Sine Mora Review
- Grasshopper Manufacture
Made2Game Sine Mora review score: 8/10
Formats: Xbox 360 (XBLA)
Developer: Digital Reality & Grasshopper Manufacture
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Reviewer: James Bowden
David vs. Goliath is hardly a new avenue for video games to plumb. Indeed it's actually one of the oldest styles in the medium; Mario vs. Bowser, Sonic vs. Eggman, Miner Willy vs. His Cleaner, and a hangover. Single player gaming has always been predominantly ruled by little man against gigantic obstacle 'em ups, and no genre exemplifies this more than the old-school shoot 'em up.
R-Type, Gradius, Ikaruga, Radient Silvergun. All names synonymous with the genre everyone forgot about but never went away. A style of game that sees near constant releases in Japan the thing it's been lacking recently is a modicum of level headed design; a bit of quality. This is something Sine Mora is quick to address.
Fact is this genre has existed for too long and, like anything that falls into the rut of the niche, it's begun to stagnate in its own filth. Stuck with the idea that all people want from their SHMUP is intense difficulty, and that only SHMUP fans buy SHMUPS, the genre has become a fan pleasing black hole of bullets, minimal lives, bullets, unfair situations, over Japanisation (Trouble Witches Neo anyone?), bullets and bullets.
The fun and the smarts of the shoot 'em up had disappeared; any developer can fill a screen with neon death pellets and cackle as players try to navigate the blinking minefields in pursuit of bulging numerical values. What takes talent, is designing a shooter that anyone can enjoy, just like the good old days.
Thank Suda, then, for Sine Mora.
Damn, this kid is good!
A collaborative project between Grasshopper 'No More Heroes, Shadows of the Damned' Manufacture and Digital 'Imperium Galactica' Reality, Sine Mora is a side scrolling Shooter that feels as classic as listening to Mozart in the garden of a country house while sipping Pimms and shouting abuse at your disgruntled, overworked and underpaid gardener. Do pass another scone dear. Oh yes, lovely.
The plot is some crazy mind melting babble about time travel, a father seeking revenge for his dead son, a kidnapped helper, and one great big metaphor for Hiroshima. Oh, and everyone is an animal. That reminds me, how is the son of a (legless) bull some sort of cougar? I don't know how being legless would factor into that, just an observation. Erm. No. Anyway, doesn't matter.
As impenetrable as the plot is, you only really need to know that this is brilliant shooter. A few hours long the plot takes your over oceans, through factories and caves, around airborne cities and through dense jungles. All in some of the most joyful technicolour you'l have seen in years. You've been wondering where the colour has been this generation, well Sine Mora stole it all.
Oh and you'll be battling enemies in those locales, lots and lots of enemies, dodging bullets the whole while.
The game is built, in a loving arcade twist, around its timer. Kill an enemy, gain more time, take a hit, lose time. If the timer hits zero, game over. This makes the game easily accessible as you're not dying every two seconds from simple mistakes, but time remaining improves your score so serious players will still want to avoid every scrape.
Talking about score there's no crazy Ikaruga style combo system here, just kill continuously and you'll increase your multiplier for bigger end of level kudos. However, getting hit by enemy fire or using your secondary weapon and special abilities will reduce the score buff to an unsavoury zero. To do well Sine Mora asks you to play thriftily and skilfully.
Therein lies Sine Mora's genius; approachable at a completely novice level - spamming screen obliterating special attacks, using the time slowing mechanics to navigate impossible bullet webs and getting 'hit' every now and then doesn't matter hugely – but as you up your game Sine Mora asks you to stop resting on the crutches, to dodge at top speed, to resist the lavish attacks - and it rewards you with bigger scores, better leaderboard positions and a bigger smile on your mug. Classic.
If you think, you're dead.
But then again, you don't have to have any aspirations of super hardcore leaderboard domination to just enjoy Sine Mora. Story mode lets complete novices bask in some simple explosion filled action in what is an unquestionably well crafted game. The caricature crafts are wonderfully responsive, your basic weapon becomes a sumptuous murder spread over time, enemies die in screen shaking satisfaction and eliminating the game's gargantuan bosses will give you a new appreciation for the perspective of the fly you just batted away from your face.
But then if you are a crazy hardcore SHMUP player, Sine Mora is totally tailored to you as well. Hit box previews, a truly impossible insane mode, a score mechanic that encourages perfect play, boss practise mode. Sina Mora sets out to appeal to SHMUP players of all abilities and you know what? It absolutely succeeds. Classic.
Like a grimy underground Burlesque, Sine Mora is excellent, old-fashioned entertainment - that's the bottom line. Sure, it could do with taking itself a little less seriously and it lacks the insane streak of a 'true' SUDA 51 project, but if you've ever even slightly enjoyed a game of this ilk then you'll find fun in Sine Mora. And thanks to its wonderful difficulty ascent from story mode easy to score attack hard, it might just make a David out of you yet, tackling the modern Goliath of the online leaderboad...
Of course the true mini man vs. hulking giant story surrounding Sine Mora is that of Niche Forgotten Genre vs. Hyper, ADD, Reward Obsessed Modern Gaming Generation. This is a fight it deserves to win - in being a genuinely fun SHMUP, Sine Mora is a glorious monument to a gaming art long forgotten. Make sure you help it aim its stone - play Sine Mora, and remember how great this genre can be.
Words by James Bowden (Twitter: @Dalagonash)
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