So many seconds to gain, so little time.
With such advanced technology, if you want to invent something successful, it must rise above the norm. It needs to impress, it needs to be different, without players having the the initial thought of “Oh, we’ve seen that before.” On the contrary, it can’t be too strange or too intimidating that it scares the curious away.
This is where Sine Mora comes in—a standard side-scrolling shooter that takes simple gameplay and adds a unique twist. The time meter represents health, progression, and scoring. Rather than relying on med kits to survive, you must kill as many enemies as you can to increase your time; otherwise, it's "game over" once time is up. Failure to dodge incoming fire result in seconds deducted. Your objective is to reach every checkpoint in each level before the clock runs out and the seconds left is added to your overall score when you complete the level.
Combat can be chaotic. Aerial and ground forces shoot from every angle while you fly through environmental hazards, but luckily you have a couple of abilities to assist you like capsules and your sub-weapon. In the campaign, you’re limited to the Speed Up capsule, which contradictory to the title, slows down everything surrounding you, making maneuvering much more manageable through missiles, lasers, or other objects.
Sine Mora excels artistically, showing varying levels like flying through a machine factory where you dodge bursting flames, to a more calm and lavish green scenery in Cardinal Canyon. Animations break up gameplay and give players a glimpse of how each creative level is built. The camera often rotates around gigantic bosses, just to show the scale and detail of what you’re up against.
Whereas most side-scrolling shooters commit to simply dodging and shooting, several levels in Sine Mora force players to interact with the environment. During one particular part of the game, you must travel with a collection of trash to navigate through a garbage chute system. If you fail to hide within the waste, a signal goes off and you instantly explode. Other parts of the game include carefully flying through a mine field while firing at enemies as they come to attack you.
Besides combat, there is also a complex storyline. That is, only initially. Before every chapter, you’re given a text to read, but the narrator speaks Hungarian. There are also several characters with different stories to be told. The more you progress in the campaign, the further you dive into their story. While the story is in-depth, the way it is told adds confusion. Between listening to a Hungarian speaker while reading a text in English, playing as different leading characters, and trying to figure out which story is which, the bosses and descriptions are also in an unfamiliar language. In turn, players will either become lost or completely detached.
While Sine Mora does add a different twist by using a timer, the game could cause frustration for players new to the side-scrolling genre, since there is so much going on simultaneously. Fans of shmups, though, will love the challenge especially if they play Score Attack and Arcade mode, which are two additional features to the game. Any sort of online play is missing, however, so don’t expect to beat the game with a co-pilot. All in all, Sine Mora succeeds in applying a different concept to a side-scrolling shooter and it works. There might be a few questionable thoughts about the storyline, but it certainly does not shed any negative light on its chaotic and addictive gameplay.