- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 23, 2009

Here’s an abbreviated look at some downloadable multimedia titles for everyone in the family.

Star Trek D-A-C (from Paramount Digital Entertainment, for the Xbox 360, 800 Microsoft points, $10) — It appears game developers had little confidence in the new “Star Trek” movie achieving any lofty success. How else can one explain the lack of creative resources afforded the latest interactive experience for fans?

No third-person action here in the God of War vein nor a sandbox-style Grand Theft Auto epic based on Gene Roddenberry’s famed universe. Nope, only a frenetic, top down space shooter contained in an Xbox Live Arcade download.

Up to 12 online players (or solo commanders against computer opponents) can split up and take control of either Federation or Romulan forces in stunning high-definition dogfights.

A trio of ships is at the players’ disposal, including a flagship such as the newly designed Enterprise, a bomber that dumps explosives from its rear and a spry fighter.

The game’s title — Star Trek D-A-C — describes the limits on its destructive diversity: There’s Deathmatch (first to 50 kills wins), Assault (take turns to defend a space sector) and Conquest (capture bases).

The player can take advantage of an intriguing move. He can eject in an escape pod from his craft if he is about to become space dust and quickly respawn with a minimal loss of firepower and energy, a very common occurrence in my adventures. Don’t feel too secure in that pod, though, as it is fair game for the enemy.

If a primary ship explodes, the player loses all attributes and must wait longer to re-enter the battle. Collect orbs amid space debris to restore shields, grab a powerup such as a homing missile or increase primary weapons power.

The sound effects and music from the film add to the fun along with obstacle course of various space sectors ranging from an icy planet to the techno-cluttered docking station.

I can only hope the Klingons or Cardassian fleets might enter the fray in future expansion downloads.

Unfortunately, the lack of maps, lack of incentive for beating the tar out of the opponent and lack of campaigns makes for a limited evening of fun. Even the diehard Trekker might find the game’s existence illogical.

Zen Pinball (from Zen Studios for PlayStation 3, $9.99) — Purists looking for a traditional pinball experience without having to travel to an arcade or buy a real machine get a virtual wonderland within this download for Sony’s entertainment console.

There are four boards through which a player can maneuver his silver orb: race track (V12), jungle (El Dorado), hostile natives (Shamen) and electromagnetism laboratory (Tesla).

The game is so realistic — including bumping the board, using the strategy of deadening a ball and flipper response — I almost placed a quarter in front of the television screen.

The bells, bumpers, ramps, targets and secret entrances are plentiful and colorful artwork and the dot matrix update screen seen at the top of real tables is translated perfectly.

I give the edge to the Tesla table, which features the work of the famed inventor complete with steam cannon, coil ramps, steam bursts and an enthusiastic Austrian accent popping in occasionally.

The online multiplayer action extends the casual adventure with tournaments and hosts being able to set conditions of victory against three other opponents. Even voice and video chat is available to capture a victory dance or the agony of defeat.

A news crawl at the bottom of menu screens keeps track of pinball wizards around the world and current ranking tidbits while inspiring the player to rack up points.

Additionally, maximum configurability, down to adding a slow-motion mode, removing effects from the balls, multiple board views (the follow-the-ball perspective is most dizzying), changing flipper controls and saving a game, should satisfy all levels of pinball fans.

Expect the ability to download more boards from the PlayStation Store in the future in this potent simulation.

Note: I could not find the board secrets in the onscreen instructions, so I suggest looking to the Zen Pinball Web site (www.zenpinball.com) to find all of the boards’ nuances to hit the highest scores.

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