Sine Mora EX

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Genre: Action
Publisher: THQ Nordic
Release Date: Sept. 26, 2017 (US), Oct. 10, 2017 (EU)

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Switch Review - 'Sine Mora Ex'

by Andreas Salmen on Oct. 12, 2017 @ 2:00 a.m. PDT

Sine Mora Ex is a diesel-punk shoot-'em-up that provides a distinct take on the genre, where time is the ultimate factor.

Buy Sine Mora Ex

Sine Mora Ex is the perfect package for people fond of 2-D side-scrolling shooters. This re-release contains the original game Sine Mora, and there are few compelling additions for those who are familiar with the original game. Those who have never played it might be entertained for a while.

Sine Mora, jointly developed by Digital Reality and Grasshopper Manufacture, was originally released on the Xbox 360 five years ago and has since been released on the PS3, PlayStation Vita and PC. The core gameplay in Sine Mora Ex, a re-release with some touch-ups and additional content on all current-gen consoles, remains intact. As in any side-scroller, we control a vehicle through a fixed level and try to shoot down as many enemies as we can to rack up points. What could've been a paint-by-numbers retro-inspired game turns out to be a well-deserved reimagining of the genre.

Sine Mora Ex's story is an emphasis, and each of the seven levels adds to the tale. The world consists of humanoid animal creatures who are leading a futuristic war. We control different characters on different sides of the story, so we can experience the story from different angles and get a greater feel of the bigger picture. In some instances, the story feels over-the-top and does not fit the genre well, so that may turn off some people. However, the story is usually delivered via plain text and read by voice actors, so it's easy to skip it altogether.

Once we enter the gameplay, Sine Mora Ex does a fantastic job of orchestrating a near-perfect experience. The game has beautiful 3-D visuals that provide incredible details and depth throughout the levels. There are plenty of objects, friends, and enemies slip from the background to the foreground and vice versa to add a dynamic feel to the gameplay. Add some panoramic camera angles, gorgeously animated vistas, tracking shots and cinematic sequences, and one realizes how modern this classic genre can feel if tackled correctly.

Nowadays, many developers try to make games that appeal to the largest possible audience by ditching any overly challenging or frustrating aspects. There are some genres, however, that feed off the challenging gameplay and nerve-racking difficulty. Sine Mora Ex can be incredibly difficult on occasion, especially if players aren't used to this type of gameplay. Those who get frustrated quickly or are looking for a relaxing gaming experience should steer clear of this title.

Regardless of graphics and difficulty, the game has an interesting approach to side-scrolling. We can still move our vehicle in a confined space while progressing linearly through a level, but there's no health bar. All we have to worry about is time, which is displayed by a backward-counting timer at the top of the screen. If we take damage by getting hit or running into objects, the timer decreases significantly, and killed enemies provide a time bonus. The timer is reset at checkpoints, but the gameplay certainly creates some incredibly tense moments when the clock is counting down.

Every ship we control in the game has powerful sub-weapons that deal major damage, but they're pretty limited within a level. On top of that, we can alter time, so we can slow down the world around us for a few seconds or perform other tricks, like turning back time or reflecting projectiles. The use of this is also limited, and we have to wisely choose what to use and when to use it; otherwise, we may run out when we need it the most, such as when facing an oversized foe .

Sine Mora Ex's cleverly constructed levels continuously provide serious challenges. From enemy types and patterns to environmental hazards like lasers and mines, there's always something new and deadly in our path. Ultimately, we're left wanting more, which is a good sign because it means we enjoyed it.

The main attractions are the incredibly messy boss fights that have us taking on some insanely huge opponents in difficult multi-level confrontations. Certain skills and tactics are required to prevail, but that's assuming you reach the bosses with all of the required resources. If you've used up your sub-weapon and time powers, the boss battles become even more challenging than they already are. When you die, you return to the checkpoint immediately before the boss fight, so you're robbed of the chance to earn some resources via enemy loot. Sometimes, this means that restarting a level is the only option, and that can be annoying.

Even though we only have seven levels to work with, they're jam-packed with content. Beyond the story mode and its two difficulty settings, the title features an arcade mode, a score attack mode, and special challenges that can be unlocked. By progressing in the campaign, we unlocked several new ships, new pilots with special time abilities, and sub-weapons that could be used across all modes.

Sine Mora Ex even tries to introduce couch co-op play. Unfortunately, this is probably the least fleshed-out part of the entire game. When teaming up with a buddy, you can either tackle the story campaign or play against one another. The campaign co-op works well, with the second player controlling a rotational drone to assist the first player in diminishing waves of enemies.  However, the versus stages don't live up to their potential. You square off on blurred backgrounds, and random platforms are thrown around to rack up points against one another and destroy your opponent. This could've been a huge selling point for this re-release, especially on the Nintendo Switch, but the original content is still the main reason that Sine Mora Ex shines.

Sine Mora Ex is a good game, but the new version likely won't satisfy people who are familiar with the original. It still features the challenging and fun gameplay, but it currently doesn't warrant the hefty price tag of $30 for a few minor improvements and content. Chances are that owners of a Nintendo Switch have never had the opportunity to try Sine Mora, so they will experience a highly challenging and entertaining game. People who have played this before should wait for a sale to get the slightly touched-up and expanded version of this truly enjoyable experience.

Score: 7.7/10

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