Sine Mora Review
Overall 8

Back in the heyday of arcades, game developers had to find ways to keep players playing. Since most of these coin-ops could be conquered in 60 minutes or less, the difficulty would often be cranked to borderline-superhuman levels. Gamers would keep on pumping the machines full of quarters and the creators would make more money – a win-win, right? These dens of gaming might be long gone, but its soul is still alive and well in such titles as Digital Reality’s Sine Mora. Is it worth the $10 admission fee, or is this new age relic best left forgotten?

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Sine Mora Review

Back in the heyday of arcades, game developers had to find ways to keep players playing. Since most of these coin-ops could be conquered in 60 minutes or less, the difficulty would often be cranked to borderline-superhuman levels. Gamers would keep on pumping the machines full of quarters and the creators would make more money – a win-win, right? These dens of gaming might be long gone, but its soul is still alive and well in such titles as Digital Reality’s Sine Mora. Is it worth the $10 admission fee, or is this new age relic best left forgotten?

Taking liberal cues from the shoot-‘em-ups (or shmups) of yore, Sine Mora hopes to add some new wrinkles to a time-tested formula. The concept still involves an intense jaunt through waves of enemies and multi-colored bullets, but keeping your biplane afloat involves a change in strategy. Unlike so many other titles in the genre that force you to take the defensive, destroying everything in sight is crucial for survival.

Many of the best shmups out there have a hook, and Sine Mora’s hook revolves around time. A constantly ticking countdown clock takes center stage, serving as both your lifeblood and a score counter. In lieu of a life bar, each consecutive hit to your ship takes time away from the counter, while each ship you destroy adds precious seconds to your total. It’s a clever mechanic, one that rewards gamers for jumping into the fray rather than avoiding it.

Of course, it would not be a shmup without a steep difficulty curve, and Sine Mora delivers in that regard. The normal difficulty setting is far more forgiving, but even this mode is home to insta-kills, multipart bosses, and a ranking system that chides you for not being good enough. Those hoping to see the staff roll can credit-feed their way through in about two hours through the game’s heavy-handed story mode (with anthropomorphic animals!), but the game shows its true colors in its post-game challenges.

Shmups are often breeding grounds for artificial challenges created by diehard fans (such as clearing a title without being hit), but Sine Mora decides to make an official checklist for gamers to conquer. Want to be number one? You’ll need to rise through the ranks and play the game in a whole new way. These challenges can vary from the dedicated (get an A on every level) to the absurd (beat the game with alternative narration), but all are welcome additions, and allow you to see the care that went into each stage. It is these challenges that give Sine Mora its legs, and keep you playing to mastery. Your mileage may vary, but those who are invested in the game will find no shortage of things to do.

Sine Mora might not be able to rack up as many hours as this holiday’s AAA blockbusters, but it doesn’t have to be. It delivers the spirit of yesteryear in a succinct package, staying only as long as it needs to. Arcades might be dead, but shooting things never gets old.

This review is based on a retail copy of the Xbox 360 version of Sine Mora