Pros:
Outstanding graphics
Clock element for player health is a great innovation

Cons:
Game’s extremely hard difficulty could turn off casual gamers

Since I was a young gamer, I found myself attracted to the shmups. Games like Xevious, 1943, R-Type, Gradius and Thunder Force. Later it became games like Ikaruga, Radiant Silvergun and Deathsmiles. No need for eccentric storylines. Just let me blast everything on the screen and I’ll find peaceful bliss. That is until I die and want to throw the controller at my TV screen in fits of rage. Lately I believed that the shmup genre had ran it’s course and done just about everything it’s been able to do. I was wrong. Now comes Sine Mora on Xbox Live Arcade and my end result is “Holy shit this game is hard, but it’s so awesome!”

Sine Mora, from Digital Reality and Grasshopper Manufacture, tells the story of…well…actually the story is all in Hungarian with English subtitles. Then there was this story about revenge over the death of a son during a great war…and…well something about time travel and…oh who cares. Shmups have never really been known for their epic storylines. All your going to care about is what to shoot next and move forward to the end of each level battling a huge boss that takes up nearly the entire screen all while avoiding enemy gunfire. What else do you really need to know? It’s really fun!

Shooting is the name of the game here in Sine Mora as you use your plane to take out everything in sight. What makes it unique is the fact that the developers went out of the way to change the mechanics of the game keeping it from being your typical shooter. Most  bullet hell shooters have you die after one hit or when the life bar is empty. Sine Mora uses a clock. As you begin each stage a timer is counting down. You must now shoot everything to keep that timer rising and prevent it from reaching zero or else it’s game over. The game will allow you to continue, but they’re limited so try not to die too much. I really like the idea of the timer seperating Sine Mora from all the other shmups in the market because it now adds the element of strategy as you decide what to destroy and what to avoid so you can hold on to those precious seconds of life.

Besides being a game about timing and shooting everything in sight, Sine Mora features some of the most amazing graphics on a 2D shooter…ever. I’m not the type of guy who wants to talk all about the eye candy, but this game has the visuals that will invite you right in. The development team uses plenty of 3D moments throughout the game as your plane moves around each stage making everything come to life which is a rarity in the genre. Even in battle, the game never feels flat on the screen. It’s almost like you can fly anywhere. While the graphics look outstanding, your not going to pay too much attention to it because your too busy avoiding all the enemy fire that’s all around you.

One thing to keep in mind is the fact that Sine Mora is a hard game. So hard that it could cause tons of frustration to the average gamer out there. Casual gamers might not like the insane difficulty as the enemy bullets can fill the screen giving you the bullet hell experience and the fits of rage that quickly follow. A good suggestion to those would be the story mode on normal difficulty. It’s still tough, but you’ll be able to advance further with more continues and not as much enemy fire filling the screen allowing you to enjoy the game a little more. For the advanced I suggest the arcade and score attack modes for the ultimate challenge as you work your way up the global leaderboards as well as the ranking achievements.

Sine Mora sure is tough as nails to play, but playing a game that gives you a real challenge is what we all need. A game that’s too simple will never be remembered. Sine Mora will eventually go down as a classic of shmup excellence even if the storyline too complicated to understand. The gameplay and amazing graphics will make up for that. Shmup pros should download the game right now. For everyone else give the trial a shot. Eventually your going to like it enough to buy it.

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