Sine Mora was originally released back in 2012 and pulled in quite the reception from fans and critics alike, with praise aimed at the visuals, the tight controls, and the fast paced action-packed gameplay. Fast forward five years and that leads us to Sine Mora Ex. Before you get overly excited it’s important to note that this is not a sequel, but more of a remaster. Sine Mora Ex is essentially the same game as the predecessor, but comes with an all important graphical overhaul and new features. The new additions include new challenge levels, English voice overs, local co-op for story mode, new versus modes, and improved rendering. This collectively makes Sine Mora Ex not just a worthy purchase for those that enjoyed the first outing, but a must have for anyone that never had the chance of picking it up.
Sine Mora Ex is a side scrolling shoot’em up that sees you taking on wave upon wave of enemies that would blast you into smithereens sooner than look at you. The game is tethered to a mature story that’s surprisingly in-depth, and believe me when I say, Sine Mora Ex deserves the ‘M’ rating it was given. Make no mistake about it, the game has a very dark and sinister plot for you to swallow, and although I wont ruin a single moment of it for you, it’s a theme that runs deep into the experience. Hell, even after just the first level, there’s talk of rape and revenge, just to give you an idea as to what to expect. Furthermore, there’s enough swearing in this game to put Billy Connolly to shame. In any case, this is certainly a story that’s worth following, and one of the many strong points of the overall package.
Sine Mora Ex packs all of the aspects that you typically expect from a game of this type. Hordes of enemies will litter the screen in all directions and it’s up to you to lay them all to waste. You’ll nab power-ups from fallen foes, earn weaponry that can be upgraded, storm the entire screen with super powers, and chip away at some of the best boss encounters I’ve witnessed in a side-scroller to date. There’s no shortage of shoot’em ups on the Xbox Store, but it was almost immediately apparent as to why Sine Mora was held in such high regard when it hit storefronts, five years prior.
One of the most interesting mechanics in the game is the ability to manipulate time. You can slow down time if things are not going in your favour, which might I point out, can happen within the blink of an eye. It’s here in which a layer of strategy comes into play, because ideally you want to use this time slow-down to weigh up your surroundings and get a feel for the enemies you’re faced with and suss out their movement and attack patterns. Enemies will drop additional time along with other helpful titbits such as shields, so it pays off to collect as much as you can in order to prevent being left with no resources other than your standard attack. This sense of action, mixed with the dark story, is all tied together by a wonderful soundtrack that sets the mood and the theme of each level, near perfectly.
There are plenty of enemy variants within to keep the game feeling fresh, all of which have their own style and pre-set behaviours. Sine Mora Ex also does a good a job at ensuring that you’re treated to a wide variety of different scenery, all of which have been carefully designed to offer up some jaw dropping sequences. Unfortunately some levels do stand out much better than others, simply due to the fact that it’s sometimes far too easy to get lost in the screen due to the lack of focus on your ship. Several times did I find myself lost in a sea of enemies thanks to how much my ship blended in with the backdrop, only to have my ass handed to me seconds later. This isn’t a major problem for the game, and it’s not something that happens frequently, but it occurred often enough for me to make a note of it.
Once you’ve found the confidence to make it through the experience, you can crack the difficulty up to enjoy more chaos, though be warned, it gets super tough, regardless as to whether you bring a buddy into the fray with you. As alluded to above, Sine Mora Ex offers more than just the story mode. When you’ve exhausted the campaign you can jump into Arcade Mode, which allows you to focus on achieving the highest score possible using only three continues. Outside of this you can jump into one of three new versus modes, being Race, Tanks and Dodgeball. I cant wholeheartedly say that these additions captivated me as much as the campaign, but it’s nice to see them included and they do indeed throw another layer of replay value into the mix. Safe to say, if you enjoy a side-scrolling shoot’em up with depth, Sine Mora Ex has you covered.
Sine Mora Ex is easily one of the best shoot’em ups on Xbox One. Those that were hoping for a fully fledged sequel may be somewhat let down, but you need not be, because the additional content and the overhaul makes this one hell of a comeback that’s well worth your time. There’s enough content on offer to justify the price tag, and with my issue regarding the visuals occasionally swallowing all focus on my ship, there’s little else I can pull the experience down for. The interesting time manipulation throws in a tactical edge, and it’s a feature that works extremely well with the formula. Group that with some fantastic boss encounters and the fast paced action-packed gameplay, and you’ve got yourself a winner. Not only is Sine Mora Ex a great starting point for genre newcomers, but it’s (without a doubt) a must have for genre fans.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.