Saturday, December 1, 2012

Sine Mora (PSN) Review

Thanks to Grasshopper and Digital Reality, I can bring you another review!  This is Sine Mora, a time-bending bullet hell game that previously came out on the Xbox 360, now available on PSN for PS3 and Vita.

As we usually do, let us start with the graphics for Sine Mora.  The game looks great.  The settings are fantastical and detailed.  There's almost too much detail which makes me want to look at all the pretty stages.  I can't, since that gets you killed very quickly.  Enemy design is also top-notch, with lots of variety.  There's barely any pallet swaps, either.  Bosses are all huge, imposing and unique.  As an added plus, the artwork for the characters looks really cool, too.  Enemy bullets are many different colors, but this is a mixed blessing.  It can make it easier to see different shots, but sometimes they blend into the background.  That's really my only gripe with the visuals, all the rest is superb.

All the in-game lines and loading screen story bits are voiced.  I had to look around to see what language it was, since I had no idea (Hungarian, apparently).  So if you have little ones, the "strong language" and "sexual themes" would only be an issue if they can read (or speak Hungarian).  The music is also pretty nice. It's not too memorable, but it is fitting.

So how does the game play?  You can shoot (of course), fire a sub-weapon and use a "capsule" ability.  In the main story, the capsule ability allows you to slow down time, making it easier to dodge bullets.  The concept of bending and travelling through time is also present in the story, so this isn't a tacked-on ability, it makes sense in context.  When playing the non-story modes, you can pick a ship (affects the shot pattern), then a pilot (affects the sub-weapon), and finally the capsule ability (slow time, reflect bullets or rewind time).  It's really nice that there's lots of builds available, which means everyone can find a build that works best for them.  The ship moves pretty fast, but sometimes too fast for me.  The only way to travel slower is to slightly tilt the analog stick.  This works well, but is very hard to remember to do in the heat of battle (read: while dodging a massive amount of bullets).

There are "prettier" pictures, but I really like this one.

I'll say that the difficulty of the game is really where I have my gripe.  I like that whenever you are hit, you just lose time instead of health, which I think gives more leeway most times.  However, there are several parts when hitting something immediately results in death.  To me, they were unexpected and I was usually confused as to why I just died.  To illustrate, there was a part where I had to sneak through some pipes by hiding in trash.  I didn't realize that I had to literally be in the middle of the trash.  I didn't want to ram into it, since these games (and also this one) condition you not to touch things that aren't powerups.  So after a couple of continues down the drain, I just ran into the trash and was unharmed.  I was a bit grumpy to say the least.

Bullet spreads and effects can also be downright mean.  There are bullets that move at varying speeds, change direction, home in on your plane and even disappear.  The final parts of the game felt more like they were just trying to be jerks than making it harder.  The arcade and score attack modes don't even have a "normal" difficulty option, just "hard" and "insane".  Even the hard difficulty is ridiculous to me.  While I'm never the 1CC guy in these games, I'm usually the 2CC guy, if you want a point of reference.  I'm also hopelessly bad at the one challenge I have unlocked in Challenge mode.  As far as I've learned, you have to beat one to unlock the next, which I can't say I'm a fan of.  It would be nice to have multiple open so players aren't just stuck and can at least attempt others.  One last gripe:  I don't think there's any invincibility time after getting hit.  This is especially bad when trying to get your shot powerups back after getting hit.

Sine Mora's story mode can be beaten in a day, but it's lengthy for a bullet hell game.  The best part of the story is how detailed it is.  The whole world and civilizations have backstories to flesh the whole game out.  The game spins an interesting tale of revolution and revenge, but it can be really hard to follow.  As far as I can tell, there are two separate plots that the game jumps between as you progress through story mode.  It can be hard to keep everything straight with all the jumping around.  I'm sure I have a decent grasp of the plot, and I especially like the outcome of Koss' quest for revenge.

Someone actually claimed this wasn't a bullet hell game.  Sure, buddy.

If you look at the trophy list, you don't get an indication of how much work you have to put into the game to get them.  In-game there is a list of requirements for each one, and there is lots of stuff required to get them all.  Several of the requirements are going to stop all but the very best players.  As good as I am at bullet hell/ space shooters/ shoot em ups, I doubt I'll be getting many trophies for Sine Mora.  Definitely a lot of playtime for your money if you go for trophies or the insane Challenge mode.

There is also a Vita version, but unfortunately there is no cross-buy.  It would have been cool to have cross-buy for an extra $5 or so.  I have no idea if it's possible, but this would be nice to play the game a bit when on the go to work on the trophies or challenges.

As mentioned before, the game can get really hard.  However, if you are a fan of bullet hell/ "shmup" games (I really don't like that term), you should pick it up.  The game can get frustrating, but it is fun.  Mean, but fun.  The story is confusing, but it's probably not why you would play Sine Mora.  If you aren't a fan of bullet hell games, this one isn't likely to change your mind, but as said before, fans of the genre should give the demo a whirl.

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