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Starlight Inception (Vita) artwork

Starlight Inception (Vita) review

"The best thing I can say about Starlight is that, had it been a technically sound game with better presentation, it may have achieved mediocrity."

When the developers of Starlight Inception took to Kickstarter to get the game funded, I backed their project. At the time, I believed in the promise of a decent handheld space flight experience. In my mind, it seemed like the next best thing to a Vita version of Colony Wars.

The game was originally set for release last August. After numerous delays Starlight is finally here. It's not the game I was hoping for, though. In fact, it's a barely functional, glitch-filled mess.

I've never played a game on a dedicated gaming platform that crashes as often as Starlight does. Four of my last five attempts to play it ended in either glitches that forced me to restart the mission I was playing, or the game crashed so completely that I was returned to the Vita's home screen.

Such crashes aren't even Starlight's only technical problem. An early level has so much pop-in that when I showed it to a friend, he insisted I must have glitched into an incomplete area. That's right: the pop-in is sufficiently severe that the only comparable reference point is when you accidentally get through a barrier that should be impassable in a game and enter an area where everything around you flashes in and out of existence randomly. Oh yes, it's an incomplete area. And in this case, it's called level two.

Not to be outdone, the final level slows down to about fifteen frames-per-second right before a critical fight. Then, if you attempt to skip the cinematic that cues the final gameplay segment, the game freezes and youíre forced to start the entire mission again.

When it is functioning, Starlight attempts to be a strategic game, offering the player different ships and parts with which to customize them. But actually customizing your ship is a chore thanks to the awful user interface and its nearly unreadable font. Imagine trying to play Armored Core with a menu system thatís only readable six inches from your face and you've got a pretty good impression of what it's like to attempt customization in Starlight.

Combat can sometimes be enjoyable. If you've managed to customize your ship despite the minuscule fonts describing available parts, it can be rewarding to survive a long dog fight because of a recently equipped shield and generator combination. But the dog fights are only ever difficult because of the high numbers of enemy fighters and stationary foes you encounter at once. Even though a couple of enemies in the story are labeled aces, they do not put up any more of a fight than their squad mates. If you were hoping to come across memorable enemy pilots like Ace Combat 04's Yellow Squadron, prepare to be disappointed. Likewise, don't expect any challenge from the capital ships you will be ordered to destroy. They are simply gigantic targets that can take a lot of damage.

Starlight's story is typical of what you would find in a paperback military sci-fi novel. That isn't to say it's bad, just rote and fairly dull. There isn't anything wrong with that. Lots of great games are made out of familiar fantasy tropes, and a game like this using the military sci-fi elements that even non-fans know from cultural osmosis (mysterious non-human ruins, super weapons, a futuristic fighting force that is a thinly veiled US military) is not really a point against it. However, these familiar elements are not presented well. Much of the story is delivered by wooden models that look like they walked out of a half-finished PS2 game. The camera is completely fixed on these characters as they deliver monologues about the horrors of war in between missions, and yet they donít move at all (except for their mouths, which open and close randomly with no correlation to the words they are speaking). You read that right: they have zero animation except for non-synched mouth movements.

The best thing I can say about Starlight is that, had it been a technically sound game with better presentation, it may have achieved mediocrity.

Alas, the game is not technically sound. It is not presented well. It is merely insulting. Insulting to me, to you, and to everyone who shelled out $23 on PSN to buy it.

No matter how desperate you are for this kind of title, Starlight Inception is not worth your money or your time. The developer is currently making a lot of promises about patches, and it may be possible that the result will be a much more stable experience in the near future. But in the state it is now, it should not have been released.

Germ's avatar
Staff review by Jeremy Davis (May 08, 2014)

Jeremy plays video games, sometimes.

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