Hey, did you know licensed games don’t have to be total coal-suckers? They can sometimes be perfectly acceptable, middle-of-the-road, kind-of-worth-playing games too. That’s the story of Star Trek: The Video Game. If vacuums had a scale of sucking, this would be somewhere around…well, that’s what the score at the end of this review is for. Also, I’m not sure why I needed the vacuum metaphor there.
Star Trek: The Video Game escapes some of the stigma of licensed games by not being based off a pre-existing story. This is not tied to J.J. Abrams’ films beyond the cast; Into Darkness is a separate story. Here, the classic Star Trek race, the Gorn, have stolen the Vulcan’s Helios device, a machine that can use suns for limitless power. So as sci-fi narratives go, it falls somewhere between good L. Ron Hubbard works and Scientology. It gets the job done, but it’s nothing special.
Start a new game or jump into a previous chapter, and you’ll get to choose between Kirk and Spock, though there aren’t enough differences for the choice to really matter. Star Trek: The Video Game was made with co-op in mind, so many moments require both heads of the Enterprise to complete. Unfortunately, several of these end up feeling awkward. Cooperatively prying open doors is fine, but the ever-present, floating animation that occurs with it is not. With as many times as you’ll be prying doors, it becomes a running joke. On top of this, co-op is not drop-in/drop-out: you are considerably set back in the chapter should your partner quit.
Star Trek: The Video Game‘s co-op isn’t a total joke, though; it’s more of a Jimmy Fallon monologue – some parts actually work quite well. You get a great sense of Kirk and Spock’s companionship, with several moments of jump boosting and reviving the other when downed. Upgrades to the always-carried phaser allow you to heal one another or boost the others’ shields. Public, private, and offline options for the entire campaign give you plenty of options for undertaking or ignoring a co-op session.
Gameplay in Star Trek: The Video Game is a spitting image of Mass Effect. Gunfights are enjoyable, with multiple weapons, dodge rolls, and sticky cover. You’ll have a wide range of firearms from humans, Vulcans, and the Gorn, ensuring variety in every battle. Your permanently mapped tricorder parallels Mass Effect‘s omni-tool, allowing you to scan fallen enemies, dropped weapons, and all forms of research data, the main collectible in Star Trek: The Video Game. You’ll earn experience from scanning items, completing missions, and completing optional objectives. Experience allows you to upgrade your phaser and tricorder. You can add a better cooldown time, boost your fire rate, or even add a healing factor, to name a few possibilities.
Beyond the Mass Effect comparison, Star Trek: The Video Game offers many great set pieces, from space battles to zero gravity repair runs. You won’t be repeating environmental actions very often, but you will be repeating hacking…a lot. Hacking is used in most of the game’s objectives, and it is the epitome of hit-or-miss gameplay. There are three types of hacking games: a “match two,” a “match your partner,” and a “steer this line.” The first tasks you with aligning two cursors with matching sound waves, and it’s the best of the three. The second requires both Kirk and Spock: one uses the left stick to align a signal, while the other matches it with the right stick. This only works in single player if you choose to align the right side, as the AI is apparently completely inept at tilting the right thumbstick. The third, and worst of them all, tasks you with steering an always-moving line to a goal along a grid (think Tron light cycles). Why is this one the worst? It just doesn’t work. Nearly every time I pressed a direction, I would fail to turn, or even turn a different way. This hacking game is the least common, but it is required at certain points – that’s a problem. Overall, the hacking games are poor. They say “two out of three ain’t bad,” but one out of three definitely blows.
As stated before, Star Trek: The Video Game is, for the most part, a perfectly fine game. The shooting and environments are spectacular and never feel repetitious. Even the poorly designed space battle only occurs once, ensuring only one headache. Of course, the poor, constant hacking will cause more pain in the head region. The co-op works, though you’ll run into some issues if playing online. That “this, but that” rundown fits Star Trek: The Video Game like a tailor-made suit. It’s just…okay.