Games with movie tie-ins don't have a great track record. They always offer a few character elements and a little story action fans can buy into, but they tend to fall short when it comes to the overall gaming experience. So after I broke out my Vulcan ear tips and pinned on my favorite plastic Federation pocket emblem, I set my phaser to "wary" as I ripped through the shrink-wrap around Star Trek. The sensor readings that soon started coming in let me know that the game does fit snuggly into the newly rebooted Trekkie canon. Everything takes place between the events of director J.J. Abrams' 2009 blockbuster flick Star Trek and his new 2013 Star Trek Into Darkness. Moviegoers will remember that the planet Vulcan was demolished during the last go-round. So here in the game, the emotionless, green-blooded Vulcans whip up a high-tech thingamajig they call the Helios device to help them quickly create a new home.
Can someone say malfunction? Sure you can. As you might expect, this special mech goes a little haywire and rips a hole in space … through which slithers the lizard-like Gorn. Fanboys will remember those muscle-bound beasties first showing up way back in a 1967 TV episode. But now they're really ready to take over the universe, and only Kirk and the Enterprise can cut off their tails and send 'em scampering.
Tricorder to the Rescue!
With that goal in mind, gamers get to play as either Captain Kirk or his pointy-eared pal Spock. Or they can play as both heroes in co-op mode. And the whole crew is voiced by the movie's big Hollywood stars—which equates to lots of Spock-Kirk-Bones tug-and-pull, some appealing story-driven quips and quite a few recognizable exclamations.
As our heroes press forward—protecting the innocent and putting themselves in great peril for the sake of the universe—there are some enjoyable elements to the gameplay as well. Kirk and Spock are challenged to tag-team their way through a variety of situations. And their Star Fleet tricorders are a fun addition. With them you can tap into nearly every electronic device you encounter and scan vital elements. So when Kirk needs to shut down a mechanical crane gone wild, bypass a deadly turret, or catalog some unique extraterrestrials, you know immediately which all-purpose tool to grab. There are also a series of fun minigames that become part of making the right tricorder connections.
Trials and Tribble-ations
For all of the game's small charms, handy devices, and cool-looking character graphics and production, however, the other magnetic boot does eventually drop. Star Trek is, for all that fun-sounding setup, little more than a one-dimensional shooter. As the missions spool out, they quickly start feeling repetitive. And you're constantly pulling the trigger, never mind your exotic locale (space stations and star ships) or your futuristic versions of pistols, carbines, shotguns and sniper rifles. There's none of that "Kirk talks his way out of a tight situation" stuff here. It's simply blast, blast, bang, boom. Move. Blast, blast, bang, boom. Repeat.
The kills produce small pops of green or yellow fluids. And Kirk seems to be always wondering, "What the h‑‑‑ is going on!?"—amidst others' scattered exclamations of the s-word, "d‑‑n" and "b‑‑tard."
By the end of the dimension-hopping battle, the universe is, of course, saved. And saving it isn't a terrible experience. But the wormholes here are a bit wormy. And, Mr. Spock, if you don't mind my double negative or my flagrant abuse of a cliché, Trekkies definitely shouldn't expect to boldly go where no game has gone before.