Review: Star Trek Trexels15 Jan 2014 0
Ugh, it's time to fire up Star Trek: Trexels again. There's the push notification on my iPad, alerting me that Ensign Solomon wants my attention in the Hydroponics Lab. Beam me up the hell up I guess.
I am the ideal target consumer of all things Star Trek. Somewhere in CBS's marketing department, there's a shrine with a life-sized statue of me in it. Money pours from my outstretched hands and a silver-gilt banderole streams from my mouth saying "I WILL BUY ANYTHING WITH AN ENTERPRISE ON IT." When I was 10 I bought my mother a Ships of Star Trek calendar (I think it had the Excelsior on the cover) and I actually thought she would like it*. I have USS Enterprise salt and pepper shakers. I'm the guy that owns Star Trek V on Blu-Ray.
So surely CBS could not have hand-selected a better critic to review Star Trek: Trexels for iOS. If it were even a half-way competent game, I'd slap a 5 out of 5 on it, make the Vulcan salute, and flop onto the couch for another Netflix binge of TNG episodes. Engage.
But it is not to be.
Trexels is such a trite, repetitive non-game that it's actually starting to overwrite good memories I have of Star Trek. Forget what you know about Gene Roddenberry's idealised future, where mankind has buried racism and sexism forever and lives in a cashless, post-scarcity utopia and looks outward to the stars for fulfilment.
Star Trek: Trexels is not about that future. In Trexels, mankind takes to the stars to push the same couple of buttons over and over again. Then wait fifteen minutes. Then push buttons again. If bringing back war and famine and dog-eat-dog capitalism will mean the end of these buttons, I will seriously consider it. Sorry Gene.
Star Trek: Trexels makes a hell of a good first impression. A lovingly-designed pixelart Starship Enterprise sweeps onto the screen as no one less than George Takei reads the famous opening lines of the show. This sort of detailed fan service is the kind of thing that the game does best, and it does it really well. Trexels was created by people who know their Trek: every sound effect, every room on the Trexelprise is a treat. The game liberally mixes the different eras of the TV show (while ostensibly set during the time of the Original Series, TNG design elements sprinkle the UI and the Borg make a prominent appearance early on) but it's all hand-waved away with some "temporal anomalies". This is the sort of thing that would cause an ultra-orthodox Trek nerd to self-immolate but it doesn't bother me any.
No, what bothers me is that Trexels doesn't have any game under its lovely Star Trek porthole dressing. Trexels is your run-of-the-mill freemium timer game, but it's even less ambitious, gameplay-wise, than many of the ones I've played recently. You build resource-generating rooms in your Constitution-class starship, and periodically tap them to collect resources. Resources are spent building more rooms or launching away missions.
The word "missions" might suggest some gameplay hiding in there but my sensors could not detect any. The missions are actually Trexels at its most risible: if you're on a mission to negotiate with the Klingons, you just tap a button that says "negotiate" over and over again until the mission is completed. On a science mission, you'll hit a button that says "theorize". I'm not kidding.
Charmless as they are, these missions are comparative rarities anyway. Most of the time you spend in Trexels is spent waiting. Build a room? Watch a 30-minute timer count down to its completion. Send Lt. Sulu on an away mission? Wait ten minutes for him to come back. It's drudgery.
I wanted to abandon Trexels within my first 5 minutes of playing, but I was determined to give the game the old college try for the purpose of this review. Even with that external motivation, the game was a bear to play. The resource generating and spending mechanics are poorly explained and I frequently ran into roadblocks I didn't understand, like being unable to build a new room for lack of available crew, despite the UI telling me that half my crewmembers were inactive.
The most galling thing about Trexels is that despite its conformity to standard free-to-play game conventions, it's not a free-to-play game at all. You're frequently encouraged to drop real cash on in-game resources, of course, but you're actually paying $2.99 up-front for the privilege.
It's sad, but the best Star Trek experiences on mobile don't carry the official imprimatur of Gene Roddenberry. If you want large-scale space battles out of Deep Space 9, then get Tactical Space Command. If you want to captain your own ship as you explore the final frontier, then wait around for FTL for iPad, Interstellaria, or Tiny Trek. Star Trek: Trexels is lovely to look at and listen to, but it's a tedious mess of a game to play.
* She didn't.
Star Trek: Trexels was played on a 3rd-gen iPad for this review.