Every 2D shoot-em-up needs a gimmick. R-Type had its detachable orb, Ikaruga allowed players to change colors and the Darius series had giant space fish. Grasshopper Manufacture's newest Xbox Live Arcade shooter, Sine Mora, also has a gimmick, though you might not guess what it is from the Latin title. The conceit here involves time. That's perfect; because it's about time we got another must-own 2D shooter for Microsoft's Xbox 360.
Much like Killer 7 and No More Heroes, Sine Mora is dripping with style. Unlike those games, this action title fits perfectly into an easy to describe genre. You take control of a series of fighter jets as they fly through multiple stages trying to take down a genocidal madman and his army. Along the way you pick up power-ups, point bonuses and upgrades to your weapons. The basic concept is no different from a mountain of other 2D shooters, with one exception -- time.
The good news is that you don't immediately die when your plane smacks into an enemy's bullet. Instead taking damage, you lose a few seconds off of the clock at the top of the screen. Every bad guy you take down adds to that clock, so it's up to you to keep the time filled. Once the clock strikes zero, it's game over for our heroes. This mad scramble over time gives the game a sense of urgency you don't always get with 2D shooters, even when they're faster and harder than this.
But don't think that you can just take hits without any repercussions. Even if you can afford the slight hit to the timer, you will still lose all of the power-ups you've earned along the way. A single hit will drop your ship's ammo down to the starting weapon, which is often the only thing keeping you alive in this bullet hell shooter. Thankfully you can grab the escaping power-ups before they leave the screen, giving you full power again. This is easier said than done, as you'll need to dodge even more bullets just to snag all of those items.
Beyond the normal attack, players have the opportunity to use a bunch of larger weapons to take down enemy bosses. These limited attacks include homing missiles, a laser beam, helper planes and more. You are also able to affect time by holding the right trigger. Early on you can use that to speed your ship up (effectively slowing everything down), but when you revisit stages you can use it as a shield and even turn back time.
Speaking of time, the game's various stages are presented in a strangely non-linear fashion. Because the story involves multiple characters in a number of locations, you'll jump from one jet fighter to the next. This means that the levels you play will be out of order, which can be a little jarring at first. Thankfully everything comes together in the end and players get the satisfying ending they are after.
Sine Mora combines the best of 2D shooters with a dark storyline you have to see to believe. The result is an exciting action game that will remind gamers everywhere why they loved R-Type, Gradius and countless other horizontal shooters. Even with a short running time, Sine Mora is still a must-own shoot-em-up for the Xbox Live Arcade!
This product was submitted by the publisher for review. As a rule, Defunct Games does not review games we spent money on. However, that does not always apply to classic/retro games. This specific product, however, came straight from a PR guy for the purposes of being reviewed!