Developers: Grasshopper Manufacture, Digital Reality
Publishers: Microsoft Studios, Kalypso Media
Release Dates: March 21st, 2012 (360), November 9th, 2012 (PC), November 20th, 2012 (Playstations), July 16th, 2013 (Mobile), August 13th, 2013 (Ouya)
Available on: Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Playstation Vita, PC, Mobile, Ouya
Reviewer’s Note: I have played this game on both the Xbox 360 and Playstation Vita. I did not notice any differences between versions other than the levels going in a slightly different order. There may be differences between the other versions.
Shoot ’em Up games have always been a staple of arcades. Thanks to their fast paced and difficult game play they were perfect for wasting quarters. The genera died down for a while, but the advent of cheap downloadable games has caused them to see a resurgence. Sine Mora is another take on the genre that’s much more welcoming to newbies while still providing good challenge for veterans.
One thing that separates Sine Mora from other Shoot ’em Ups is its story. Sine Mora actually has a pretty fleshed out plot behind it. The game deals with two stories that run during different time periods. One puts you in the role of Koss, a father who’s trying to avenge the death of his son. The other has you playing as Dryad who’s leading a last ditch resistance effort against the Layil Empire. The two main character’s don’t interact (Dryad’s story takes place a solid 4000+ years after Koss’ story) but the game likes to jump around between the two and the stories do affect each other. The plot is also surprisingly dark. Koss is consumed by revenge to an unhealthy level, killing anyone who looks like they’ll get in his way and blackmailing innocent people into carrying out attacks. By the end of the game the majority of the cast is either dead or imprisoned. There’s not really much in the way of happy endings here.
The biggest problem with enjoying the plot is going to come from how extraordinarily convoluted it is. Events don’t happen in chronological order, it switches timelines every few stages, and worst of all it has a heavy use of time travel. There’s also a lot of reading required (A good chunk of the plot happens on text write outs narrated in Hungarian for some reason). At the end I was joking that Sine Mora was sorta like Star Fox’s drunk angry Hungarian cousin, and it feels like it at times. While the plot never gets in the way of the game itself, people just casually paying attention to it are going to find it too hard to follow.
Sine Mora is a horizontal shooter, which means you’ll fly from left to right while shooting anything along the way. Unlike most Shoot ’em Ups in Sine Mora you don’t get killed by a single shot. Instead there’s a time limit at the top of the game that slowly ticks down. Getting shot will simply cause you to lose some of that time. Fear not, taking out enemies builds that time back up. This system is really smart as it allows new players to make mistakes without ending their chances early. That said, there were times when I had built up an almost crazy amount of time with little effort and the game actually got to a point where it was almost impossible for me to lose. It was especially noticeable during boss fights, where the game likes to throw a bunch of tiny one hit kill enemies at you to help you build up extra time.
The game is pretty simple. Each of the 7 different characters have the same basic shots, though in slightly different patterns. For example, they may fire their bullets more spread out to hit more targets, or keep them compact to deal more damage. Each of them also has a different sub weapon, which uses ammo. I found some of the sub weapons to be more useful than others. For example, Koss’ short ranged shockwave felt useless, but Argus’ seeker missiles were extremely helpful. By holding down the right bumper you can activate time capsules, putting the game into slow-mo as long as you have the energy for it. Killing enemies may make them drop items to refill your ammo or give you points or extra time, so you need to pick up these items while dodging bullets and shooting enemies.
Later on the game begins to incorporate timing puzzles and narrow passageways into it. Ramming yourself into these is almost always an instant death. Some of these segments begin to get really frustrating because of it. It never really reaches the levels of some of the harder Shoot ’em Ups, but it still didn’t stop me from wanting the put the game down every now and again so I could take a break from it.
Sine Mora is above average when it comes to the Shoot ’em Up games. While it’s not the best of the best, it’s a great entry point for newbies to these kinds of games. That said, even the more experienced will likely come to like this little gem.