In development for over a year, Escape Hatch Entertainment recently released a closed beta of Starlight Inception, showcasing some of the features and game-play prior to release. The only mode available in the beta is that of the campaign, which seems to start you off on the first level of the game and gives you a total of about twenty minutes of play.
The story isn’t very deep (or at least it isn’t yet); set “a hundred years from tomorrow”, you pilot a spacecraft with the designated call-sign “Darkstar 2”, launched for training off the star carrier U.S.F. Midway (cough*WWII reference*cough). During your training mission, five nuclear explosions are set off around the Earth, destroying some of the biggest cities. In light of this “attack”, you’re activated by the air force – set to defend your planet and fellow craft through any means available to you.
The controls in the game are fairly simple, though there are a few menus that require multiple button presses to access and aren’t evident unless you play through the tutorial. The ability to divert power to different areas of your ship such as thrust, defense and weaponry was a nice touch; though the rest of the options seemed quite simplistic. Flying around was quite easy, as was targeting and using the weaponry – though I had trouble with the machine gun at first. Aside from the controls, the game-play itself was also quite shallow -there seemed to be no goal aside from “go here” and “shoot this”… the actual meat of the demo turning out to be more like bologna.
That said, some of what is there isn’t done poorly at all. Sound effects and most of the graphics in game are done quite well – my only qualm being a severe lack of anti-aliasing which caused “jagges” on objects like lasers and edges of ships. Textures on the Earth, Moon and Sun are actually quite pretty; the sunshine as well as the view of other celestial objects being the most beautiful things in the game. Textures on ships were a bit less pleasing, and distorted when you got close enough (collision course, anyone?).
Speaking of collisions, what happens when you run into another ship and don’t destroy your own is almost comical – you bounce off like you’ve got a spring on the nose of your vessel, getting pushed backwards. Crash enough though, and your viewing glass will break; a sign you’re done for. That said, I also experienced frequent crash glitches, such as the ship snapping into the geometry of the vessel you hit.
The planned features sound good though; the ability to fly in and land on celestial bodies like the Earth and other planets/moons being a stand out for me. Sadly, this wasn’t available in the demo which was sort of disappointing since it’s really the most unique feature.
If you’re looking for something amazing in the Starlight Inception beta, you’re not going to find it – but the framework is there for something good. The controls need to be opened up a bit, the graphics smoothed out and the features added… but there’s plenty of time to do that before the game releases in December.
The first Kickstarter funded title to hit the Vita, we hope they put the polish to this one instead of leaving the scuffs on the surface.