We have been reviewing a lot of scrolling shooters lately with Under Defeat HD and Big Sky Infinity preceding this game, but it’s not on purpose! Also, like Black Knight Sword, Sine Mora is a game from Suda 51 and Grasshopper. However, unlike that game, it’s not entirely full of quirkiness from start to finish. The game will have you scrolling horizontally, dodging all kinds of bullets, missiles and projectiles and embarking on some type of time-bending quest across various different locales.
For me, this game’s largest (and really only) misstep is the fact that it tries too hard. Instead of developing a light-hearted, quirky side-scrolling shooter with wonderful gameplay, beautiful presentation, and tons of enemies, they made that game and tried to shove it into the mouth of a “serious” story mode. I’m not saying the narrative told here isn’t worth experiencing – it’s done well and the Hungarian voice overs add a bit of zazz into what could have been an overly boring experience – it just feels so out of place that it’s not enjoyable.
I understand the desire to give some over-arching meaning to the story and characters, but I feel like the side-scrolling shooter genre lends itself more aptly to simple design decisions that are fine-tuned to near perfection – which this game has. This is the main reason that, while playing the story mode, it is frustrating to have a dialogue cutscene pop up and interrupt the action several times over the course of a single mission. These sections can be fast-forwarded through, but it’s still an annoyance and then you miss out on the details. I would have much rather had some type of cutscenes or images to explain events between missions, rather than interrupting what should be a fast-paced gameplay experience.
This gripe aside, the game itself is superb. Each mission takes place on a beautiful canvas with bright and vibrant colors on display at all times. Levels vary from fighting across an ocean with dipping waves, to (non-frustrating) underwater combat and even inside deep and dark caves. Enemies are equally varied, as are different characters, abilities and power-ups. Instead of being based on lives or anything like that, the game is time-based.
You have a timer at the top of the screen that counts down constantly. You can refill this timer by shooting enemies, collecting time power-ups and other means. If you are hit, you lose weapon power-up orbs, but instead of just disappearing they float out of your character in Sonic-style. Each character even has their own weapons and power-ups as well as different “hit boxes” (the area that counts as damage when playing.) This leads to some interesting gameplay mechanics as you can replay stages in the arcade mode or time attack mode.
There is also a boss rush mode, which is especially fun given that the huge amount of bosses available in the game are so varied and unique. Many bosses start out as what appear to be simple affairs of destroying a couple turrets, but they often morph and change as the fight goes on. The game does have a bit of a difficulty curve, as the bullets don’t exactly shoot across the screen extremely fast, but they come in very large quantities. You have a time-slow ability that makes navigating the maze of bullets easier, but it still takes a bit of getting used to and can prove fairly difficult.
Sine Mora isn’t a perfect game, but for it’s relatively cheap price tag and being available on the PS Vita (which I recommend, as the game is definitely friendly to short bursts of play time) it is a very fun experience. The gameplay itself is super tight and offers a ton of flexibility with great visuals to compliment. The intruding story mode slightly sours what is otherwise a sharp and entertaining experience.
- Stage, enemy and boss variety
- Tight controls and gameplay mechanics
- Wonderful visuals and presentation
- The game tries too hard to be what it’s not
- Story mode dialogue scenes constantly interrupt the action
Final Grade: B-
This review was primarily conducted on a PlayStation 3 version of the game provided by Digital Reality.