Published on March 21st, 2012 | by G. Bargas, Managing Editor
Sine Mora Review
Release Date: March 21, 2012
Developer: Grasshopper Manufacture Inc.
Price: 1200 MS Points ($15 USD)
I’ve heard someone recently explain the difference between casual and hardcore gamers. The explanation for casual gamers was that when they play a game, they expect to win. This is highly contrasted to what hardcore gamers expect when they pick up a game. They are more than likely searching for a game so challenging that it punishes and pushes them to lose—thus making the triumph much more fulfilling.
This same contrast can be made when it comes to traditional shoot ’em up (shmup) (STG) style of games. Overwhelming enemy fire often engulfs the screen and dodging said projectiles is usually made possible by nerves and prayers. Sine Mora trails along those same attributes and brings with it present tense graphics draped in steampunk clothing.
The name of the game is as obscure as its style. Sine Mora can be roughly translated as “without delay.” Thank you interwebs. On one hand you’ve got a futuristic side-scrolling shooter, and on the other, a traditional import that follows the traditional shmup guidelines.
The story of Sine Mora focuses around time travel and a father attempting to seek revenge for his son’s death. For the most part, all other characters that are introduced play a part in the game’s main storyline. Although it is not of great importance for these types of games to host an elaborate threading of protagonists and a main antagonist, it does give it some context as to why we are barreling through time and space, or why you are destroying hordes of their troops.
The mechanics of the game are simple. The power-ups you receive generate bigger firepower waves and the others are specials and bonuses. If you are hit during combat your firepower decreases and is released into floating orbs in the midst of the action. Time ticks down at the top of the screen and destroying enemies will give ‘+’ time to your clock. Taking enemy hits will decrease the amount of time you have left, and will even cause you explode when it is all depleted.
Another important feature in the storyline is the use of Time Capsules. During the regular story only one of these can be used. The Speed Up capsule can slow down the action around you, allowing you to dodge fire or retrieve the power-ups you lost. The Roll Back capsule allows you to turn back time and change your fate. The Reflection capsule allows for a few moments of shielding, which is helpful in miscalculated maneuvers. Besides the Speed Up Capsule, the two others can only be accessed in the other options after completing the game.
The game is quite a spectacle to look at. It does bring a sense of openness and depth even with the game being primarily limited to 2D. There is only a single short sequence in 3D, but it could have done this more often to give the game some varying landscape. There are a few instances where the camera flips and even turns you on your side.
There really isn’t that much to Sine Mora. The game’s storyline may conclude after a four-hour playthrough, however, it allows you to replay the missions on the Hard or Insane settings. These settings are perfect for traditional players in the genre a nice run for their money. There are unlockables and online leaderboards that will keep you coming back for plenty of redos and frustration.
Other modes in the game include a Time Attack and Boss Battle practice selection. Players can take on these two variations with a Hard and Insane difficulty. Although the game in this mode would suggest simply blanketing the playable space with enemies and seemingly unavoidable fire, the addition of a countdown clock works against this feature.
It did frustrate me at times after picking up every weapon power-up, missing enemy fire, but not being able to pull it out because time was ticking down. This was also mostly due to the weak and unbalanced primary weapons. The GE-22 Liberator has an insanely powerful primary weapon, whereas the BS4-VR Soprano wasn’t strong enough to take on the first level of the game on hard. Don’t get me wrong, the sub-weapons were pretty damn cool, but even with those at my expense, it wasn’t enough to take out big bosses. This was also the case when taking the Soprano into battle during the game’s storyline on hard. Features like these must be balanced in the genre, but it also makes the save checkpoints and power-ups very unforgiving.
With all of these features, the game could have been improved with character development. Although they are introduced, some on tangents during the main story line, there wasn’t much else time spent with them or their own flight friction. The characters of the game are nothing more than forgettable. The subtitles are creatively pieced together, but after completing the game, I could have cared less which one lived, was alive, or died. This detachment I think was surrounded by the changing of ships multiple times and not sticking it out with one in particular. I would have liked seeing the story of one character develop over the course of the game, even if others were just introduced and not necessarily playable right away. Instead, the characters pop in for a few levels and leave. If they were important enough to have their own plane they should have been kept around for more than a few levels.
Sine Mora floats many of the dramatics and difficulties of others in the genre. Although it boasts quite a few of these attributes, it doesn’t however stack up to a storyline that was as intriguing as others out there.
After playing through the first time, I still wasn’t particularly sold on the game’s style. After playing through again with an increased difficulty, it did allow me to appreciate some of the other modes. The game almost gave off that Super Meat Boy level of satisfaction, or lack thereof, after completion. I did however grow fonder of its complexity and toughness.
The main story was simply, OK. The online leaderboards are a great inclusion, but no other multiplayer modes are there to make it unique. The game also hosts an ‘M’ rating due to the language, which seems more of a marketing ploy than a definitive attribute of the game.
If you like games of the genre, there probably aren’t anything that I’m going to say to stop you from purchasing it. Mark my words, you will rage, throw the controller and ear muff those kids cause–daddy’s got some expletives to yell.
[xrr label=”Rating: 7.5/10″ rating=7.5/10]
– Unforgiving Checkpoints
– Light Screen Tears