17th Aug2017

Digital Shorts: ‘Sine Mora EX’ Review (PS4)

by Matthew Smail

In DIGITAL SHORTS we review some of the latest video games that are only available digitally (at least in the UK), in a short-form review format. In this edition we take a look at Sine Mora EX, the extended version of the critically acclaimed original shmup.

sine-mora-ex-screen

First released in 2012 on the previous generation of consoles, Sine Mora EX is a beautiful, cinematic and modern bullet hell shoot-em-up that channels classic genre staples from 1942 to Ikaruga. I tend to find this kind of recent-release-remake fairly contrived due to a lack of new features, but with the PS4 version of Sine Mora EX, the developers have really gone to town with additional content. As well as returning story driven campaign that is lengthy and challenging, players also gain access to a new cooperative mode, three versus modes and a challenge mode. On PS4 Pro, the game plays in silky-smooth native 4K at 60 frames per second, and it looks sublime, whilst every version of the game can now be played without borders.

Although I said Sine Mora EX was story driven, that’s not a reason to keep playing it. The story is both bonkers and confusing, and features a tale of revenge, war and imperial ambition, waged between talking, humanoid animals. Think of them as a more sweary, morose version of Starfox and his crew and you’ll be at least part of the way there. I really struggled to follow what was happening or why at times, so I was thankful for the fact that I could hold down a shoulder button to rapidly advance through the cut scenes. Thankfully, none of this really affected the gameplay, and as is often the case in shoot-em-up games, the story plays second fiddle to the gameplay.

Thankfully, this is an area which Sine Mora EX is extremely strong in. The game is played predominantly on rails, and from left to right, as players pilot steampunk inspired biplanes (and similar) through more and more outlandish levels. Enemies appear in droves, including everything from light and nimble fighter planes to hideously bloated worms, and that’s without even mentioning the absolutely gigantic boss encounters. To combat the increasing threat, players are able to power up their plane, but a really sweet feature in Sine Mora EX is that when you take a hit, you’ll lose some of those power-ups and be able to chase them down again.

The key feature of Sine Mora EX’s gameplay is that the player also has access to a gauge that allows them to slow down time. As bullet hell shooters go, Sine Mora EX tows the line in terms of difficulty, but the unique time-bending mechanic means that players have a fighting chance when it comes to getting through some of the most challenging sections. The gunplay is both fluid and meaty, and there is a tangible amount of feedback as bullets hit home and enemies explode and peel outwards towards the screen as their ships crash and burn. Thrown in five difficulty levels plus all of the other modes I’ve already mentioned, and there is actually a surprising amount of replayability here.

The PS4 Pro version that I played looks particularly attractive, and whilst borderless 4K is a real thing of beauty, it wouldn’t be at all useful if a game so dependant on twitch reactions and smooth gameplay were stuttering at skipping at every sign of a large enemy or explosion. Sine Mora EXplays flawlessly, and I don’t think I saw a single noticeable drop, no matter how huge the enemies or how many on screen projectiles were coming at me. The living backdrops are also impressive, with island paradises, underground cities and gigantic industrial installations all featuring.

With its excellent visual appeal made possible by a modern generation of console, and with the inclusion of a number of enhanced features (including both cooperative and versus multiplayer modes) Sine Mora EX may actually do enough to convince veteran players to return. For those who never played it at the first opportunity, Sine Mora EX remains one of the very best bullet hell shooters available, and this iteration only adds more to the original. A strong recommendation from me.

**** 4/5

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