Initially released in 2012, this unique take on a side-scrolling shooter from Digital Reality and Grasshopper was one of the most overlooked games last generation. The game’s colorful, and at times breathtaking visuals are rendered fully in 3D, but the gameplay is restricted to a side-scroller. The anthropomorphic character clash with the game’s steampunk aesthetics, but that is part of the charm to Sine Mora EX. Marcus reviewed the original release on Xbox 360 five years ago, at the tail end of the generation. This marks the first time the game has been released on the current generation of consoles; PlayStation 4 & Xbox One.
Sine Mora EX features a robust storyline, taking players through multiple chapters as various characters. Unless you are focusing your efforts on understanding the narrative, you’ll likely be confused and unsure, regarding what character you are playing, and why. The side-scrolling action stands well enough on its own merit that I didn’t feel like I was missing too much by skipping story segments to get back to blasting everything on-screen. Playing the PlayStation Vita version a couple of years ago, I recalled the game’s difficulty as being on-par with although bullet-hell shooters but using a proper gamepad this time around (Xbox One controller), I miraculously completed the game.
Unlike other games in the genre, Sine Mora EX doesn’t feature one-hit kills, for enemies or yourself, hell, it doesn't even feature a health meter. Instead, the game prioritizes time travel, something that is the key component to the game. At the top of the screen, you’ll see a timer that counts down as you progress through levels. Killing enemies will add seconds to the time, but taking damage, either by incoming bullets or colliding with the environment sees a large chunk of the timer disappear. Depending upon what special time ability you select (you don’t have the option in story mode), you will have the power to rewind time, useful if you have a major mishap, slow down time, slowing down bullets and enemies ships or reflect bullets to protect yourself. In this slow state, you are still able to move at full speed, and it may take a few levels before you are comfortable enough to use it without constantly crashing into all the projectiles you just froze. Your special ability gauge drains quite fast, so it's best used when you find yourself in a pinch, as overusing it can be detrimental.
Your primary weapon can be improved by collecting power-ups; however, a single hit is enough to send all of them flying from your ship. If you are fast enough, you can regain them without losing too much time, but if you aren’t careful, you may find yourself running out of time chasing after your power-ups. This rings especially true in tight corridors, such as caves, as the quick moving ships can smack into the floor or ceilings of caves remarkably quickly. While the initial release only featured a single-player campaign, Sine Mora EX adds the option for up to two players to tackle the story mode together locally. There are versus game modes that let you compete with another player, as well as a new challenge mode. Arcade/Score Attack allows you play through the story missions at a higher difficulty for the chance of placing on the global online leaderboards.
Levels are genuinely short when compared to other games of the genre, but that doesn't matter, as the main focus in Sine Mora EX is the gigantic boss battles. Whether you are in the middle of a stage or at the end, the game pits you against larger than live machines of death. Fast reflexes and a twitchy trigger figure is the only way to survive. These encounters are the best moments in the game, as you try and destroy set armaments before moving on to the next. Is the homing missiles giving you a hard time? Focus your fire power on taking that out first, before moving on to something else.
Sine Mora was already a sharp looking game, but the improved rendering in Sine Mora EX really helps the game stand out. PlayStation 4 Pro owners and those that have the game on PC can play the game in native 4K resolution at a smooth 60 fps. Sine Mora EX also features full English voice overs, but you can opt for the original Hungarian ones in the main menu. The original release also had a 16:10 cinematic ratio, adding black bars to the bottom and top of your television, but this can be turned off in the game options.
Sine Mora EX is the definitive version of the game, adding a slew of new options, and bringing the game to the current generation for the first time. Even after five years, the art style and colorful aesthetics still help the game standout. The game’s brutal difficulty and optional challenge modes help keep you playing after completing the story, especially if you want to experience it with a second player.
Note: Sine Mora EX was reviewed based on a digital PlayStation 4 copy of the game, provided by the publisher.