Sine Mora EX is an extended edition of the original 2012 game Sine Mora. In it you play as a variety of characters, chasing a variety of goals. These vary from revenge to survival and while putting forward quite good but dark, philosophical points, are also quite confusing. This was one of the first barriers to my enjoyment of the game – I couldn’t invest in characters when I suddenly switched perspectives to play as the opposing side. Or at least I think I did. All the characters are introduced mid-way through their own missions so it’s quite difficult to tell. I do have to give a quick thumbs up to the voice acting though. The EX edition comes with some credible English voice acting as well as the Hungarian option, allowing the characters to come alive a bit more.
Gameplay wise, the game is a slight variation on the 2D shoot ’em up, made famous by games such as Galaga. I say it’s a slight variation, as unlike most of these schmups, Sine Mora EX allows you to be hit as many times as you want. Each time your hit, you lose time and when that runs out you lose. You gain time via defeating enemies, getting to checkpoints or picking up capsules. Overall this is a cool concept, taking out some of the precision needed for games like this, reducing the difficulty. However, in practice, I wasn’t too sure. It makes you want to be overly aggressive, trying to get to the next checkpoint as soon as possible, however, the fixed speed stops this, making the entire thing slightly frustrating.
The battle system is simple to understand – hold down A to shoot, B to fire a special weapon. These special weapons are varied and creative in design and being able to power-up your main weapon is a nice touch. By collecting red power-up tokens, your main weapon gets more powerful, however, if your hit you lose some of these. If they run off the screen you’ve lost them forever and have to collect again. Now, this would be fine, if suddenly getting hit by three separate things isn’t such a normal occurrence. I found myself constantly with no weapon power-ups, making it very difficult to progress without restarting. I’d rather either keep weapon power-ups once I get so many (every fiveish probably) or for there to be more of them.
It’s not that it’s not impossible to avoid all enemies or run to grab each power-up, but it is difficult. The small hitbox compared to your actual ship size (you can look up the actual hitbox which is nice) makes it quite difficult to tell what would actually be hit. Then when you have finally figured out what could be hit, the rather sluggish controls make it difficult to actually move out the way. Time slowing helps, but don’t rely on it as you might run out at a rather inopportune moment.
Let’s go back to a positive now. The graphics are stunning. 2.5D backgrounds, with lots happening all the time and enough detail for you to see every bullet being fired. I found no lag on the Switch even with everything happening at once in handheld mode, which is good. Besides the voice acting, the music is pretty decent, setting the mood nicely. The sound effects are also great – you’d think the relentless gun sounds would be annoying but they’re really quite useful as sometimes you’ll hear something before you can see it.
Sometimes, however, the game can only really be won by getting hit by a trap and then dodging it the second time. Trial and error make up a large portion of the game, slowing it down. Now, it takes some incredibly great level designers to allow for reactionary based gameplay to work and seem fair, so I can see why they’ve done it this way, but in my opinion, it doesn’t work as well as it should. The levels just aren’t interesting enough for me to want to keep replaying them
Besides story, we also have Arcade mode, Score Attack, Challenge, Boss Training and Versus. Arcade mode consists of you choosing your own plane (out of the ones you’ve unlocked), pilot, stage and a special item (time rewind, reflector etc.). This allows you a bit more freedom than story mode. Score Attack is pretty self-explanatory and boss training allows you to, you guessed it, battle the bosses again to learn their attack patterns. Challenge gives you special conditions like only hitting yellow mines, while Versus pits you against another player in either static battles or races. Overall, there’s plenty to do, especially with extra difficulty levels and coop to play in Story and a global leaderboard.
Overall, Sine Mora EX is a decent schmup with impressive graphics and ideas and themes which the genre can’t quite realize to the extent I expect they wanted.
A Switch review code of Sine Mora EX was provided by THQ Nordic for the purpose of this review