Sine Mora review
Seeing as how we won’t be getting another good “bullet hell” shooter for the next few months (Rising Star Games will release Cave’s Akai Katana over the summer), fans of the not-so-traditional shooter line are searching for anything to bide their time with. Fortunately, the lunatics over at Grasshopper Manufacture (and I say that with a positive spin) have finally released its long-awaited Sine Mora this week on Xbox Live Arcade. With a manic story, an interesting new time-stopping/rewinding mechanic and a challenge that’s perfect for die-hard “shmup” fans, it’s definitely a game worthy of your attention.
The game revolves around a group of furry-like animals that are trying to stop an evil force from wasting the planet in an act of genocide. But rather than take itself seriously (or, dare we say it, take the Star Fox route), Grasshopper injects the conversations with bits of humor and a whole lot of cursing — which explains the game’s Mature rating. The story is passable for what it is, but you can always skip through it by holding down the left trigger button, getting to the shooting action you crave.
And what action it is. Sine Mora delivers enemies in droves, from laser-shooting wall turrets to big glow worms that spew radioactive goo to huge bosses that fill the entire screen, threatening to cut you with an enormous buzz saw or trying to whip you into a frenzy with their tentacles. You’ll need every ounce of firepower you can get your hands on, or you’ll die real quick. There are also interesting segments where you’ll have to move quickly, such as hiding out in a field of garbage to avoid being fried by guarding lasers. (Beware, though, as it moves quickly through the walls.)
Rather than relying on a traditional shield system, Sine Mora gives you a countdown timer. Each second ticks away in real time, and you also lose seconds depending on how much damage you take. You can always refill the clock by killing enemies or picking up extra icons. In addition, you’re able to slow down time in instances, avoiding an otherwise impossible field of gunfire or getting close enough to a boss to do some real damage without a quick retaliation. It’s this tactic that makes Sine Mora stand apart from other shooters, and it gets real tricky in the later stages when everyone is literally out to get you.
Along with a traditional Story Mode, Grasshopper and Digital Reality (the game’s publisher) have also included an Arcade Mode, where most denizens of “bullet hell” shooters will dwell. Here, you’re introduced to an even bigger challenge, with unrelenting boss attacks and all sorts of gunfire. It’s just what the doctor ordered when it comes to fulfilling your fix. What’s more, online leaderboards let you challenge against other players, so you can see who comes out on top and try to match them.
The game also includes a great Boss Training mode, so you can find weaknesses quicker on the enemies you unlock, as well as a Score Attack mode, which is self-explanatory. That’s really about it, but, honestly, that’s more than the traditional shooter offers. We’ll take it.
Sine Mora looks better than most shooters, thanks to devoted 3D level design (even if it plays in a 2D way), beautiful ship details (the bosses are incredible) and a fast frame rate, even when everyone is literally shooting at you. Likewise, the music has its own little special flair to it, soothing the ears and making this troubled world a little more believable than it would stand on its own. The sound effects are made up of explosions and pilot jibber-jabber, but it fits the game in its own charming way.
With its huge difficulty scale and limited continues, Sine Mora won’t be a favorite on everyone’s list, but if you’re a fan of “shmups” or just need something to get through the breezy first days of spring, this game is for you. Featuring a number of modes, online leaderboards, and enough action to get your bullet fix with, it’d be a sin — or rather, a Sine — to be without it.
What the heck is a Sine, anyway?
[Reviewed on Xbox 360]