The history of Star Trek games is…mixed, to say the least. There have been some truly great Star Trek games released over the years, but too many have fallen far short of recreating most of the things that make Star Trek seemingly perfect video game source material. The situation has been especially bad for modern gaming fans. Anyone looking for a truly great modern Star Trek game usually has to settle for playing Mass Effect and pretending it’s a Star Trek game. That, or they have to splurge for the VR sets needed to have a proper Star Trek: Bridge Crew experience.
That’s why I’m as surprised as anyone to tell you that the next truly great Star Trek game is here, it’s free, and was developed by a dedicated Star Trek fan named Emanuele Bolognesi who had an incredible idea and the passion/talent needed to make it happen.
The game, Super Star Trek 25th (as spotted by PC Gamer), is actually a kind of remake of two older Star Trek games. Specifically, it combines the narrative structure and core concepts of 1978’s Super Star Trek with the visuals and interface of 1992’s Star Trek: 25th Anniversary.
If you’ve never heard of 1978’s Super Star Trek, you’re certainly not alone. It was actually published in a book called Basic Computer Games. Yes, the game was published in a book. The idea was that you would type the code published in the book into your computer so that you can play the game. Of course, some fans (including Emanuele Bolognesi) ended up playing the game much later via Basic converters and similar online programs.
Regardless of how you play it, you’ll find that Super Star Trek has aged surprisingly well. It’s a kind of bridge command strategy title that sees you assume the role of Captain Kirk, cruise the galaxy, and try to survive a series of encounters against Klingon ships. It’s not a complete Star Trek experience by any means, but it’s a fantastic little strategy game with surprising depth that just happens to be held back by the fact it’s a video game that was published in a book roughly 45 years ago.
That’s where Star Trek: 25th Anniversary comes in. Long considered one of the absolute best Star Trek games, 25th Anniversary essential turned Star Trek: The Original Series-inspired “episodes” into a golden age point-and-click adventure title. While the game included away team missions, it also let you issue basic commands to the bridge team and participate in ship-to-ship battles. While not even a particularly advanced game even for its time, 25th Anniversary‘s visuals and gameplay concepts gave Star Trek fans many of the things they wanted most.
Combine the two, and you get Super Star Trek 25th: a game that combines many of the best aspects of both titles (minus 25th Anniversary‘s away team missions) while implementing a few refinements and fixes where necessary.
The results are truly incredible, especially when you consider that this game was essentially an experiment/passion project. There’s not much to the act of sending the Enterprise to various parts of the digital galaxy and battling the occasional Klingon ship, but it’s genuinely compelling to see how long you can survive against some pretty long odds. Besides, what Star Trek fan hasn’t dreamed of captaining the Enterprise crew and managing energy levels all while basking in a pixelated version of that glorious ’60s style that initially gave Star Trek so much of its charm?
Sure, this game will speak loudest to hardcore Star Trek fans and those that fondly remember the two titles that it’s based on, but there’s more to it than that. Actually, in many ways, it’s the simplicity of the thing that makes it so impressive.
In an old blog post, Emanuele Bolognesi points out that he’d like to find a way to expand upon this project’s basic concepts, and I can certainly see the potential in such an expansion. In many ways, though, Bolognesi’s project reveals the ways that modern Star Trek titles have sometimes strayed too far from the more “game-like” parts of the core Star Trek experience instead of starting with the captain’s chair experience that so many fans have asked for. It’s satisfying in ways that more elaborate Star Trek games in recent years haven’t always been, and it taps into the fundamental appeal of the source material without exploiting nostalgia.
One day, we’ll get that complete modern Star Trek game that will finally fully realize the potential of a project that many of us probably expected to be able to enjoy years ago. Until then, be sure to play Super Star Trek 25th via the game’s website. It’s free, it’s fun, and it’s another reminder that those in charge of the official Star Trek license aren’t always the ones who know what’s best for the franchise.