Star Trek: Hidden Evil

Star Trek: Hidden Evil is set about nine months after the events in the 1998 movie, Star Trek: Insurrection. If you didn't see the film, rent it! Just kidding. Long story short, the Son'a were the bad guys in the film, the Ba'ku simple people on an amazing planet that would extend the lifespan of its inhabitants. In the end, it turned out the Son'a were Ba'ku exiles from hundreds of years before and were trying to take back what they lost when they left the planet. Picard and crew defeated the bad Son'a and the remaining Son'a set out to peacefully colonise a small part of the planet.

The main character is an ensign assigned to assist Captain Picard on a mission on the Ba'ku homeworld. The new Son'a colony there has made a large archaeological discovery. Picard and Data return to investigate and Ensign Sovok is chosen to shuttle them from the closest star base.

I'm not going to give away the story, but suffice to say that die-hard Trekkers will enjoy the references to the Next Generation episode, The Chase. The investigation quickly turns out to be a lot more than your average archaeological dig and the ensign finds himself in the thick of things in the course of helping Data and Picard.

The game comes off like a well-written Star Trek episode, with the ensign as the lead character. Adventure fans will quickly recognise telltale signs of the genre: fixed camera angles, puzzles, pre-rendered backgrounds, and limited interaction with the environment. But many will be surprised by the way Hidden Evil really feels like Star Trek - and by the action.

Many factors combine to give the game that Trek feel: the voices of Patrick Stewart and Brent Spiner (for Picard and Data, respectively), the Star Trek-esque interface, the beautiful backgrounds, the story line and the use of Star Trek conventions. For example, you have a tricorder that works and will actually get you out of a few puzzles if you read its output. You have a phaser, and, eventually, you'll even get one of those cool stealth suits from the movie. And since Sovok is half-Vulcan and half-human (now, where have we heard that before?) you'll also have the Vulcan nerve pinch.

Developer Presto Studios, previously known for its work on The Journeyman Project adventures, has spiced up the adventure genre with numerous action-oriented puzzles. You'll use that phaser many times on enemies ranging from robot drones to genetically altered creatures, and you'll have to move through dangerous areas in which you'll need to time your movements.

The graphics and sound add just that much more appeal to the game. The characters are 3D polygon-based. In some games, that can be a problem because the static backgrounds and moving 3D characters look wildly different from one another. Not so here. I always felt I was in a Star Trek episode. Sound enhances that feeling as well. Just as in any good Star Trek episode, music is cued to the action and it did a good job of raising my blood pressure.

I found Hidden Evil downright entertaining - both as a Star Trek fan and an adventure gamer. It offers a path into a believable Star Trek universe that should appeal to adventure fans and novice action gamers alike. And who knows, if you play your cards right you might even end up on the Enterprise.

Product: Star Trek: Hidden Evil

Publisher: Activision

URL: www.activision.com

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