When it comes to niche gaming, you don’t get any genre of gaming more dedicated to a single style of gameplay than the venerable shmups of years gone by. Sine Mora continues this veteran tradition with some bold design choices and new twists on familiar gameplay mechanics, but can this homage to the past kickstart the genre again, or is it a bitter reminder of happier times?
Set in a world of strange creatures, anthropomorphic fighter pilots and technology run amok, Sine Mora places players in the cockpit of a time-travelling fighter jet, where taking a trip into the fabric of the past is a common and everywhen occurrence.
If you’re a fan of walls of text, then prepare yourself, as Sine Mora has plenty of those. It’s a literary, and sometimes moving tale of love, loss and redemption, but for those of you who just want to get into the action, well good news then, because they’re entirely skippable AND LETS BLOW STUFF UP NOW KAY?
When it’s time to get to the actual action of the game, Sine Mora doesn’t disappoint. Waves of enemies, strafing fighters, stages littered with neon you-die-now orbs and power-ups abound, resulting in a title that will be second nature to anyone that ever picked up a controller to play Raiden or Gradius.
Your regular weapons start out as the usual pew-pew cannons that you would expect, with power-ups picked up that can augment them, while the various aircraft in the game each come with their own special attacks, that can wipe out enemies and put a serious dent in the armour of bigger foes.
But the big hook of Sine Mora, is that time plays an incredibly useful and integrated role here. Instead of having shields and health, players instead have a countdown clock that is constantly ticking down towards their doom, with attacks from enemies that hit you shaving off precious seconds, while racking up enough kills yourself adds to the timer.
Time capsules make themselves known throughout the course of the game, coming in three varieties of chronal manipulation. You get your regular slow down time matrix ability, a rewind ability to allow you to correct past mistakes, and a reflection skill that bounces attacks back to their senders.
It’s this idea that gives the game a tactical edge, as the implementation of time and it’s causality-laden effects make Sine Mora more than just your average frantic shmup, with careful planning and strategy making the game a tense and adrenaline-filled experience.
Stages themselves are usually short forays into enemy territory that culminate in a boss fight of sorts, racking up the opportunity to score big, provided that you can survive the imaginative bosses that await you, who always have a trick up their sleeve, usually followed by a barrage of a light show that terminate your ticks and tocks.
It’s a system that works beautifully, and combined with further customisation options, you’ll soon find yourself finishing this accessible game in a couple of hours. A few extra modes are added however, to keep the planes in the air, in the form of boss training and score attack sections, but it’s arcade mode that will have shmup veterans interested.
It’s a more intense, massively difficult option, that keeps the clock at doomsday levels, while enemies are faster, more resilient, and will explode your face off when they die. Most definitely not a mode for the faint-hearted then.
Make no mistake, you’re going to die a heckuva lot in Sine Mora. But it’s hard to get angry and want to throw your controller out the window when you do, as the game is a gorgeous example of old school gameplay at it’s finest, wrapped up in lush visuals, Hungarian speeches and nostalgic fun, that is fun for both old and new players.