Earlier this year, Sine Mora dazzled the eye on Xbox Live and it has finally arrived on the PlayStation Network. A vibrant, old-fashioned side-scrolling shooter with a time-bending twist, the game features a truly bizarre story and characters, a wicked steep challenge, and an addictive quality that really can’t be ignored. It’s probably not for those who are prone to seizures or even those who suffer headaches or eye strain due to quickly moving pictures on a video screen, but for most, it’ll be well worth the time and money. Hope your reactions are well honed!
Bright, attractive, and beautifully designed visuals are present throughout, as there’s an abundance of lasers and a variety of highly creative and imaginative design. There’s such a fantastic level of color saturation in this lush presentation that at times, you’re surprised this type of palette is used in such a setting. But there’s no doubt that the exceedingly strange theme and style are bolstered by the richness and unique flair of the graphics. I think they go too crazy with some of the colors and because the visuals really insist upon themselves, they can prove to be detriments to the gameplay. The game’s look evokes odd combinations of emotions…
The sound boasts decent voice work (even if it is in Hungarian) with some seriously hilarious dialogue, although I actually think there’s too much dialogue. For this genre, I’m not expecting such a heavy emphasis on acting and storyline and typically, I wouldn’t complain (being such a fan of the storytelling art form). But the dialogue does seem overdone here, and not all the voice performances are good. The soundtrack is totally kick-ass, though, and much like the visual effects, the audio effects are absolutely top-notch. The overall technical presentation of Sine Mora is something to behold; it emanates and radiates and resounds.
To start, the PS3 version boasts a series of tweaks and all the updates that found their way to the 360 version. There’s also the new Challenge mode, which will test your abilities to the absolute max if you wish to try. Beyond that, it’s pretty much the same game…which means it kinda defies standard labeling and explanations, just because it’s so unique in a number of ways. I’ll actually address the plot first and I would not have expected to do that when sitting down to play a side-scrolling shooter. The problem is that this story is just plain weird and I’m still not entirely sure I understood the majority of what I saw.
It’s important to realize that time is a major aspect of both the storyline and the gameplay. So you can expect some bouncing around through time, which is already a little confusing; then you combine it with the downright bizarre setting and you’ve got a head-scratching world. It’s really not a very complicated story. I don’t wish to make it sound crazy intricate or deep. But it’s just in how it’s told; it’s always tough to follow and occasionally, it seems as if the developers were more in love with their outlandish story than the game itself. Again, it’d be more understandable if this game fell into just about any other genre.
Anyway, onto the gameplay— The biggest difference between Sine Mora and other traditional shooters is that you don’t have a health bar or a certain number of lives. Instead, everything hinges on a clock that continually counts down. Enemies you kill add seconds, getting hit takes seconds away. It sounds exceedingly simple and in fact, like the admittedly wacko story, it is. But it also adds a definite sense of urgency and tension because there are times when you’re desperately searching for something to kill. You also have plenty of incentive to be both evasive and deadly. You can’t just dodge everything without nailing foes, you know?
The other cool aspect is the involvement of the time manipulation, which allows you to slow down time or even reverse time (really effective if you just died). Obviously, there’s a limited amount of energy for this so it’s best to save for the critical spots of any given level. There are also plenty of cool power-ups to snag; some give you extra time while others boost your firepower. That’s classic shooter fare so if you’re familiar, you won’t be surprised to see the double string of bullets, the spread shot, etc. Lastly, there’s the powerful secondary weapon which is best saved for bosses, ‘cuz it’s pretty damn effective and usually awesome to see.
Speaking of bosses, there are some fantastic ones in this game. They’re usually quite large but beyond size, they’re also meticulously designed and full of surprises. Some do the ol’ go-away-and-return routine while others will suddenly unleash a ridiculous attack that has you holding down the R2 button to slow down time. See, slowing time is great for avoiding hundreds of incoming futuristic bullets. Combine this with the inherent difficulty and the aforementioned tension infused by the countdown clock, and you’ve got one of the most intensely entertaining downloadable titles of the year. That being said, there are a few issues that keep this one from being elite.
First off, as I mentioned in the graphics rundown above, it can be difficult to see everything there is to see. That’s doubly irritating when the timer is counting down and you’re having trouble spotting tanks on the ground (just as one example). Plus, because your upgrades will have to be reclaimed after getting hit – until your primary weapon earns its max upgrade – there’s even more reason to avoid getting hit. In short, visibility can impede your evasive maneuvers at times. Secondly, I don’t like the idea of levels that force you to watch out for walls and other obstacles…what, the enemies and constant rounds of ammo fired in my direction aren’t enough?
The other modes can be fun and there’s plenty of bang for your buck here, especially if you’re willing to buckle down and tackle some of the tougher challenges. Oh, and when going through the story mode, you will sometimes be asked if you wish to pursue the path of the Novice or Advanced pilot. It’s highly recommended that you take the easier route the first time through, but choosing Advanced the second time really adds a whole new dimension to the adventure. Granted, that dimension is packed with copious amounts of frustration and potential all-out rage, but that’s all part of the side-scrolling shooter experience, right?
Sine Mora leaps off the screen and demands your attention. Its unique approach to a classic formula keeps you playing (despite the steep challenge), the technical elements are excellent, and the pacing and styling is really quite special. Seriously, you might want to play through it just for the bosses. There are a few irksome issues, including an abnormal amount of dialogue and some seemingly cheap design choices, but this remains a great downloadable title and one that’s destined to push you. If you’re up for it, grab it. It's especially great for the hardcore old-schoolers.
The Good: Colorful, vibrant graphics. Solid, effective audio. Unique approach to a classic genre. Countdown timer adds a new level of urgency. Insanely well-designed bosses. Plenty of challenge and fun factor is super high.
The Bad: Can be tough to see everything in the environment. Too heavy on the story dialogue. Difficulty a touch too high at times.
The Ugly: “5…4…3…give me something to shoot! Any *(%&([email protected] thing, for the love of God!!!”