When I first booted up Sine Mora EX, all I expected was some solid shoot ‘em up action, and I got that. What I wasn’t expecting was a story concerned with blackmail, rape and genocide. There’s a time and a place for narratives like that, and perhaps a side scrolling shooter isn’t one of them.
Sine Mora EX is the re-release of a little known shoot ‘em up from the previous generation that many might have missed out on, myself included. It’s a fairly typical shoot ‘em up for the most part; defeat a few waves of enemies before tackling an intense boss fight, rinse and repeat until you die or the credits begin to roll. Along the way you’ll grab power-ups that improve your weaponry, extend your time or give you additional charges of your sub weapons, which changes depending upon your character but mostly acts like a screen clearing ability.
It’s Sine Mora’s approach to damage and threat that begin to buck convention. Ordinarily, taking just one hit in a shoot ‘em up means that you’re toast, but that’s not the case here. Instead, your life is dictated by how much time you have, with each kill granting more time and each hit taking time away. Once you run out of time, it’s game over.
It creates an interesting strategy where you can’t really afford to be methodical in the traditional sense, especially on harder difficulties where the reward/penalty ratio is skewed heavily towards the punitive side. If you want to win, you need to be in the thick of it, grabbing power ups and items to ensure that you can tackle the next wave or boss as quickly possible.
Of course, you do have additional abilities on hand to ensure you don’t get hit. The story mode limits you to one ability, which allows you to slow down time, but in Arcade Mode, you can also rewind time to undo any unwanted damage or equip a shield to negate said damage in the first place.
Unfortunately, sustaining that one bad knock means all your power-ups scatter to the four winds, leaving you to either traverse through further danger and take more hits just to recover what you’ve lost, or sacrifice those wayward upgrades to avoid incurring further losses. More often than not, you’ll end up like a gambling addict, chasing his losses.
There are plenty of modes available, including some which are new to this edition, alongside the standard graphical and framerate boosts that come with a new generation re-release. Players can now tackle the story mode in full 2 player co-op and can challenge each other in 3 different versus modes, whilst the new challenge focuses on things over than “shoot all the things on screen”. When you include story mode, arcade mode with multiple difficulty levels, score attack and boss practice, Sine Mora EX quickly becomes one of the most content rich shoot ‘em ups on the market.
But even then, it’s not without fault. For instance, let’s talk about that needlessly adult story. The luminous art style seems to betray the much darker subject underneath, which creates somewhat of a disconnect. It’s like using the vibrant animation of a Pixar film for a story written by Frankie Boyle. This is the Sausage Party of video games.
Also, despite the depth of content on offer, it’s a shoot ‘em up. It suffers the same curse as even the classics like Ikaruga and Raiden: it quickly becomes repetitive. Once you’ve blasted through the nefarious evil-doers plaguing the skies twice or even three times over, there’s simply nothing new to see, no more worlds to conquer. In the end Sine Mora EX is a fine example of the shoot ‘em up genre and very good at what it does. The range of modes on offer, including the co-op and versus modes, give the game great value for money, but the ride has to end at some point.
Sine Mora EX is available right now on the Xbox Store for £15.99. Check out the trailer below, and let us know your thoughts in the comments!
Will shoot ‘em up fans enjoy Sine Mora EX? Absolutely, as it blends together enough welcome traits of the genre with some unique ideas to create an enjoyable experience. Will you come back to it? Unless you have a co-op partner or a fetish for online leaderboards, probably not.