Star Trek: The Simon and Schuster Text Adventures
As I type this, Star Trek Into Darkness is still pretty fresh in my mind. It was a good movie, don’t get me wrong, but the fan-boy in me is pretty aggravated for a few reasons, which I won’t get into. The past few weeks here on 1 MC have seen a multitude of Star Trek games covered, from the unreleased Star Trek V for the NES, the Next Generation game, and back again to an early 80’s arcade release. I noticed a gaping hole in all this coverage. What if I told you there was not just one, but TWO excellent, extremely difficult text adventures based in the Star Trek universe?
Simon and Schuster, of book fame, had a fairly active game publishing division. For a time in the mid 80’s, you didn’t just head down to a computer store for games, you could find a bunch at your local Waldenbooks bookstore. They sold several text adventure games from Infocom and Simon & Schuster, among other software companies, usually held in a spinning rack that’d you find stuffed with comic books in your local 7-11 today. The games came in a little binder that doubled as the instruction manual. They were so difficult that the publishers later included a small hint book.
The first game, ‘The Kobayashi Alternative” was released back in 1985 for most of the popular computer systems of the day. At this time, there was no Enterprise; Trek movie-dom had it destroyed over the Genesis planet. The game has you in the role of a would-be starship captain. Starfleet is testing out a new Kobayashi Maru scenario, and lucky you gets to be the first one to run the test. You are simulated as the captain of the USS Enterprise, tracking down the USS Heinlen, which was lost following an attack. The Heinlein just happens to be commanded by Mr. Sulu. You’ll be going all around the quadrant, back and forth…… and back….. and forth again, in order to solve this mystery, with the help of your familar TOS crew.
The second game is arguably much more difficult than the first. The ‘Promethean Prophecy’ was released about a year later, for also for most of the computer systems of the day. The game has you in the role of Captain Kirk (not a simulator this time) and immediately starts you out under attack by an alien vessel. If you’ve watched *many* episodes of Star Trek, you’ll have an idea of what to do. This game, and TKA, will have you doing MULTIPLE save/reload sessions. Did I say multiple? Just checking.
Being a text based game, the graphics are pretty much non existent. TKA is the ‘prettier’ of the two games, but that’s not saying much. There’s some nifty fade effects, red alert settings, and the turbo lifts are handled probably as best as they can be, but yeah, it’s text in what looks like it could be Windows 1.0. Be lucky there’s any color at all.
Depending on the system, you had NO to very little sound. Not even a theme song intro. Sorry audiophiles. Which leads me to “Why the hell should I even play this game?” Because it’s one of the few games where you can ‘tell’ people what to do (The late 90’s release Klingon Academy had a menu system close to this, but used numbers for commands).
Example: To beam down to a planet, you need to
A. Leave the bridge by entering a turbo lift.
B. Tell the turbo lift to go to Deck 7
C. Enter the transporter room
D. Tell the chief to set coordinates to something.
Either of these games are NOT for the faint of heart, but there is a sense of joy and accomplishment (why are you laughing? I’m serious) that I get when I manage to get past that first attack sequence in Promethean Prophecy. The smirk that William Shatner has on his face when he outwits a Klingon? Yeah, I get that too. When I was a kid it was either Star Trek: The Strategic Operations Simulator if I wanted an arcade experience, or either of these games if I truly wanted to pretend to really be in command of a ship in an episode of Star Trek. Starfleet 1 is close, but more of a statistical kill X bad guys in Y days deal. These two games play as if they were an episode of the TV show.
Not looking to beat these? Give em a run anyway (via DOSbox) as they are both around the interwebz. Beam yourself into space. Swear at Spock repeatedly. Talk dirty to Uhura. Fly to Earth. Steal a shuttle craft. Self Destruct. Play with a phaser, set course for Talos IV. (Note: These are all bad things to try) Admittedly, these games are for the hardcore Trek fan, or the text adventure fiend, but that’s the point. Squint, and we can pretend it’s JJ Trek! I mean Chris Pine Kirk, William Shatner Kirk, on
paper screen it’s all the same right? A total lack of voice acting or full motion video lets the imagination run wild. Regardless, both of these games together will provide several hours of excruciating fun, and if anything a look back with an education into how far Trek games have come. Fascinated? It’s only logical to give these the Fair Shake.