I’d call myself a mid-level trekkie (loved Next Generation and Deep Space Nine, can’t get into Discovery or Picard), but I’m now questioning that label thanks to Star Trek Prodigy: Supernova. Honestly, I had no idea that Star Trek Prodigy, the TV series that this game is based on, even existed. But it’s there, squirreled away on Paramount+ and aimed at younger viewers. I hang my head in shame and hand in my Starfleet lapel pin.
Star Trek Prodigy: Supernova is the latest game to come from the collaboration between Paramount+ and Outright Games, a deal that has already produced Dreamworks Dragons: Legends of the Nine Realms. It’s also the twenty-millionth game that Outright seem to have unleashed in the past few months, having furnished the holiday period with L.O.L Surprise! B.B.s BORN TO TRAVEL, PAW Patrol: Grand Prix and the previously mentioned Dragons game, among DLC to their other games. But rather than spreading themselves thin, Outright Games are onto something of a quality run. And Star Trek Prodigy: Supernova, rather than bringing the run to a screeching halt, keeps it going.
It’s the age-old tale of a starship crash-landing on a planet about to be subsumed by a supernova. Even more thrillingly, the crew of said starship has been teleported out, willy-nilly, across various planets before the crash. It leaves you, Dal R’El and Gwyndala, racing against time to save the crew, fix the Starship Protostar, and yeet out of the system before everyone becomes stardust. But that’s not all! This system has been enslaved by an old nemesis of yours, and they’re harvesting the planets for as much energy as they can before it’s not there anymore.
Star Trek Prodigy: Supernova attempts to straddle the grown-up themes of conventional Star Trek, and the attention levels of your average teen, and it gets there, just about. We’re personally not fans of the Marvel-like tone, with everyone quipping like there’s no tomorrow, defusing any potential drama by joking about it (the simmering romance also makes us wince), but there’s a surprising epicness to proceedings, and the themes of slavery and isolationism are a little heavier than you might have expected. It’s actually too talky, in our view, pausing the action too often when we wanted a greater flow. But it’s far from poor quality.
What this is welded onto is an adventure-puzzle game that reminds us a little of Lara Croft: Temple of Osiris, the zoomed out, co-op take on the Tomb Raider universe. Like that game, Star Trek Prodigy: Supernova is unashamedly co-op, to the point that playing it solo feels like you are losing something of the experience. When playing alone, you are constantly tapping B to switch to the other player, when there’s a much greater energy and flow that comes from playing together. If you can find another trekkie, it’s the optimum way to play.
It also shares Temple of Osiris’s viewpoint and mix of combat and puzzling. Roughly one-third of Star Trek Prodigy: Supernova is fighting, which feels about right: Star Trek has always liked a wrestling match with a Gorn, but it’s predominantly cerebral, and so it goes. We expected the combat to be slight and repetitive, and – you know what – it really does knock it out of the park. We’re not talking Devil May Cry here, but there’s substance that we really didn’t expect.
Much of the strategy comes from whether you fight close-quarters or at range. The Watchers, the game’s one and only enemy, swarm you, and the latter parts of the game become a firework display of grenades, lasers, charging attacks and explosive death rattles. You’re always on the move, switching between the two attack types, and even switching characters in single-player, as both Dal R’El and Gwyndala have their specialisms. Negotiating this chaos is great fun, and – while there are safety nets in the form of revives and extra life points – it can get pretty challenging. We found ourselves hitting the deck more times than we expected.
But the real reason we like the combat is the choice of weapons. There are three per character, and they are decently inventive and pack quite the punch. Our favourite was a phaser rifle that would absolutely leather the enemies, and we’d swing it round at speed like we were playing a twin-stick shooter. But, equally, there are power-fists that Gwyndala uses that can be charged by holding X, leaping over enemies, or a lance that cuts through Watchers like metallic butter. A lot of work has gone into making these punchy, and it’s time well spent. There’s more heft to the combat than it has any right to have.
Which makes it all the more bewildering that upgrading your combat abilities is so slimline. It’s a bit arse, really, and could have added another dimension with very little work at all. At various points in the campaign, you are arbitrarily told that a weapon can be upgraded. There are three levels of upgrade, and they just dink up the speed or strength. Slightly better are some holodeck challenges that improve your crewmate powers (an automatically triggered effect that deals AOE damage), but those crewmate powers were poor to start off with, and we often forgot they were there.
Away from combat, Star Trek Prodigy: Supernova expects you to think. As you move through chunky, lovingly realised environments, you are often confronted with laser walls and blocked corridors. You are stuck, and your aim is to become unstuck. Often, this means utilising the two characters’ skillsets. Dal R’El can lift up fallen pillars, allowing Gwyndala to duck underneath, or he can don a camouflage suit and escape the view of cameras. Gwyndala, meanwhile, has a disturbing arm-tentacle ability that can create a bridge for Dal R’El. Helping each other through the levels is one flavour of the cooperation.
The other is blocks. Star Trek Prodigy: Supernova absolutely loves a cube: enough that we expected it to feature in the title somewhere. There are heavy blocks, light-emitting blocks, teleporting blocks and switch blocks. There are small blocks and big blocks. You push them, drop them off cliffs, drop them onto switches or teleport them across an arena. This is all in the name of environmental puzzles, and, by golly, there is an endless number of them in Star Trek Prodigy: Supernova.
Now, your reaction to this may differ. The puzzles are supremely well designed: they escalate in difficulty, and no layout is the same as another. They wring every last drop out of cube-based puzzling. But there is an opportunity for fatigue here, and we can imagine teenage trekkies with their Vulcan ears on, slamming down the pad and huffing off to their bedroom, cursing the ‘sodding blocks’. We love a good Sokoban-puzzler, and even we were starting to get sick of all the similar puzzles. Heaven knows what Star Trek Prodigy: Supernova will feel like for players who like combat, but couldn’t give a flying tribble for puzzles.
More so than perhaps any Outright Games title that we’ve played, there is a deal of substance to Star Trek Prodigy: Supernova. Levels can run to thirty minutes in length, and there are plentiful secrets to find in nooks and crannies (although we’d have opted for an upgrade system that better used them). You’re looking at close to ten hours of gameplay here, particularly if you are chasing medals for strong performance in the level. And Star Trek Prodigy: Supernova needed to be substantial: it’s an expensive little title, coming to £44.99 – a world of prices that no Outright Game has ever gone before.
Is Star Trek Prodigy: Supernova worth that outlay? Yes, but with some directives. One, bring a second-in-command. This has been designed from the ground up for two players. Two, prepare yourselves for long bouts of puzzling. This isn’t the action-packed romp that you might expect. And three, fans of the series are going to get so much more from the experience. For our part, the goofy dialogue had us wrinkling our nose so much that we looked like a Klingon.
We expected Star Trek Prodigy: Supernova to arrive in a red shirt, virtually dead on arrival. Instead, we’ve got a game with substance and style, and there’s nothing more Star Trek than that.
You can buy Star Trek Prodigy: Supernova from the Xbox Store