Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Two facts about space: it's empty, and there's no "up" or "down." Project Sylpheed: Arc Of Deception fills the black void with luminescent gases and exhaust trails, but to get your bearings, you're dependent on your spaceship's instruments, from the radar that lends you perspective to the markers that guide you to every goal and foe. This means the backdrops look great, but you won't pay attention to them. All that matters are the instruments, and you'll rarely even get close enough to see an enemy fighter before your missiles lock on and blow it sky high. Instead of immersing players in the dogfights, Project Sylpheed disconnects them from their surroundings, making them feel like… well, like they're playing a computer game.

It doesn't help that most of your missions stick to one thin formula: fight a bunch of small planes, pick away at some big ones, and make sure your own fleet stays in one piece. A few new tactics and weapon upgrades can't fix the content, and it's baffling that the game doesn't support online play. The team behind Sylpheed has made a beautiful spaceflight simulator, but they gave it absolutely nowhere to go.

Beyond the game: Long anime cutscenes frame each mission, telling the story of warring fleets of strippers and Muppet-boys determined to wipe each other out of the galaxy. Feel free to skip them.


Worth playing for: When you close in on a battleship and knock out its shields during a hair-raising fly-by, it finally feels like you're getting your Force on.

Frustration sets in when: Although the game gives you hints, you won't know all the goals of each mission unless you fulfill them—which means that a stellar performance is something you luck into as much as earn.

Final judgment: A big refrigerator box with lasers crayoned all over it might give you about as much mileage—and unlike with Sylpheed, your friends could get in and play, too.

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