Wednesday, December 11, 2013

A Retrospective on Star Trek Video Games! Part TWO.


The next game in our series is Star Trek: The Promethean Prophecy which was released by Simon and Schuster Software in 1986, which coincided with the 20th anniversary of TOS. A text based game in the vein of Zork, the game was created by TRANS Fiction Systems, AKA Ron Martinez and Jim Gasperini who also developed Star Trek: The Next Generation - The Transinium Challenge. The game was the second text game released by Simon and Schuster Software in the 80's of a total of three, preceded by Star Trek: The Kobayashi Alternative, and succeded by Star Trek: The Rebel Universe, with Promethean Prophecy from what I've been able to understand, being the more popular entry. I managed to find a working web version of the Apple II edition of the game here. I will say, it's a bit difficult to understand what the larger cultural commentary on the various games was a good 27 years out, but I've read a lot of great things about this specific game.

Screenshot from the MS-DOS version.

The Promethean Prophecy has a story that may sound familiar: The Enterprise is attacked by Romulans, who are defeated. During the attack however the ships food supplies are contaminated with a MacGuffin. Since the MacGuffin, can't be handwaved away, they need to go down to Prometheus Four, the closest M Class Planet around. Realizing that they are not yet a Warp Capable species, the problem now becomes one of not just survival, but of the Prime Directive. What follows is an interesting look into an alien culture with a lot of not so subtle callbacks to episodes like "Errand of Mercy," "The Cloud Minders," and "A Private Little War." Unfortunately I did not have quite enough time to finish the game, but I intend to sometime later this week.

Operation and Reference Card.

Text games for those who have not played them, are a sublime experience. The closest thing I can describe it to is reading a book in which occasionally you have to figure out what the story is trying to tell you, and then describe that, at which the story continues. You can at times, if you would like to know more about a certain subject, ask more about that subject, and it will be described! On the other hand, sometimes I would like to talk to a character or examine an item that the programmers and writers never thought about in which the game will respond: "I don't recognize the word 'analyse'." or something else to that effect. The game starts off with an attack by a Romulan ship in which a sort of phantom image is being projected, with a vague description of a visual anomaly off the starboard bow. The Ensign at the con fumbles and fails to be able to scan the anomaly and the phantom ship so you must find someone who can: "Kirk to Spock" the command calls Lt. Commander Spock (The game makes reference to the death of a Romulan Captain at the hands of Kirk, which I believe is a nod to Mark Lenard's character in "Balance of Terror." He says it happened very recently, within a few months, so that puts the game somewhere between Season 1 and Season 2, as Chekov is aboard the ship. I bring this up because Spock's rank as the XO is very slippery. It is believed that at some point offscreen between Season 1 and 2, he was promoted from Lt. Commander, to a full Commander. I'm going with Lt. Cmder now arbitrarily.)  The game is not hard, but sometimes, I got lost and needed to check a tutorial. Despite the difficulty and some logically mind twisting bugs of the typical adventure game ideology, it's a fun game. Because of the strong writing and well drawn characters, Star Trek: The Promethean Prophecy has aged QUITE WELL. Not having what is now considered graphical features has prevented the game from looking dated, and even just being played in a Chrome App, is a very satisfying experience. Track it down, you'll enjoy it.

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