Sometimes, you just want to blow stuff up. That’s what makes the bullet-hell genre so much fun. Yes, the games are almost always challenging, to the point that most people will never see the finish line, but it’s the crazy things the developers put into the product that makes them so enjoyable. Digital Reality‘s Sine Mora is the latest shooter to fit the bill. While it may contain a storyline that is hard to follow, stunning visuals and intense boss fights make it an absolute thrill to play.
Right off the bat, forget the plot. You pilot various ships as a number of different Hungarian-speaking, Anamorphic characters. The story involves time-travel, revenge and other things but it is not the storyline that makes Sine Mora interesting. The plot is explained during brief audio diaries before and after most stages, but even after completing the game, chances are you will still be confused as to what exactly happened.
Lacklustre plot-lines are nothing new to these kinds of games; they are not built around keeping you engaged with a strong narrative. The point here is to throw a plethora of different enemies and to see how long you can survive before perishing.
There are plenty of weapon-upgrades and special abilities but that’s not what makes this so engaging. Where Sine Mora differs from other games is rather than incorporating a health meter, it uses time to keep you moving.
Each section has a certain amount of time associated with it. As the clock winds down to zero there are two things that can affect it. For every enemy that is destroyed, time is added to the counter. But, every time you are hit or come in contact with the environment, time is removed. As long as you avoid damage and at the same time, dish it out, your adventure continues until you reach the next checkpoint. It’s a fun mechanic that puts the emphasis on not only trying to avoid getting hit but ensuring you take out as many foes as possible to continue.
Time plays an important factor in another way. In addition to it being your “life-meter”, there is a time meter, that when triggered, allows you to slow down time. This can be extremely beneficial since when time is slowed, you can better dodge enemy attacks and still be able to attack at your full capacity. Thankfully, you are limited to how much and how long you can slow down time, so using this at the right time is extremely important.
Chances are, situations where the time mechanic will come into play are during one of the many boss battles that occur. The boss sections are absolutely incredible for a number of reasons. Each that you come across is radically different from the last. From airships to trains, there is a plenty of variety. On top of that, these battles are almost always broken up into phases and each section of the battle will require a different plan, including where to target and being cautious of what to avoid. When combined with the time mechanic, each encounter will be a test of strength and wit.
Sine Mora is also quite a beautiful game to look at. Levels vary greatly from flying through massive city skylines to the depths of the seas. Each area not only contains stunning background visuals that pop, but when combined with the different enemies and the colours from the ammo that fills the screen, you won’t be faulted when you stop to admire what is happening at a given time.
Thankfully, while the story may be almost impossible to comprehend, the game is not too long that you may never see its conclusion. The story mode itself has two difficulty options: normal and challenging. Even if you happen to use up the 11 or 8 credits given to you, it is not required to restart from the very beginning. Stages within the game are broken up in such a way that you can continue your trek to the conclusion from any point you have already reached.
Additionally, there are other modes including Arcade and Score Attack that increase the difficulty to entice the more dedicated bullet-hell fans. These modes might be a bit too challenging for those new to the genre, but are worth trying in any case.
Even if you are not a fan of the genre or your experience is limited, Sine Mora is something worth sampling, even if for a few minutes. This brand of game is often overlooked but thankfully, it shows what is possible and is proof as to why there are still those who absolutely love the challenge it puts in front. Considering how the game is available on just about every platform available, from Xbox Live Arcade to Steam and both PlayStation consoles, there is no reason not to try it out.