In 2019, I fired up a game I’ve owned for over 15 years without ever playing it.
The game is Star Trek Invasion, a PS1 game from 2000. It’s a 3D space shooter. I can’t remember exactly when I got this game, but it was probably around 2002-2003; it was a gift from my father, who is very much not a gamer. I’ve never really watched Star Trek aside from one random episode. Therefore, I went into this game with no nostalgia.
Well, there was some nostalgia. The PS1 had been out for about five years when Star Trek Invasion was released, and the graphics are very standard for the era. The music, SFX, and voice acting (all immensely repetitive) are also par for the course. Handling the classic PS1 jewel case for the game and leafing through an actual instruction manual were also throwbacks to a bygone era. I’ve never really played a 3D space shooter game before, though, so that didn’t feel nostalgic.
This might explain why I was terrible at this game.
It took me about 75 minutes to get through the tutorial. The last 45 of these were spent on the last section, where you shoot down squadrons of enemy spacecraft in an asteroid field while under a time limit. I tried it at least a dozen times before I figured out the best strategy was to find a squadron, observe their predetermined flight loop, and then stay perfectly still in space and fire at them when they fly by.
The reason this was the best strategy was a combination of many factors. The PS1 graphics and the choice of color schemes make the textures of the game very homogenous, making it difficult to see the difference between objects and background details. Most objects have hitboxes larger than their actual graphics, meaning trying to swerve past an asteroid will cause you to ram into its invisible boundary if you fly too close.
The controls also have some problems. The button mapping is a bit strange and though the controls are consistent, there is no real feeling of speed or inertia at any point. Your spacecraft only has two (or three – I couldn’t tell) speeds, slow and fast; the slower speed doesn’t really feel different than not moving until you fly into something, and the faster speed is too fast to really steer at. The weapons of your spacecraft also don’t have automatic fire, so you tire your thumb out mashing buttons to shoot. The tutorial contains a section where you use a tractor beam to move objects: during it, the game incorrectly instructs you on how to do this, causing you to fail the section repeatedly until you figure out how the controls actually work.
I am the wrong person to say if this game has interesting Star Trek lore in it, since I didn’t get very far in the game. I am also probably the wrong person to judge if this game has satisfying gameplay due to my lack of experience. If asked for my opinion, however, I would say no to both. The combination of the graphics and controls makes for an unwieldy game that I could only recommend to those who really enjoy 3D space shooters or Star Trek.
Developer: Warthog Games
Platforms: PlayStation 1
Release Date: September 15th, 2000 (EU)
Genres: Shooter, Space Shooter, Action