Okay, I’m old and I’ve been watching Star Trek since I was a kid. I own all the original series on DVD in the hard cases that look like tricorders and I’m happy about that.
So when I got the chance to put my hands on Star Trek Encounters, the PS2 game put out by Bethesda Softworks, I was a happy guy. The first thing I noticed that troubled me was the $20 sticker price. How could a new game (it was released October 3, 2006) come out with a price so low? Especially one that involved licensing?
So there was some trepidation when I stuck the disc in the PS2 and prepared to boldly go where no one had ever gone before. The first thing I noticed was that it took an awfully long time to boot up and get going.
A quick check on a few review sites showed that was a problem that a lot of people were having with it. Evidently Bethesda chose to burn the game to a blue disc instead of the traditional one and it was causing problems. One of the reviewers even suggests putting Scotch tape on the disc to thicken it up so it will spin properly. Thankfully, all I had to do was wait.
But that’s when the bad news really started kicking in. Star Trek Encounters is strictly a shooter game. Sure, you get to fly all the ships (after you’ve miraculously unlocked them), but it’s just not…well, Star Trek.
I watched the television show for the characters and the situations. From the very beginning, Star Trek has been about the people, emotions, and problems that had more than one answer or more than one way of getting to the answer. That’s always been the fun of the shows, watching the interaction, the friction, and being able to understand completely the driving forces that put the characters in motion – sometimes against each other.
Sadly to say, all of that is missing in action in this game. It’s a shooter, dressed up like Star Trek but ultimately as ersatz as a Klingon at a Star Trek convention.
To add insult to injury, the qualification runs in the beginning that set you on the path through the extremely limited and repetitious game play is boring and almost physically impossible. All of this is done to familiarize you with the controls and the handling of the Enterprise (in her various incarnations). At least, that’s the excuse for inflicting frustration on you.
The third qualifying feat nearly achieved premature launch of the game into outer space. I was ready to send it to the moon. It involves flying the ship through a series of 40 staggered rings in two minutes or less. My nine-year-old and I spent a couple hours trying to get it done on the first day. I finally put the controller down, took the disc out, and surrendered the PS2 to my son, who had a blast playing a game with The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy.
The next day, I dragged the game out again, this time with my wife. We were snowed in, which probably gave us a little more incentive to stick the game out – since we weren’t going anywhere anyway. After a couple of hard-fought hours, my wife finally got the 40th ring. We’d been hitting 39 like forever.
I really expected the game to kick into high gear at that point. After all, after that much work, surely there had to be a great reward. Unfortunately, there isn’t. The game remains a shooter. The clunky controls continue to foul up reflexes I’ve honed for much quicker-paced and dangerous games. In Star Trek Encounters you can spend virtually forever trying to finish a mission, or just keep doing similar ones over and over again.
On the plus side, the graphics are pretty good. The designers used lots of color and did a fantastic job with the explosions (although sound doesn’t travel in space, it sounds great rolling through the surround sound system when you destroy targets and enemy craft). But space is
Another good thing is the above-mentioned sticker price. At $20 you’re getting what you paid for, which isn’t much, but at least you’re not getting overcharged for it. Still, unless you’re a diehard fan of the series (any of them), I’d encourage you to borrow the game, rent it, or wait till it hits the bargain basement bin for about $5. Then you’ll be getting a deal.
Star Trek Encounters is rated E10+ (Everyone 10 and older) by the ESRB for Mild Blood, Mild Fantasy Violence.