Released on previous generation consoles and the PC, Sine Mora is  2D side scrolling shoot ’em up that features anthropomorphic characters that pilot steam punk inspired aircraft. A bullet hell shooter, that was a fantastic attempt, that sadly didn’t get as much attention as it should have. Fast forward a few years later and the team behind the shooter is back with an updated version – Sine Mora EX.

But what makes this new update different from the original release? Read on to find out!

Game Name: Sine Mora EX
Platform(s):  PlayStation 4 (reviewed), Xbox One, PC, Nintendo Switch
Publisher(s): THQ Nordic
Developer(s): Grasshopper Manufacture & Digital Reality
Release Date: August 8th, 2017
Price: $9.99, original owners of Sine Mora upgraded for free (Steam)

Ah, 2D side scrolling shooters or shoot ’em ups as they’re commonly referred to, are a tricky bunch. Typically they’re pretty straight-cut and involve you starting at point A, with the goal of getting to point B. While that presents an easy way to grab someone’s attention, they sadly don’t manage to keep that attention once the novelty has worn off. Yes, the concept and grasp is the enemy of most shoot ’em ups titles, and as we’ve seen over time this has been the state of this genre. With Sine Mora EX, the studio behind the game has made quite the effort to make sure their extended version of their game doesn’t meet this fate.

So, what’s new with Sine Mora EX

Not only have they bumped up the resolution to 1080p and a smooth 60 frames per second, but they’ve provided a letterbox mode (16:9/16:10) which gives off that cinematic look – which looks amazing and is my preferred way to play the game. On top of that, every line in the game is voiced in English and Hung, which provides each character you encounter or play as a different personality.  There are also several game modes, such as An Arcade mode, Score Attack – where you try to get the highest score on every stage, Boss Training mode – where you’re able to fight in-game bosses once you unlock them, or the Challenge mode which tosses several nearly impossible tasks. The Arcade mode from the original game also makes a return.

However, the single most important addition is the story mode. It’s here where the game becomes a different beast (no pun intended), as you take on the roles of several members as they struggle to win a war that is being waged. Here I’ve witnessed characters lose loved ones, see their reason for fighting this war such as revenge, the death of loved ones, even rape and blackmail. Yes, this story does hit upon a few dark tones. It goes further than that as it bleeds over into the action segments. For example, at one part during the second stage, I was taken back to an event that happened during the first stage, but as a different character. It was this same event that I had battled a boss, while the person on my radio was telling me to get away. Only this time, I’m the person telling the person to get away, not knowing what was happening to him. If it sounds confusing, it is at times – it’s a time-traveling deal beginning told.

Lastly, the story mode also lets a second player get in on the action by letting them control a turret. Except, unlike the main pilot, they aren’t able to pick up power-ups. Still, it’s a nice way to get a buddy in on the action.

Sine Mora EX puts a twist on the shoot ’em up formula and one that I feel separates it from the pack. Instead of having either one-shot deaths or a health meter, you’re given a time limit. As you progress through the stages, this time limit counts down, while shooting down your enemies gives you a time boost and adds seconds back on the clock, getting shot or hit will take time off of it. So you’re countless fighting to stay alive and saving precious seconds. 

As with most shoot em’ ups, your goal is to survive, not get hit and try not to die. Sounds easy, but it really isn’t. Thankfully, you’ll pick-up additions that boost your speed, fire power. shields, and even time additions. Getting hit will knock away your power-ups away, leaving you seconds to pick them back up. That’s not all, as you also have two unique abilities that you’re provided with The first is what’s called “Time Capsule”, which can do one of several things – slowing down time around you, provide you with a reflective shield or even rewind time if you’re hit or blown up. It’s worth mention that during the story mode you aren’t able to select your Time Capsule ability, but you are able to do so in Arcade Mode. The second ability is a sub-weapon which is powerful, but a limited weapon that can save your bacon. It

Graphically, Sine Mora EX on the PlayStation 4 Pro is a visual treat. On top of the 1080p@60fps experience, the game also is presented in 4K for those that have a 4K TV – and it looks absolutely stunning. The rendered 3D environments are like works of art, thanks for the visual and lighting effects. The backgrounds are completely animated and there’s always something going on in them. Either the sky is moving with birds flying through them, or the water has objects floating in them, while a lone person is found fishing on a structure and more. This also extends to the planes you fly,  the enemies you encounter or the massive bosses that frequently try to clip your wings. I’m truly impressed with what has been accomplished here and seeing them in-motion is perhaps the best way to appreciate the game.

sine-mora-ex-boss-02

I alluded to the original Sine Mora not being really appreciated previously and I felt I should elaborate on this. If there’s anything that stays constant in a shoot ’em ups, it’s the scoring. Fans of the genre take this really seriously and it’s here that Sine Mora EX attempts to shake up things. The game actually features multiple scoring mechanics but it never explains them. It’s a complex system and rather me trying to explain it to you, I’ll defer to the experts on this – the shmups forum. If you want to know more, I highly recommend clicking on that link.

Sine Mora EX has one blaring flaw – It’s really cheap. There are more times than I can count that I got hit by something, either it is the enemy fire that I successfully dodged or part of the environment that is hard to see. This deducts time off your clock as well as knocking away all of your collected power-ups. Now, it wouldn’t be a bad thing if it was an occasional thing or if I chaulked it up to being a bad pilot. But when there’s nothing around you, well it’s hard to rationalize that. The other issues are that there’s simply too much on the screen at once. Sure, it is a bullet hell shooter, but there are times where it’s not just the bullets are in your face but also the backgrounds. It’s just hard during a battle to dodge all the fire while keeping an eye on the task at hand.

Review Disclosure Statement: Sine Mora EX was provided to The Outerhaven for review purposes. For more information on how we review video games and other media/technology, please go review our Review Guideline/Scoring Policy for more info.

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Summary

Sine Mora EX isn't actually the shining beacon that all SHMUP's should inspire to be, but that game is still a fantastic entry. But for the price, exceptionally replay value and fantastic visuals, you definitely can't go wrong snagging up the title for a weekend venture. A fantastic skyward entry that both novices to the genre and grizzled SHMUP vets can both enjoy.

4.0

About The Author

Keith Mitchell
Editor-in-chief and all-around good guy!

Founder and Editor in Chief of The Outerhaven. Fan of all video games and technology. Loves long walks in with very long swords in hand.