"A long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away...... "
A long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away......
Baha! Just kidding! Put away those sharp objects! I mean it! Seriously, Star Trek games are a world apart from Star Wars games. Whereas games based on the two trilogies are more action-oriented and tend for the most part to come off as horribly rushed in their final execution, Star Trek games are more inclined to tease the analytical side of your brain. To see which of the two you would probably be more interested in playing, I've devised this simple test:
SNOW DRAGON'S VERY OWN HOMEMADE WHAT-WOULD-YOU-DO SCENARIO!™
To participate, answer this simple question:
An imperious, muscular man in a drab gray uniform appears in the room and is preparing to shoot you in the chest with a high-energy firearm. How do you approach this grim situation?
a. Run up to the guy with zero fear and hack his head clean off with your trusty lightsaber.
b. Attempt negotiation talks, tap into the man's past, and identify with psychological traumas he says he has experienced and ''doesn't want to talk about.''
If you answered choice B, Star Trek: Judgement Rites (Interplay, 1993) is the type of adventure you've been looking for. The second of Interplay's graphic point-and-clicks based on Gene Roddenberry's crown jewel puts you in the captain's chair, so to speak. Assuming the role of the urbane Captain James T. Kirk, it is finally you who gets to choose whether he is the suave diplomat and ladies' man that he was in the TV show or whether he is a loose cannon displaying rambunctious displays of emotion beyond the comprehension of his deadpan first mate Mr. Spock. Throughout eight marvelously designed and meticulously detailed episodes, it is you who gets to achieve momentous milestones in interplanetary peace and guide your crew to a pleasant conclusion at the end of the day. It is you who sits in the chair in the middle of the bridge raising the emergency shields and firing photon torpedoes at Romulan Warbirds. It is you speaking vicariously through the communicator of the greatest man to ever command a starship.
And when it's all said and done, it will be you that is profusely praising this challenging quest across the stars.
As Kirk, you will guide your crew through the eight scenarios with only your standard devices (tricorders, medkit, communicator, phasers), the spare items you find along the way, and your wits. Because the game is a point-and-click adventure, there are very few opportunities for fast-paced action. The trick is knowing what uses can be made of the random objects you pick up and knowing what to say through Kirk's silver tongue. Everything in this game rides on a sort of empathic bond with that fictional character, the commander of the U.S.S. Enterprise. When you are given an opportunity to speak, you must use it wisely. The right words can restore faith in even the most despondent individual. Likewise, words with malice aforethought can start fights, cause key players to ignore you, and get you killed on the spot in the worst of cases. Should you fail to measure up to the gifted conversationalist that Bill Shatner assumed the role of, there are a select few times when you can let your phaser or Spock's Vulcan nerve pinch do the talking. How you decide to handle a given situation is reflected in your score for that particular mission, and ultimately, your performance evaluation at the end of the game.
You see, all your decisions have an impact on the final outcome of your crew. Unbeknownst to you, Starfleet Command is watching the way you do things at all times. Taming a hostile situation with the power of your words is often preferred to exercising force with the ''kill'' setting on your phaser and will get you a higher percentage rating, which leads to more commendation points in your mission log. The higher your amount of commendation points come the end of the line, the brighter the spotlight Starfleet Command will put you and your ragtag bunch of officers in. So not only must you stave off, among other things, a massive explosion that will destroy the entire universe as you know it and the childish machinations of a temporal being disguised as a German World War I fighter pilot, you must do as good a job of it as you can along the way. Sound fun yet? I've only just started to reveal the juiciest slabs of the madness.
Here to get you through thick and thin is every main character to ever appear in the show's credits. In Star Trek 25th Anniversary, your cohorts are strictly limited to Spock, McCoy, and the occasional disposable ensign. In Judgement Rites, you take your chief engineer Scotty with you on a couple of missions, along with loyal helmsman Sulu, sultry communications officer Uhura, and navigator Pavel ''That-Was-Inwented-In-Russia'' Chekov. Their presence is more than an attempt to throw some variety in. You will need their expertise and personality traits at particular points in the missions they follow you along on. In one mission, Scotty and Chekov will be at your side to aid you in constructing a large-scale tennis ball cannon; in another level, Uhura's royal lineage will put you on good terms with a mentally imbalanced ''king'' in tattered plainclothes. The use of your subordinates is no mere gimmick - it is a necessity, and one that elevates the game to a higher plateau of excellence, at that.
Judgement Rites goes to great pains to provide as user-friendly an interface as possible. Right-clicking the mouse brings up a menu full of basic sensory commands and functions to carry out. You can scan and look at everything for small vignettes of description or sometimes comments from those in your party. Talking to others can reveal hints or start conversations that can lead to an agreement or a brawl. This game is all about your contact with and application of the environment you see around you. Almost anything can be analyzed or picked apart to some degree, and a healthy penchant for stalwart exploration will get you far. The gist of it is easy to pick up on as long as you have a starmap to get you to the right places (comes with the game or is downloadable off Interplay's website) and a desire to dig into all the journey has to offer. Although it all requires great attention to detail, you'll find yourself clicking like a pro in no time flat. Even working your way through the somewhat clumsy gunfights is simple when you locate some choice hot keys and figure out where to aim your cursor. Icons become bold when placed over viable targets, making your job of seeing what's what plenty easier. With the freedom to move your mouse about the whole screen, there should be nary a gripe from your end of the computer.
The graphics hold up nicely in light of their pixel-apparent Windows Paint appearance. Backgrounds buzz with slight noises and small tidbits of animation that passably mimic the ambience of the TV series. Many locations in the game are transferred to the monitor very well, but their good looks are due in part to the fact that they don't move. The sprites have the problem of having to stay correctly proportioned at both the front and back of the screen. The middle ground is the best place to view the characters in, as they get progressively blockier and blob-like when shifted to the very back or close-up front of a screen. The pointyness of Spock's ears begins to become less so, and when they're in your face you can hardly distinguish Dr. McCoy from Scotty. Nicer touches come in the form of the accurate portrayals of outside shots of the Enterprise in movement and panoramic views of planets both peaceful and turbulent. Better comments can be spoken of the backgrounds, which manage to retain the look of the show while still adding a dimension to make them seem more futuristic and up-to-date with current imaginations of the universe centuries from now. The detail put into them is worth noting whether you're viewing the inside of a tavern circa 1910 or a desolate rock with a marginally inhabitable atmosphere. You can come in to see the grandeur of the nicely crafted venues the game offers, but don't play expecting to see photorealistic models of your favorite Trek stars.
From the original theme song to the warbling tune of an empty corridor, if it's in this game, you've probably heard it in the show if you've seen it to any extent. All the old arrangements stay intact with a few new tinges of musicality added to them to keep them fresh for the young playing audience. Most importantly, every song fits the mood of the several places it is used in. Festive, jaunty beats keep the faux German village you visit in the third mission in the spirit of good times, while scarier, darker songs infest the last few missions to keep your wrenched heart in further suspense. Best of all are the inclusion, without any tainting whatsoever, of the series' original sound effects. The shrill shriek of the phaser is here, along with the wavy tricorder scan noise and the roar of the Enterprise's precious warp nacelles. Later releases of the game on CD-ROM contain the original cast themselves reading every blessed bit of their own dialogue. If you're a major fan, those are the versions to track down. The sound and music do what every decent franchise-based game should do, and that is to conjure up the dormant nostalgia within you and take you back to a piece of history that was worth treasuring then so much that it's worth coming back to now. In this regard, Judgement Rites graduates magna cum laude.
More innovations are crammed onto the game's single CD (or, failing that, eleven floppy disks!) than can be given adequate lip service here. There arises at many points the opportunity for battle, in which your quickness with a phaser or the gravity of your command to raise shields can mean the difference between life and death for only those in your party or everyone onboard your ship. A cryptic alien message offsets a continuing side journey to track down an undiscovered race of aliens that can give you power and knowledge beyond your wildest dreams. Whether you have the guts to take them at their word is a question that can only be answered with every click of the left mouse button.
A great and mighty adventure through a universe of many curiosities awaits you here. I challenge you to try and talk your way out of it.
Community review by snowdragon (December 09, 2003)
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