Every Star Trek fan has wished for the real Trek game. The open-ended captain-simulation that lets you explore the galaxy, manage your ship and crew, and make meaningful choices that don’t always involve combat. The closest we’ve recently gotten has been Bridge Commander, and arguably Star Trek Online, but any fan will tell you these games weren’t quite what we all want out of the ideal Trek game. “When will they learn how to make a truly perfect Trek game?!” We cry out.
But guess what? They’ve already made it – in 1985.
Star Trek: The Kobayashi Alternative is a text-based adventure game released by Simon & Schuster for a variety of computer platforms. This game places you in the role of Captain Kirk and gives you a (small) galaxy to explore and (limited) freedom to go about it however you like. From the bridge, you can interact and order your crew at a phenomenal level of detail. Want Spock at the helm instead of the science station? No problem, order him to take the conn. Want to order any member of the crew, from any deck, by name, to come to the bridge and take a station? Use the ship’s intercom and they’ll obey. You can perform scans, search for life readings, and use the computer to look up data about the planet you’re orbiting. The feeling of being the captain and having the freedom to make your own choices with your crew and your ship is here in full force, more than any other Star Trek game I’ve played. If you get tired of the bridge, take the turbolift to any deck on the Enterprise – including the deck containing a bowling alley (I must have missed that episode).
Once you’ve chosen which system you’d like to go check out, set a course, and chosen a warp factor, you’ll be able to perform scans and open hailing frequencies to figure out how to proceed. Each system has a loose objective directed by Starfleet. Whether to save the planet from an exploding star or to initiate first contact with an unknown form of life, each time you warp to a new system or beam down to a new planet you’ll feel like you’re beginning an episode of the classic series. Like many adventure games, there is the freedom to explore and interact, but ultimately each planet is a puzzle to solve. The game provides some hints about what to look for based on scan readings and interactions with the aliens you encounter, but many puzzles are extremely vague or obtuse – and some planets seem to lack any actual solution or conclusion at all! This will all be familiar to those text-based adventure aficionados out there.
The game’s interface is fantastic, as these games go. The game actually runs in real-time rather than turn or step-based, and a clock counts down event progression – such as warping between systems or crew members traveling around the ship without you present. A coordinate system shows you where you are, both in space, on the enterprise, and on planets. Unlike many text adventure games, text commands are only given to interact with crew and the computer. Movement, interaction and inventory is all handled with keyboard shortcuts, which is a welcome feature. As far as text games go, this is one of the easiest to interact with that I’ve ever played.
The Kobayashi Alternative is easy to find and compatible with modern versions of Windows. I heartily recommend it to any Star Trek fan who craves the authentic feel of exploring strange new worlds, seeking out new life and new civilizations, and being the captain of the Enterprise, but doesn’t have a holodeck handy!