Sine Mora, co-developed by Digital Reality and Grasshopper Manufacture, was well received by the 360 community back in March of 2012. Freshly released on other platforms this past November, I found some time to sit down with the Steam version to see what makes it tick. I first should outline what I understand to be the connections between the collaboration between Sine Mora’s two developers – Digital Reality brought the gameplay, 3D assets, programming and story, and Suda51’s Grasshopper Manufacture of No More Heroes and recent Lollipop Chainsaw fame undertook the art and sound design.
When you begin and end a level, you’re treated to a screen or two of text, being voiced in Hungarian, with no option to change it. There is no character representation except a 2D icon of the characters – and with a disjointed page or two of written story about a father’s revenge in the middle of a war, or genocide, or, well, whatever, I found myself losing interest in anything they had to say. In fact, the game itself only loosely connects the gameplay to the story, and most of it comes across about as relevant as Slippy in the StarFox games. I found myself, more often than not, fighting the urge to hold the “skip” button during the talking sequences. The music and sound effects were on par with the graphics though, even if the voice-overs left me wanting.
The heart of the game is the arcade mode, where you’ll find endless reasons to throw your mouse, keyboard and possibly even the controller. I’m almost convinced that someone in Digital Reality is getting kickbacks for each panel of sheet rock sold – the game is, beyond Normal story mode, an exercise in masochism. Yes, you can unlock pilots, abilities, planes and even paint jobs for the arcade mode – I just didn’t find any compelling reason to do so. The arcade mode is a rehash of the overwrought story mode, and with no normal mode to enjoy arcade you are cast into the unforgiving fray on hard or worse.
Play, let alone replay, is reserved for the hardcore sidescrolling aficionado. There are some well known and respected names behind Sine Mora – from sweeping scores by Amira Yamoaka to bosses designed by Mahiro Maeda, there is a significant tribute to bullet hell here. It’s just too bad that it isn’t more inclusive of a wider audience – the fun runs out as fast as your life, and the novelty.