Sine Mora Review
The studio behind the controversial designer of games such as Goichi Suda and Digital Reality has given us Sine Mora, an arcade style shooter with some unique mechanics that make it truly worth playing.
So how can I describe Sine Mora? In nut shell, it is an arcade style side scrolling shoot em up mixed in with some japanese style. Although you wouldn't even guess that the game was japanese considering that the characters in the game all speak Hungarian. To my knowledge this is the first XBLA game that has the language of our neighbours and I must admit adds to the game in a....wierd but fun way. The atmosphere itself is not to cheery, since the main themes are war and genocide. Pretty harsh stuff that you certainly didn't expect from this kind of game.
In the insane ambiance of side-scrolling shooting we follow the adventure of a group of animals who must kill general Koss and destroy his factories that create deadly robots. The game is told retrospectively, this meaning that our heroes remember tragic events that are connected to the Eternal War, and those events you actually partake in. The very characterization of the characters is unexpectedly deep and thought provoking especially for a genre like this that usually forgets story and it is also very emotional.
The Games main mode brings us 6 levels that are split into many smaller pieces. Every level is played with a character who's plane besides the classic shooting and slowing down time also has specific abilities like different laser patterns and rockets. Did I mention slowing down time? Yes, that is the main gameplay mechanic that separates this game from the rest. Pressing the trigger button you create this bullet time effect that makes avoiding enemies and they're incoming fire easier.
The ability to slow down time does deplete, and it can only be restored by killing enemies and making combos. Also, another element that is expertly done is time. For every little piece of a level you get only 30 seconds, and if those 30 seconds run out the game is over. The thing is that its you're job not to let it reach zero, and you accomplish this by killing enemies. As you hit some one youre seconds go up, this creates constant tension and it makes you act more aggressively.
And the end of each section there is a boss battle that can be very demanding and they require nerves of steel, at least until you find the magic spot to beat them easy. The whole gameplay component is done in an old school fashion but with some minor changes that make it that much more original and fun.
Besides the classic story mode, the game offers you Arcade and Score modes. These are the real modes for those who are used to the true old school shooters – no mercy and no forgiveness. In these modes you can choose between the characters, planes and weapons gained during the 2 hour Story mode. The main goal is to finish the levels with a pre determined number of lives and continues, and to get the most points that get sent onto the online Leaderboards. Unfortunately, since there are no other modes of play, the Leaderboard battles are is gonna have to be enough, which feels like a missed opportunity.
The presentation of Sine Mora is a true 2.5D style. Grasshopper has chosen a letterbox approach to give the game a movie feel which is successfully done thanks to the great 3D graphics. 3D plane models, levels and enemies just set the bar that much higher for other XBLA games of this genre. The developers have done so much with the presentation that its almost impossible to see the difference between concept art and in-game graphics.
Akira Yamaoko did the music, the mastermind behind the famed Silent Hill soundtrack. Yamaoko has really done a great job with the electronic approach to the music so that it can perfectly blend in with the techno-organic visual style of the game. Every level has its own specific and very fitting background music that just adds more to the arcade feel of the game. Yamaoko has once again show us what he can do and that he is still able to make some really fantastic pieces of music.
Sine Mora is a fantastic addition to the dying genre of side-scrolling shooters. As a classic shooter to the core, with modern time manipulation mechanics really does add to the game, and with it it also raises the level of what we should expect from future downloadable games. The lack of multiplayer feels like a missed opportunity but the online Leaderboard system does give you enough incentive to keep on playing the game for months.