'Star Trek: The Video Game'

From: Namco Bandai

Rated: T

Who it's for: Budding game designers who want to see how NOT to make a good game

Console: Xbox 360, PS3, PC

Grade: D-

The lesson for today kids: Don't let your guard down. Doing so might lead to sadness, anger and the loss of $60.

The recent spate of excellent licensed games, including "Injustice: Gods Among Us," coupled with a nifty premise, had me excited about "Star Trek: The Video Game."

Instead of trying to rehash the upcoming J.J. Abrams-helmed movie sequel, "Star Trek: The Video Game" sets out to fill in the gap between the first and second films of the latest series.

The story features the Gorn, the lizard men whom Capt. James T. Kirk fights in the classic episode "Arena." Instead of a guy in a rubber suit, the new Gorn are menacing aliens who look as if they could rip out your throat if you glance at them wrong.

Additionally, all the movie's actors voice their characters, including Chris Pine as Kirk and Zachary Quinto as Spock.

You now know the best parts of the game. The rest is a mess.

While the Gorn make a great group of enemies, the story -- it involves the need to retrieve a stolen super-weapon -- has little punch. Kirk and Spock must traverse various muddy, uninspired environments, scan things with their tricorders and shoot the bad lizards.

Every once in a while there's a puzzle or a mini-game meant to break up the monotony, but all those do is add a new a different level of monotony, for several reasons.

First, the overall level design and game mechanics fall flat. What should be a spectacular space opera starring some of the most iconic characters in pop culture plays like a generic, low-budget, third-person shooter.

Yes, there are phasers and tricorders, but Kirk and Spock might as well be a couple of red shirts on shore leave. The utter lack of "wow" moments drains any possible enthusiasm.

Second, the game is both broken and stupid. Animations look choppy, and it is not uncommon for characters to get stuck in walls or just get lost.

Enemies standing next to each other often don't react when one of them gets shot. There's no chance creatures this brain dead could have a ranked military system and advanced weaponry.

You'd think playing as Kirk and Spock would be a romping good time, but there's little reason to team up, other than gaining a little additional firepower.

If you play alone, the second character's artificial intelligence will leave you wondering why you didn't transport him into a wall and just be done with it.

If you play co-op, you'll wonder if you and your friend couldn't come up with a better game to bond over. You know, like "Pong."

OK, perhaps I exaggerate a wee bit. As I said, the voice work is great despite the fact the designers couldn't be bothered to lip sync the animation. And it's fun to run around the Enterprise in a Starfleet uniform.

But the small bursts of joy are short-lived, with reality crashing back down when you realize the game makes no sense.

When fighting against mind-controlled humans, you can either stun them or kill them. Logically, it should be more difficult (and more rewarding) to take the high road and incapacitate them instead of blasting them to space dust.

However, stunning them is much easier than killing them, anyway, and since there is no motivation to go the other way (other than taking your frustrations out on them), you'd might as well just stun them and be done with it.

"Star Trek: The Video Game" stands as one of the most disappointing licensed games I've ever played, and that's saying something.

Viewed in light of today's averaged licensed fare -- it has gotten progressively better the past few years -- the game stands out like a Klingon at a Starfleet mixer.

Only it isn't as welcome.