Monday 21 December 2015

Star Trek: The Motion Picture / Star Ship (Vectrex review)

Developer: GCE
Publisher: GCE
Released: 1982

Star Trek: The Motion Picture is a first-person space shooter that was released in some markets as Star Ship.

It supports 1-2 players (alternating) and your mission is to pilot the Starship Enterprise and destroy the Klingon Mothership. The joystick moves your ship, Button 4 fires your laser and Button 3 puts up a protective shield which defends against incoming torpedoes. Both the laser and shield have limited strength so you must watch your gauges, hunt down the Space Station and press Button 2 to lock your ship onto the door to refuel. There's nine sectors and once you've eliminated all Klingon and Romulan ships in a sector you move onto the next. The gameplay reminds me of Star Raiders (1977, Atari 8-bit) as the fast paced action forces you to multitask at all times. It does have a learning curve but once you master the controls it's enjoyable and the graphics, while primitive, do an outstanding job of making the play area feel expansive. It's challenging, in the best possible way, as the collision detection is great and every death feels like it was completely your fault. One of the hardest elements to master is refuelling as the Space Station needs to be rotated with the door facing you; while you're trying to time your shot enemy torpedoes still rain down on you so it's a careful balancing act that lends the game a real intensity that the best Arcade games have. The Klingon Mothership appears in Sector Nine and it fires a wide range of torpedoes in your direction; to defeat it you must shoot directly onto its nose. This battle is awesome as it adds some variety, tests your nerve and challenges you to be even more precise with your aim. Before each game you choose which sector you'd like a Black Hole to appear in which warps you straight to the Mothership if you lock on; this adds strategy as if you're struggling with a specific sector you can just skip it completely.
Star Trek: The Motion Picture is an engaging and well thought-out shooter that I found to be more immersive than most other Vectrex games. It's amazing how much it draws you in (and tricks you into believing it's a bigger, free roaming world than it actually is!) and there's simply no other experience like it on the system.
Random trivia: The game made a brief appearance in a 1982 movie called Android as a character called Max 404 is seen playing it.

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