Click click click click click click. Click click pause think click consult walkthrough click celebrate. That's an approximation of your average minute or so inside a graphic adventure game, certainly one that was made the wrong side of the year 2000.
Yet they were somehow fun and, perhaps because of their reliance on story and puzzles rather than on more easily dated flashy visual effects, still remain almost if not just as enjoyable now as they did so many years ago. None more so than the subject of today's retrospective, Star Trek: 25th Anniversary.
Created during the heyday of the once powerful Interplay, the game (on the CD-ROM version anyway) drew together the vocal talents of the main Star Trek cast, allowing us hopeless nerds to live out our interstellar (non-sexual) fantasies by guiding Kirk, Spock, Bones and Token Security Guy on a series of 7 self-contained adventures.
Once you'd finished the mission – each one could be concluded in a number of different ways – you'd receive a report from Starfleet Command evaluating your progress. Violate the prime directive a few times and you'd get a terrible score, while uphold the values of the Federation and not just go in phasers a-blasting and you'd get a good write-up.
Each chapter acted like an individual episode from the series, featuring a number of old adversaries like the elusive Romulans, the non-wrinkly version of the Klingons and a bunch of lads called the Elasi pirates, who capture the USS Masada and force the Enterprise's crew to figure out a way of stopping them and rescuing the ship. Preferably with no casualties.
As was the style in older adventures, there's lots of incidental dialogue and objects to be examined, so there's plenty of opportunity to hear Spock and Bones bickering. Of further interest is the unusual interface, which features a click, a hold and a move to a part of a male torso. Confused? Basically, move to the mouth to get the talk cursor, the hand to use and so on.
There are only a couple of occasions where you'll need to use quick reactions to accomplish something, often involving blasting Klingons with your phaser (remember to set them to stun!), but generally the interface is only problematic for a few minutes at the beginning while you get used to it.
The worst part of the game though is undoubtedly, now at least, the space combat, which just gets in the way of the fun bit, the adventuring. There are two things you'll need to do, the first is have the mouse locked to the view screen in order to manoeuvre after your assailants. Secondly, you'll need to order Scotty to fix damaged areas of the ship. It's just a bit fiddly and boring, really. As mentioned later, people want to explore new worlds in a Star Trek game, not crudely shoot a pixellated Bird of Prey with phasers.
It's not the only thing you'll do on the Enterprise though, as each of the bridge crew gives you a specific ability to utilise. Uhura can hail other ships, Spock can use his scientific knowledge (and the computer) to glean new info on the mission, while Chekov and Sulu are all about the navigation.
Pretty much ever since, barring the equally good Judgement Rites and the Next Generation-focused (but buggy) A Final Unity, Star Trek games have gone down an action-oriented path, which is a shame because as all true Trekkers now, it's the storylines, the interplay between characters and blah blah that makes the franchise so compelling (to some).
It misses the point to focus on the action elements, fun though games like Elite Force and such were. If you're a fan of strategy games though, you might also want to check out Birth of the Federation, an excellent Civ/Master of Orion-style title.