Review: Space Trek (WiiWare)

Space dreck

Calaris's last WiiWare game, WarMen Tactics, was allegedly “created to reflect the realities of urban warfare." Not only did it completely and utterly fail to accomplish its goal, it completely and utterly failed to function as a working and playable videogame. The operations guide of its latest outing, Space Trek, describes itself as having “eye-popping,” “high-res” graphics, “intuitive” controls and “humorous,” “sarcastic” dialogue. These too are lies: Space Trek not only delivers on exactly zero of its promises, but, like the atrocity that preceded it, can hardly be called a game at all. You just can't judge some things by their virtual covers.

This is an iPhone port, and it does not care who knows it. From the laughably low-res introduction to the pixelated, barebones menus, Space Trek shows little sign that the developers remastered or revamped any aspect of the experience for WiiWare.

It also shows little sign that it wants the player to grasp what the heck is going on. The only details of the story, controls and mission types can be found in the operations guide, meaning that even if the player somehow manages to sort their way through the tiny amount of customisation options to find the story mode, they will have an exceedingly difficult time in figuring out just what exactly the story is and how to play through it.

The narrative is essentially this: the player takes control of Jay, a sassy, blue-haired space ranger who's on a mission to save the “survivors." Jay, with all his wit and forward-thinking, apparently doesn't feel the need to know exactly what these survivors have... well, survived, nor does he even need to know what planet they're on (which the game simply refers to as “the planet you're on”). He's just that kind of guy. The one thing he does know is that the planet he's on is now infested with Knagars — yes, they're actually called Knagars — described in-game as green, self-important bullies. Aren't they all?

All of this, however, is rather inconsequential. Some of the best games ever created have had perfectly horrid stories, after all. The most pressing issue, therefore, is: how does it play?

The answer, to put it lightly, is not terribly well. Since the game apparently doesn't find it necessary to explain the controls with a helpful tutorial (or even an informative loading screen), the player will need to take yet another trip down Operations Guide Lane to figure them out. Tilting the Wii Remote left and right manoeuvres the ship accordingly while the 2 and 1 buttons accelerate and brake. Pressing B and A select and fire your weapon, and the control pad moves the camera around, but its use seems limited to disorienting the player further.

Space Trek's flight-based gameplay recalls memories of StarFox 64, but its structure is much more similar to a lesser known Nintendo 64 game called Chopper Attack. This is not a particularly good thing. In the search-and-rescue missions, the player controls Jay's ship around a fairly open environment with the hopes of rescuing these “survivors” that we keep hearing about, while at the same time blasting Knagars. This, however, is sort of like controlling a Formula One race car with the capability of flight: not only are the tilt controls outrageously sensitive, but your ship travels at speeds so ludicrous that even a dainty tap of the 2 button causes it to break the sound barrier.

More problematic is the automatic lock-on system. Although your ship's cross-hairs are supposed to snap to the nearest enemy, they seem much more keen on doing so to random bits of the scenery that have nothing to do with your current objective. This makes the later, harder levels a big game of chance – maybe you'll lock onto and destroy the enemy, or maybe you'll lock onto a lovely bit of shrubbery while the enemy blasts you into a pixelated pulp. Who knows?

These issues become even more apparent in the second mission type. Now, like the planet you're on and the type of disaster that the survivors have survived, these mission types aren't really named, but they're essentially fast-paced search and destroy missions. Since you're constantly moving forth here and have limited control over your craft, locking onto your target with any sort of consistency is impossible. The cross-hairs jump wildly from enemy to enemy while you hopelessly attempt to eliminate them. However, Jay's ship tends to go faster than the enemies', so often he'll run through them (not into them, mind you) and die in something like a strange glitch.

Perhaps all of these tasks wouldn't be so unbearable if it weren't for the embarrassing presentation. The environments are hideously low-polygon and the enemy ships are only recognisable as such if you're within a few feet of them. It looks, to put it quite simply, as if someone stretched a so-so-looking iPhone game to fit onto a widescreen television. Which, of course, is obviously exactly what happened. The lighting (which the operations guide describes as “immersive”) is so dark and poorly textured in some areas that it's impossible to see where the player is supposed to go next. Don't be surprised if a gigantic worm comes up from the ground and eats your ship without warning because it was too dark to see it was even there. Of course, due to the game's collision issues, there's a good change the ship might run right through it without a hitch.

Somehow, all of these excruciating problems manage to cram into one single, disastrous story mode that you could complete on your lunch break. But as if surviving this gut-wrenchingly bad feature wasn't enough of an accomplishment, Calaris has thrown in Survival Mode in a paltry attempt at adding replay value. Unfortunately, this is built around the game's two biggest weaknesses – moving and aiming at things. Surviving waves of enemies isn't a test of one's skill so much as it is a test of one's patience, and seeing as you cannot share the high scores on some sort of online leaderboard, it's mostly a waste of time.

Conclusion

Even if the controls worked, even if the graphics weren't insultingly poor, even if the voice acting wasn't painful and even if the enemies weren't called Knagars, Space Trek would still be a mediocre game unworthy of your precious Wii Points. As it is, Space Trek is the sort of garbage that you should drop the controller and run away from. It's a slap in the face to Wii gamers, and further proof that we need more quality control on the WiiWare service.