Draconius! If you want to really immerse yourself in the TAG again, try guess which will be the best and which the worst games of the year 1992 in our Full House contest (there's a chance to win some CAPs throughout the year, if you make a full list). You'll find the rules in our latest Year That Was post:

      http://advgamer.blogspot.com/2016/09/the-year-that-was-1991.html

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  8. I vote 65! Like you I grew up with Star Trek and still love the original series the most. I remember playing this and enjoying it a lot - it has a unique feel about it that I think will tilt the rating in its favour, but I do remember the arcade sequences being a bit annoying. Excited to read these posts!

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  9. I used to occasionally watch Star Trek repeats on weekends when I was growing up, but I absolutely LOVED The Next Generation so really became a Star Trek fan then!

    I'm guessing 54. I've read good things about the game but have never played it myself.

    And I'll be playing along with the GOG talkie version.

    While I'm a little disappointed we won't officially be playing the talkie version, I understand your reasoning. As a fan of the series it would probably be hard for you to read the words without hearing the actor's voices in your head anyway.

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    1. Oh yes. I hear all the dialog in my head that way already. :)

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  10. Since several folks have asked about the Enhanced edition, I'd like to request some help:

    Does anyone have a release date for it? My only guess is 1993 because the manual that I have (from the GOG version) has an ad on the back page for "Judgement Rites" with the tag that it is coming in 1994. But there are some Amazon reviews which suggest it was released in 1992, but that's just people's recollections rather than documentation.

    Are there any differences between the versions other than audio?

    I had hoped to play both of them, but I'm tripping over the battle scenes. They are difficult enough that I'm not sure I can power through to play through them twice... especially if they get more difficult over the course of the game. If I should change gears and play the Enhanced edition, I should do it before I'm very far into the game. But at this point I think that playing the floppy version is the most fair on the other 1992 games and I'll play just the first 1-2 missions of the Enhanced version to do a mini-review of it at the end.

    And since some of you know my habits by now, YES I have managed to track down the original hintbook. Hoping it is as nice as the Sierra ones...

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    1. I have some bad news for you, Joe.

      The CD-ROM version adds spoken lines performed by the original cast and expands the last mission, in response to criticism about the brevity of it in the original.

      So the only difference is the LAST mission. And by what I've read, it's a significant difference at that. Unless you can choose missions you'll have to play the entire game to see the differences.

      As for release date, I'd guess 1993 as well because a picture of a CD I found online had 'copyright 1992/93' on it. That could also have been a subsequent release but at least that's one source that doesn't rely on memory.

      As for being fair to other 1992 games, we always have to balance that with what would be fair to this game if we only fully review one version of it.

      I always vote for the 'best' version available at the time, while I know others vote for the 'first' version - and because we're not going to fully do both versions, there's no perfect solution - so go with the version you'd prefer.

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    2. You cannot select the missions, you have to do them in order. That's going to make this tougher. But we'll see...

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    3. My own view-- which is my own and I don't expect anyone else here to follow it-- is that there is a difference between bug fixes and new content.

      I'm very happy playing the final patched version of a game, even if it's not the version you could buy on store shelves. So think of a game like Quest For Glory IV. Remember how awful the initial release was? I wouldn't say we need to play that, it does a tremendous game a disservice.

      But when we get into these CD-ROM editions, that becomes where I draw the line. Space Quest 4, for example, is undoubtedly better (but not THAT MUCH better) in the CD-ROM edition. But that's so much after the initial release that it's almost a new game. We're not measuring it as a new game though, so I see your point there.

      My particular OCD says that we should review the original game if we can. I will play the enhanced edition-- and it looks like I might play ALL of it-- but I want to see how the original stacks up.

      The good news is that in a few game years this will stop mattering because the habit of releasing enhanced editions a year later to extend the sales window (and yes, that is really what those enhancements are about-- selling second copies to existing owners and some new ones) will end as CD-ROM editions will become the standard starting set.

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    4. Agree completely, the talkie CD-ROMs came out a year later exactly so they could sell the game twice to the big fans as well as keep it on New Release shelves for longer.

      And it still happens today in the movie world - Star Wars Episode VII came out on Blu-Ray in April, but the 3D version will come out in November.

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    5. And when we get to 2015/16 we would have to do it again if we were doing console games with all the ps3to ps4 and xbox 360 to xbone enhanced editions. Same marketing ploys for a new generation. (And us old hanger ons)

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    7. Fortunately they don't always make us pay again for the updates. I got the Bioshock enhanced editions and will get the Skyrim Special Edition for free for owning the original games. (But only on PC - console players have to buy it again to play on the newer console)

      That brings up a good question. What version of Skyrim would people in the future RPG Gamer blog play?
      1. The original version with no patches?
      2. The patched version which contained some additional features (Mounted combat being one I could think of)
      3. The version with DLC installed that impacts the base game itself (Playing with the Dawnguard expansion by default would negate the ability to see what vampires were like in the original game)
      4. The enhanced version remastered 5 years later with updated graphic effects and including all DLC by default?

      That's a question for the bloggers of 2040 I guess...

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    8. I think DLC will be a major challenge for blog reviewers of the distant future...

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  11. Syberia 3 delayed to early next year:

    http://www.gamasutra.com/view/pressreleases/282762/Microiumlds_announces_Syberia_3_release_date_delayed_to2017.php

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  12. As they say: "Fascinating."

    I may give the NES version a whirl while you're playing this. I recall reading about it in a Nintendo hint book/guide, but never had my hands on it to try. I also never even knew a Game Boy version existed.

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  13. I'll go with 53, and hope to play through with you as I did buy the game on GOG hoping to play it for the blog. Of course, I have other commitments at present with a dragon wearing a fez...

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  14. I won a copy of this in a contest here a while back, so I'd better play along!

    I'll guess this will do pretty well, maybe 62?

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    1. Uh, can I retract that guess? This game is a hot mess. Loaded up the game and was immediately thrown into a (tutorial) battle and lost. Tried pressing some keys to see what they did, jumped to a new system and got in a fight and died. Seriously, game? Not even a menu or anything, just throw me right in? This does not bode well. Think I would amend my guess downward a bit based on the first two minutes of play, maybe 45.

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    2. The new system thing is actually a copy protection scheme. The battle at the very beginning is just a practice battle - it doesn't affect your ship - however you need the copy protection map to go to the right system to go with the mission.

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  15. I'm guessing a high mark of 80 in the PISSED rating. Also, since I donated the prize AND I waited for the first post to appear, I'm not eligiable for winning.

    I've brought Star Trek:25th Anniversary on Steam so I can play along. This is the Talkie Version and Joe is playing the 1992 version.

    I'm going to post alongside Joe in the comments. Think of it as two Trekkies playing the same game but with different versions and perspectives (as least, I hope we have a different perspective. I don't want any overlap.)

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    1. You missed it by 14 minutes!

      Happy to see your response in the comments. Already it seems like we did some things differently. If you find you like it, let us know and we may be able to find a Missed Classic for you to report on down the road. There are some Star Trek games that I would love to see covered quickly for our readers.

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    2. I waited on purpose since I think its improper to guess when I was the one who donated the prize. :)

      As soon as I saw the first post on my rss feed, I immediately responded with my guess.

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    3. Ok! But you could have won the CAPs and the prize given to the next best winner... But if you are happy, I am happy.

      A guess of 80 would make it the #2 game on the blog. I hope it is that good!

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