Let’s start this by stating that I’m a fan of Star Trek. But, the history of Star Trek gaming has been less than illustrious. This week, as Star Trek Online launches, there’s a new way to march in the footsteps of Captain Kirk. Decades before, a system offered the same opportunity, but in a much simpler format with Star Trek: The Motion Picture for the Vectrex.
Star Trek made its way to the arcade in 1982 with a very nice vector based game by Sega. Since the Vectrex is also a vector graphics system, you might think that Star Trek for the Vectrex is the same. There are similarities between the two, but the Vectrex version is not a port of the arcade game.
The Vectrex cartridge is actually entitled Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Here’s where my Trekker knowledge comes into play. This game has nothing to do with the movie whatsoever. Perhaps the game designers weren’t given the script or maybe they just thought that blasting Klingons would be more fun. If it’s the latter, they were probably right. Interestingly, when the cartridge boots up, it says Star Trek: The Game. I’m guessing that they later added the movie tie-in to distinguish itself from the arcade game for legal reasons.
Let’s beam up some details: When playing, you’re presumably looking out the Enterprise’s viewscreen. Enemy Klingon and Romulan ships attack, and you can respond by firing phasers or raising your shields. You can replenish both by docking at a friendly space station. It is possible to hit the enemy torpedoes mid-flight before they intercept you. Each time you’re hit , and you lose one of your three lives, and the viewscreen cracks. None of this is too dissimilar to the arcade game. When you clear the enemies from any level, you advance to the next. On the 9th level, you reach the Klingon mothership. This is a fast-moving enemy that fires at you aggressively. It seems very hard to beat, I wasn’t able to despite many attempts. You can also reach the mothership by jumping through a black hole represented as a square. Are black holes square?
Sound effects are minimal. Little music, except a couple of notes at the beginning of each level. There’s a hum when you’re flying that reminded me more of a biplane than the Enterprise. Laser sounds are fairly generic.
I found this game challenging, but mostly because I’m used to an inverted control setup when using a flying game. Pushing up to fly down, and vice versa. This game has the opposite. Graphics are very decent for the time. The space station is three dimensional, but resembles a floating sombrero. Enemy ships look somewhat like their television counterparts. The Vectrex screen overlay adds a nice blue and yellow tint to the action.
Overall, Star Trek: The Motion Picture for the Vectrex isn’t the best game, but its certainly not the worst and doesn’t embarrass the Star Trek franchise like some other offerings. Mr. Spock would logically give this game two stars, but the more emotional Dr.McCoy in me is awarding it a third star.