Have You Played… Star Trek: 25th Anniversary?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

This is my first time with Interplay’s TOS-set point and click adventure game since the 90s. I was braced for awful things. I was wrong. It’s still rather lovely – and, if the Abramsverse leaves you pining for the more measured approach of the Roddenberry years, rest assured that this is very Star Trek indeed.

When I played it back on my 486, I played the floppy disk version – which meant no voices. Today, I played the later CD-ROM version, replete with the familiar tones of the original cast. The audio of this game is beautiful, even if a couple of the actors clearly sound as though they’re reading from a script (although what’s new there?). The hum of the bridge, retro bleeps and pews, famous themes rendered in surprisingly appropriate MIDI … It’s so, so Star Trek.

I’m impressed by quite how much such an early, basic thing bit off too: you’re straight into space combat when it begins, with shield and phaser controls, on-the-fly Scotty repairs, all sorts. Most of the buttons on my keyboard have a specific function attached. It’s crude and it’s a long way from the full simulation of the contemporary TIE Fighter, but it works. And it feels like those abrupt, silly but wonderful TOS dogfights too.

Hell, you even have to consult a star map in the manual (or a JPEG provided with the GOG version) to locate your next planet. Proper retro sci-fi.

On the ground, there are the usual irritations of adventure games, object hunting and lateral thinking and inventory-filling and trial and error, which gets in the way of the flow of what is otherwise akin to a fairly solid animated episode of Star Trek. There are tons of delightful little touches which lift it, though. The idle animations – Bones irritatedly crossing his arms, Kirk checking his tricorder, Spock’s quizzical glances… Little fake depth of field effects to make small spaces seem larger than they are. Western-like quickdraw phaser battles. Messages from Uhura in orbit. Cruel and unusual Redshirt deaths. A UI and puzzle system which involves using crew members and their particular skills on objects or people. A storyline structured into episodes, with perfect titles such as ‘The Demon Planet.’

It works. It’s a great fit. And great Star Trek. Worth grabbing from GoG, for sure.

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  1. Aerothorn says:

    This is still on my to-play list, but Final Unity I played for the first time a couple years ago (before it was on GOG – trust me you want the GOG release, getting that thing to run on Windows 7 was a nightmare) and it too is a classic. Best part: you can use Worf as part of your landing party every single time and have him glower at everything. Also an absurdly overcomplicated starship flight engine attached to an adventure game.

    • BradleyUffner says:

      GOG has Final Unity? I can’t find it in their catalog. I’ve been wanting to play that again since it was one of the very first PC games I ever owned I got stuck someplace really early on and I’ve always wanted to try again.

      Am I just looking in the wrong place, or is it no longer available for some reason?

      • karnak says:

        The OP is wrong. Final Unity was never launched on GOG. Probably in the future, depending on the deals with the other publishers.

      • Aerothorn says:

        Ugh, my bad. Yeah, it was a different (now defunct) publisher so lord knows who has the rights for Final Unity. Glad I got my CD!

  2. omf says:

    I’ve been thinking about the direction Telltale has gone with their games, and think many of the features in ST:25A are what they’ve sacrificed to reach a broader audience. It’d be nice (and I’d be far more interested in their current releases) if they steered back in this direction a bit.

    • Booker says:

      There are about 50 adventure game releases from other developers each year that still work a lot like those classic titles. Just don’t buy Telltale?

      Recently played Technobabylon. Awesome game, really liked it.

    • NotGodot says:

      Actually, there’s a rather fascinating connection there.

      25th Anniversary was so successful that they set out to make a trilogy. The second game, Judgment Rites, is an improvement on 25th in every way… but the third game, The Secret of Vulcan Fury, was never released because it was too technically demanding to run on home systems.

      The connection? Vulcan Fury played like a Telltale game. Specifically like the third season of Sam and Max. Telltale’s entire gameplay idiom was basically invented back in 1997 for a title that was never released. Which makes one wonder where adventure games and IF would be today if it’d been released.

      • Porkolt says:


        How exactly are you comparing an unreleased game’s adventure experience to so oddly specific a Telltale episode?

        • NotGodot says:

          Because there’s leaked footage of an early build that shows how it’d handle stuff like player interaction, conversation and camera angles.

          I mostly link it to Sam and Max season 3 because it’s a turning point, midway between the more traditional stuff they did before and the more cinematic material they’ve done after. It’s not as fluent as, say, The Walking Dead.

      • Bjarne says:

        Interesting read, thank you.

      • Booker says:

        That pretty much sounds like bullshit. If the reason truly was that it was “too technically demanding” they could have simply shelved it for a year and released it then. Hardware is evolving so fast, it shouldn’t have been a showstopper. I’m sure there were other problems with the game, which resulted in its cancellation.

        • Phasma Felis says:

          Cool. Maybe don’t be such a dick about it next time.

      • Booker says:

        Looked it up:

        “the game was cancelled with estimates placing it at only 5% completion. The cast of The Original Series had already recorded their voices. Lead engineer Thom Robertson later explained the studio had underestimated the cost of the game and the difficulties in filming the clay models.”

        link to en.wikipedia.org

  3. TheAngriestHobo says:

    As an unrepentant trekkie habitually mortified by the Star Wars header images that usually accompany these articles, I thank you for your restraint.

    Everything I’ve read about this game sounds great, even for folks like me who have rarely seen much value in old-school adventure games. I think I’ll pick it up, if only because I miss Nimoy.

    Also! The upcoming series Star Trek: Discovery is set in the prime universe, so it could very well be that the horrid Abramsverse will finally die off. It sure took long enough for someone at Paramount to get a clue.

    • Waltorious says:

      It is great, you should definitely get it. I played it a long time ago, when I didn’t know that much about the original series (I’d only seen some of the films) but I still loved it, even though I got stuck on a mission late in the game and never finished it. Now I’m watching all of Star Trek, so I’m excited to go back and try this again. I remember that not only were there a bunch of well-written missions, but there were multiple ways to complete them, and Kirk and his crew would be evaluated on their performance by Star Fleet afterwards. So that gives it some replayability too. Apparently the sequel, also available on GOG, is a direct continuation; I never played that one. Now I can!

      • LionsPhil says:

        It’s not so much replayability, as it’s an adventure game that doesn’t demand following the one and only accepted solution else being stopped dead (LucasArts, mostly) or being literally stopped dead (Sierrarrrgh!). You can take suboptimal (usually brute-force) solutions, and carry on through the game, but Starfleet will not sing your Kirkly praises if you don’t uphold his conduct from the show.

        And it’s brilliant. The Kirk/Spock/McCoy banter is present and correct, and beautifully voiced.

        • Waltorious says:

          I’m really looking forward to the voices, which were of course absent in the floppy version I played.

    • P.Funk says:

      _”The upcoming series Star Trek: Discovery is set in the prime universe, so it could very well be that the horrid Abramsverse will finally die off.”_

      Eh… its being executive produced by one of the guys who kicked off the Abramsverse, you know a guy who helped write the _Transformers_ series and also some Voyager people are in there.

      I’m not holding my breath.

      • NotGodot says:

        Producer credits are pretty meaningless. Especially in American television, which runs on the showrunner model.

        • Premium User Badge

          Vandelay says:

          It can vary massively, but the showrunner is the main voice steering a show (unless the network feels the need to get involved.) I don’t know much about the showrunner for Discovery, but I hear good things. I’m personally anticipating good things.

          Then again, I actually don’t mind the recent films. They may not be Star Trek and they fall apart on any close inspection to the plot, but they are fun while they last. Beyond is also easily the best, if anyone has avoided it. I would say it was comfortably in the top 5 of all the ST films.

    • NotGodot says:

      If you like 25th Anniversary, you should also pick up Judgment Rites.

      More missions in the same engine with a lot of reused assets and largely the same cast, BUT it’s got a semi-serialized plot across episodes, way more variety in terms of away teams (which means more time for Chekov, Scott and Uhura to shine), and some interesting metacommentary on Star Trek itself.

    • WorldMaker says:

      «The upcoming series Star Trek: Discovery is set in the prime universe, so it could very well be that the horrid Abramsverse will finally die off. It sure took long enough for someone at Paramount to get a clue.»

      Don’t get your hopes up too much. I think it has more to do with proving that the “divorce” is almost final between CBS Studios and Paramount and the Corporate King (Summer Redstone)’s decree that the baby (Star Trek) be cut in half between the two followed to the degree of building entirely separate timelines for films and movies. I think as fans we need to face the reality that Star Trek is now split between two very different companies and probably we’ll see too increasingly very different Star Trek franchises continue to diverge from its two owners.

  4. Booker says:

    The sequel to this, Judgement Rites, is also totally awesome. What I wouldn’t give for a remake in modern graphics, that would make it look like Broken Sword 5 or the Monkey Island 2 Remaster.

    These games are as Star Trek as it gets.

  5. buzzmong says:

    I own three copies of this game, one the Amiga, a PC re-release bought mid 2000’s, and recently, the GoG version.

    It’s an awesome game. Captures Trek quite well, don’t forget to have a notepad handy though, some missions will require it :)

  6. aircool says:

    The best part about the game was the decent voice overs which provided a lovely irony as the ships computer sounded so primitive compared to the speech on the CD-ROM.

  7. bdugan says:

    Thanks for the nice comments!

    I’m sure any of the more mechanical line readings were my fault. Sorry about that. The original game shipped on floppy disks without voiceover. I was the producer of the CD-ROM version of the game, where we added voiceover recordings with the original cast and extended the last mission of the game.

    William Shatner’s voiceover session for this game was my very first voiceover session, and I remember the unreality of standing next to *William Shatner* in the voiceover booth going over the retakes. His agent had arranged for us to have chamomile tea ready for him for the 4-hour session, and he hit his lines really expressively and on point, despite the chaotically ordered script that I had prepared (and had stayed up all night the night before printing out the final version).

    Good times!

    Bill Dugan
    Producer, Star Trek: 25th Anniversary Enhanced CD-ROM

    • LionsPhil says:

      You/your team did a good job! As I understand it, getting actors reading lines separately, chopped into separate audio samples, to then flow as if they were then conversing on the same set is no mean feat.

    • NotGodot says:

      25th Anniversary and Judgment Rites had brilliant VA and were truly great adventure games. They’re some of my fondest childhood memories.

  8. Canadave says:

    Holy crap, there was a star map? I had this game when I was a kid, but I didn’t have the manual for some reason. I used to just warp to random systems until I figured out where I was supposed to go, because of course I had the tolerance for that kind of thing as a kid.

    • Waltorious says:

      Yeah, the star map was the game’s form of copy protection. If you copied the game from someone and didn’t have the manual, you’d be unable to find the mission as you warped to random stars (or apparently, in your case, you COULD find it with enough searching). A cool side effect of this was the illusion of a huge galaxy to explore whenever you wanted, even if there was nothing to find out there.

      • LionsPhil says:

        Get it wrong enough, and I think you’d end up trespassing in the neutral zone and getting into an unwinnable fight.

        One of the better anti-piracy mechanisms.

  9. pillot says:

    Is there anything like this based on one of the other series, tng or ds9?

    • NotGodot says:

      TNG got A Final Unity, which is okay.

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      There’s a DS9 adventure called Harbinger, which is crap, and a shooter called The Fallen which was okay at the time but hasn’t aged well.

      • Scurra says:

        And the FPS Voyager: Elite Force is decent enough (although the expansion is probably more fun.) But you have to be able to tolerate Voyager to appreciate it. As I have no critical faculties at all*, I had no problems with this; YMMV.

        *hell, I quite like most of Enterprise. Although not the last episode; I’m not that dumb.

        • Premium User Badge

          Vandelay says:

          By expansion you mean sequel right? If you did mean expansion than where can I get it?!

          Both were cracking games. The sequel was improved by being on the Enterprise-e with Picard and (must of struggled to get the actors) Barcley. The gameplay suffered from most of the enemies being rather uninteresting charging bugs though.

          It also has a unique claim to fame. You could play either female or male, but the game ignored your choice, resulting in possibly the first gay relationship in Trek. I believe it isn’t actually until this year’s Beyond that there would be any openly gay character in any of the live action iterations.

  10. Grim Rainbow says:

    Such fond memories of this game. I remember this being one of those games that completely immersed me as a kid. Just sitting and listening to the bridge sounds. I also remember Love’s Labor Jeopardized breaking me.

    I’d forgot how nice the graphics are. I’d forgotten about the idle animations too. Definitely have to play this again then have Judgment Rites to look forward to, which I never played.

  11. Baf says:

    The one thing I remember the most clearly about this game is the redshirt mechanic. Every time you sent an away team down to a planet, there would be four people: Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and a redshirt — a different one every episode. Each away mission would have a few moments where you could get a member of the party killed, either by not paying sufficient attention when solving a puzzle or by not being quick enough with that phaser. And always, the no matter what the circumstances, the first party member to be killed would be the redshirt. He was like a spare life for everyone else. If you made a second fatal mistake, and Kirk, Spock, or McCoy got killed, you’d have to start over. But redshirts were expendable.

    If you managed to get through an entire mission without killing your redshirt, you’d get an extra skill point at the end.

  12. Premium User Badge

    Risingson says:

    “Lateral thinking” as a defect?

  13. Unsheep says:

    I played it quite recently, courtesy of GOG.

    It’s a very cool game if you appreciate the classic Star Trek world and characters. To get so much voiced content, by these iconic actors and actresses, for just a few bucks is extraordinary.

    It is also a very difficult game, *if* you want the best ending for each mission that is. That each mission (more or less) has several different outcomes is awesome, you don’t have to be a scientist to complete the game.

    Also, there are still guides available for the game should you get stuck on a puzzle.

    Some of the later ship battles were also very difficult. However the game is very generous with the save system, as you can save whenever you want.

    I think the game is well worth playing even today, especially if you appreciate “classic” Star Trek.