Just in time for Star Trek: Nemesis, we
continue our 20th anniversary salute to the
arcade hit, Star Trek: S.O.S. This game was released in
conjunction with many Trekkers consider as their favorite Trek movie,
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. The arcade game was
based upon a simulation of battling Klingons and
Nomad, but all the action is in 2 dimensions.
Coincidentally, ignoring 3-D attacks (above/below) was Khanís fatal
tactical error in the movie. 2-D (or pseudo 3-D) is sufficient for this
excellent simulation game. Fascinating - ST:II is the only Trek movie
does not have an actual Klingon or Klingon ship in it. The other 9 all do.
Instead, the beginning of the movie shows us Lt. Saavik taking the famous
Kobayashi Maru test / simulation. This is the "no win situation" that
only Kirk had defeated. [But he cheated by
reprogramming the simulation.] So,
just like most video games, "Star Trek: S.O.S" puts you in that no win
situation Ė eventually you WILL lose this game. It is a logical conclusion.
The manual says that you run the Enterprise (hereafter shortened to E!)
play the role of Captain Kirk, but itís more like playing Sulu, Chekov &
Scotty combined as you have complete control of the helm and weapons.
Use the sensors and view screen to take immediate
action based upon what you see and hear. You have
both impulse and warp drive and phasers and photon
torpedoes. It may sound a bit simple, but there is a lot going on, making
it one of the most complex arcade game to that date - definitely one
worth learning. Too bad the original arcade monitors
were prone to catching fire, making them really rare
today. See RT #7 where Tom does one of the first
Many Faces of reviews.
<Defend your Star Bases and find and destroy Nomad>
Arcade: by Rob Zdybel, Sega 1982 & Home Versions: unless noted, all by Sega
1983: Vic 20 (Eric J. Popejoy), C64 (Joe Sengir), 2600, 5200, Atari 8 bit,
TI-99 (Sega & later by Texas Instruments). Finally, in 1984 the
Rumor Mill: Intellivision version was in the works by
Other Trek games, close but not the same: ST: Phasor Strike, í79
Microvision, and for the Vectrex, 1982, ST:The Motion Picture, an excellent
game where you battle Klingons in true 3-D action.
Home Version Similarities: All versions have: Star Trek theme music at
the beginning; only one E! (ship) per game with an unlimited supply of
phaser fire; SBs must be defended and when docked with add 1 unit to your
otherwise limited supply of photon torpedoes, warps and shields; more
points are scored for not using the SBs; enemies & their weapons will
damage E!, once they are close, not just on contact; all other damage
from ramming, collision with debris, or Klingon plasma
bursts shows up as a reduction first in shield units,
then torpedoes, then warp units, the next hit ends
your simulation; there are 10 sectors (levels) of increasing
difficulty on all home versions that I have manuals for, compared with 40
missions at the arcade. None of the home versions offer any gameplay
options, but the CV does have a choice of 4 difficulty levels. Every
version does at least a decent job with sound effects, such as phaser and
photon fire, enemy weapons, impulse and warp drive, docking, nomad moving
about, and the drones draining away anti-matter. Your score remains
on-screen until the next game begins.
Additional home version elements, except for those Missing In Action (MIA)
<listed here>: six <C64> rounds to each sector, first two rounds facing
Klingons, the third round <TI, C64, Vic, CV> is a time-limited bonus
re-supply round where up to 4 SB can be found, alternating every sector
between an asteroid field & meteor shower; two more rounds versus Klingons,
and the final round versus Nomad, his weapons fire <CV> & mines; after
nomad has escaped or is destroyed, the next sector begins; the scanners
display the Klingons in distinct colors which determines their purpose -
to attack A) the E!, B) SBs or C) when SB are
destroyed all Klingons will ram the E! <Vic & TI - all
Klingon ships look alike>; a solitary, unique colored
Klingon ship is a secret anti-matter saucer/drone that attaches to
E! to drain warp units; a signal alerts you when you have phaser lock on
a Klingon <TI, CV, Vic>; an on-screen indicator with
up to 6 colors alertís you to the E!ís remaining
shield units <CV & TI>; a red alert sounds when your
shields are gone <Vic & TI>; an overlay for the controllers came with
many of the versions; up to three <2600> SB must be defended which are
green (and/or filled) then turn blue (and/or empty) when docked with,
flash red <TI, 2600, Vic> once their shields are half way gone; your photon
torpedoes show up on the scanner and explode into a ring of effective
area (2600, 5200, 8 Bit); music plays when you destroy
Nomad (TI & Vic); a pause is provided for a few
versions except the (2600, C64, Vic).
Have Nots: Vic 20 (31)
My first reaction was that SOS is too complicated a game for the Vic,
but we saw how good the Vic "Robotron 2084" could be.
The Gameplay is good enough (6) to be playable. The
biggest problem is the action is s-l-o-w-e-d when
facing the full compliment of Klingons. The above MIA
game elements also hurt the Vic version a lot. This is the only version
with a high score stored. The Addictiveness is decent (6) enough to keep
you going. The Graphics are mediocre (5) and detract significantly - but
every element is displayed - albeit poorly. The Sound is a bit harsh
sounding, but overall is respectable (6) and save for missing music after
destroying Nomad, I think that every sound effect is included. The
Controls are responsive (8), but the E! seems to move too be controlled
too slowly compared to the other versions. When all
action is slowed itís even
harder to turn, as compared to moving forward. Also note that all systems
without a controller that can be held so that 2 fire buttons (phaser plus
photons) are easy to use without any error or accidents - were penalized
1 point. ie all but one home version of SOS.
Have Nots: Atari 2600 (39)
My first reaction was this is too good a game for the 2600. It is
scaled down but very worth while. If you like simple
games, rate this one higher. The Gameplay is
impressive (8) and is pretty much all there. The limit of
1 SB instead of 3 and thus fewer attacking Klingons keeps it from being
among the best. Fewer Klingons also cuts into the randomness of the
Klingon threat. Addictiveness is enjoyable (8) - a pause would surelyhelp.
Graphics are limited and blocky, but good enough (6) to catch most
of the gameplay elements. There are no visible E! photon torpedo
fire.Itís still there in the gameplay, just too bad it was not added visibly.
Sound is a bit limited in variety and quality, but still sharp (8) and
nothing is missing. The Controls are super (9), but hurt by the
complexity of the game and only 1 fire button.
Have Nots: Atari 5200 (39)
My first reaction was that the 2 "Wico controller" fire buttons
really work well. The Gameplay is fantastic (9) the
best out there, having only one trivial MIA. The
Addictiveness is enjoyable (8) with great replay value,
but I did not add in the usual bonus for the pause button <pause>.
Fortunately the manual warns you that after 2.5 minutes the game resets.
Ah Ďcmon, what good is 2.5 minutes. The Graphics are smooth and
effective (7), but not in the neighborhood of the
medal winners and completely ignoring photons on
screen is a shame. The Sound is all there and pleasant
(8), but just not quite as good as the medal winners. The Controls are
pretty good (7), but the steering is a disappointment considering two
excellent fire buttons on a Wico controller. Perhaps its just poor
programming as too many accidents happen steering and warping the E!
Quick, pinpoint firing and maneuvering control is also lost, and forget
about the standard controllers.
Have Notsl: Atari 8 Bit (41)
My first reaction was why canít I see my photons fire. All comments
about the 5200 apply here as they did not change the
game, other than the obvious controller differences.
The pause button is the <select> button - making me
wonder if I ever missed that before. This seems like a poor choice, but
is used in other 8 bit games. Itís only one keystroke away is the only
other button used in the game, <reset>. Likewise, the non-ambitious
programming continued as the 2.5 minute pause is still in vogue here.
Dooh! The Controls are outstanding (9), but again, only one fire button.
This game can be found on cart and disk.
Bronze Medal: Colecovision (42)
My first reaction, typical of many CV arcade games, this version is
too darn hard on level 1, not to mention difficulties
2 through 4. The Gameplay is impressive (8) save for
the MIAs. Although a shield color indicator is
lacking, a unique enhancement is a circular display of shields
around the E!, just like the movie displays. Also, despite lacking the
bonus round, there are unique bonuses given at 20K and (I think) upon
completion of each level. Another unique element is that Nomads mines
when destroyed may lead to a chain reaction. The
Addictiveness is enjoyable (8), with the best use of
the pause <*>, but that is erased by the difficulty of
the game. Itís so difficult - whatís that point of the
harder difficulty levels. The Graphics are sharp (8) and detailed, but
not as colorful and smooth as the C64. Sound is
wonderful (9) with the best Trek music of them all and
all the effects done well. Controls are a mixed bag
(I tried both controller choices 1 & 2 for 6 different
controllers). The best I got was a (9) well done, by using the Super
Action controllers. These should have yielded a 10, but they honestly do
not work right. Hoe did this make it out of play testing? You need to
select the Standard Controller option and then get partial use of the SA
Controller. At least youíve been warned. This is the only version with
any rarity and could set you back about $20.
Gold Medal: Commodore 64 & TI-99/4A (43)
Another tie this month. Despite their significant differences, Iím
certain that youíll agree they both deserve a medal.
<C64 version really looks nice, but is not without its flaws.>
My first reaction was that the Klingons do not move enough. But upon
closer inspection the difficulty builds up more gradually here. And it
appears the Klingons are programmed to stay put and fight cautiously (not
much honor and glory in that). They prefer to stay safely out of your
phaser range and pound you with torpedoes. But, once you run from them,
they will pursue. The Gameplay is very nice (8) but the MIAs drop it a
notch below the Atari computer. The sector/round is not displayed unless
you destroy Nomad. The Addictiveness is pleasant (8) and Ďtis very much
version that youíll want to play over & over. The gradual increase in
difficulty is great, but there is no pause, as both the disk and cart
versiosn, the <F7> does not function as a pause as it says in the manual.
I tried ll other buttons as well. The Graphics are wonderful (9),
easily the best with no baggage. Sound is great (9)
where the music and all effects are on par with the
CV. The Controls are fantastic (9), but again, thereís
only one fire button. If I scored 100 points total, this one would
barely eclipse the TI. Available on cart and disk.
My first reaction was that the talking was too limited. It sounds
really cool, but thereís only a few phrases, "Entering
Sector X.Y", "Damage Repaired Captain", "Avoid Mines",
and "Excellent Maneuvering Captain". I may have been
too generous scoring the Gameplay as pretty good (7). Itís
not much better than the Vic and too many elements are MIA. You may be
tempted to boldly take you to playing another version. The Antimatter
drone is very effective and stubborn in this version. The Addictiveness
is outstanding (9) and gets the top billing with a fun
version that has a
. This button stinks for some games, but
thereís no problem finding a good break in the action
to locate it. Graphics are sharp (8) and the Nomad
round really fills up with action as Nomadís
weapons and mines stick around for quite a while. The shields are uniquely
displayed on the viewer as a mesh that is lit up when you are hit. The
Sound is awesome (10) of you have the Speech Synthesizer peripheral. The
music and effects are probably not as good as the CV, but pretty much all
there. The Controls are well done (9), but only when using an Atari