From the Database of Home of the Underdogs
GAME DESIGNER:Eric Dallaire
GAME DEVELOPER:Presto Studios
Copyright 1999, Presto Studios/Paramount
Hidden Evil is a disappointing end to Presto Studio’s excellent career that includes three Journeyman Project games. This Star Trek: TNG game is rushed, too easy, and too tedious to warrant attention from anyone except die-hard ST fans. The review at Adventure Collective says it all:
“Hidden Evil takes place a few months after the events of Star Trek: Insurrection. The Son’a and the Ba’ku now live together in relative harmony on the planet that gives off the mysterious metaphasic radiation, and a Federation outpost has been established in order to watch over this new protectorate. In the role of Starfleet Ensign Sovok, you have recently been assigned to Outpost 40, which at first seems to be the kiss of death, as far as postings go. But your fortune changes when Son’a construction uncovers the ruins of a civilization that existed over five billion years ago. Captain Picard, well known for his love of archeology, is requested by the Ba’ku to investigate this matter. In a stroke of good fortune, you have been assigned to assist Picard and Data in the excavation. Things quickly turn ugly however as some of the Son’a show their true colors. The colony is taken over by Son’a rebels, trapping you and Picard inside the bowels of the alien colony.
After a bit of exploration, it seems the alien race in question is the so-called “Progenitors,” last seen in the “Next Generation” episode “The Chase.” This race supposedly seeded the galaxy eons ago and had left a message for their “children” encoded in their DNA. Eventually, you make contact with the last surviving member of the Progenitors, only to discover that the Romulans have been orchestrating the recent chaos on the Ba’ku homeworld. Securing a genetic weapon of unimaginable power (is there any other kind?), it’s now up to you to save the galaxy from destruction.
The game was clearly rushed through, and while Presto Studios actually did a halfway decent job for a game they pushed out in a single year, one can still see that the results are not as polished as they should have been. The graphics appear to be rendered backdrops for the most part, which, while polished and clean looking, felt rather sparse. Animation was often lacking, and some areas seemed ridiculously small, or empty and abandoned when they shouldn’t have been. The background music and ambient sounds were alright for the most part. Creepy when needed, but highly repetitive. The trademark background hum of a Federation starship is captured perfectly when you are on the Enterprise, but that’s the only use of ambient sounds that really come to mind.
The gameplay in Hidden Evil was kept as simple as possible, in order to appeal to the “casual gamer.” The keypad is used to move the character about. Ensign Sovok can be moved over to “hotspots,” where he can either interact with them alone or by using objects in his inventory. Inventory is handled by use of a simple item bar that can be called up, with certain items being placed in “hotkey” slots for quick retrieval. This feature was actually nice to have, being able to administer healing hyposprays to myself in the middle of a battle without having to put away my phaser.
I wasn’t terribly thrilled with the exploration aspect (of which they was almost none) or the puzzles. With the possible exception of the endgame, the problems encountered were all pretty straightforward, to the point where I felt I was being guided around. That, combined with the lackluster ending made for a less than satisfying experience. It took me only three hours to solve this game. To make matters worse, it feels like half of that time was spent shooting my phaser. Yes folks, that’s right, there is a reason they call this game an “action adventure.” The game is kind enough to auto aim for you, if you point your character in the general direction of the thing you want to shoot; but trying to wheel around using the keypad feels cumbersome at times, especially in narrow crowded corridors. I also felt the reload time on the phaser was a bit slow, and there were too few hyposprays to be had, except near the end, where you would probably be gulping them down like crazy.
Some may consider my criticism of the game too harsh. While I certainly agree that this game would make a perfect gift for a younger gamer, or a neophyte adventurer, there are so many other games that are just perfect for the beginner. Hell, even Myst would make a better “primer.” I understand that the game was meant to be a piece of budgetware for the casual gamer; and if you look at it through that narrow lens, it succeeds admirably. But through the lens of a true adventure game, Hidden Evil becomes very blurry and indistinct.
From its short length, to its obvious puzzles, to its heavy reliance on phaser fire, this game falls flat in some of the most important ways where adventure games are concerned. The saddest part is that the game was intentionally castrated! I think it’s more painful to see a good design team intentionally holding themselves back, than to see the wasted efforts from a team that got all the time it needed. While it certainly makes a good, cheap and amusing gift for a youngster who would probably never play adventure games anyhow, I’m afraid that it has trouble standing tall as a full, card-carrying member of the adventure game community!”