Sine Mora EX (Switch) Review – Worth the Price?
Platforms: PC, Nintendo Switch (reviewed), PS4, Xbox One
Developer: Grasshopper Manufacture, Digital Reality
Publisher: THQ Nordic
Release: 8th August 2017 (PS4, Xbox One, PC) / 10th October 2017 (EU, Nintendo Switch)
Price: 9.99 (PC), 19.99 (PS4, Xbox One), 29.99 (Switch)
The original Sine Mora was released back in 2012, developed by Suda51´s Grasshopper Manufacture Studio. After 5 years of its initial release THQ Nordic brings this well received Shoot´em Up back with some improved graphics and local coop, while porting it to pretty much every modern console at the same time. Is it still a good game worthy of being sold at three times higher price on Switch?
In contrast to many other Shmups, Sine Mora Ex actually has a pretty interesting story, told by different text messages between each mission. These are also fully voiced in english as part of the Ex treatment.
Set in an alternate reality where animal-like creatures fight on a planet called Seol. Following two different persons on their journey for revenge on the empire in two different eras, the story is surprisingly grim. A father who lost his son because he refused to drop an atomic bomb or the last survivor of an extinguished race, both are far from happy. Unfortunately the game suffers from one fatal flaw, destroying almost everything the plot could´ve been, the narrative. There are around a dozens of these text messages in there, spread across 8 big missions and none of them are either underlined by artwork or deliver enough information to make the story work. Some texts just can´t create a world around civil war, lost childs, morales and alternative universe, especially when they´re only used as transitions between the missions. On paper the tale around these two tormented figures sounds great and promising but is so underwhelming executed it just can´t work.
Where Sine Mora Ex can shine though is its gameplay, offering a compelling mix between a beginner friendly Shmup experience and more advanced things. There´s a button to shoot, one to slow the game down and the joystick to move, very basic but easy to learn things, especially great for some local coop on the Switch. On the other hand, every level has a timer, decreasing over time and with every hit on the ship, only extendable by killing enemies or parts of bosses. Due to this still fresh addition the whole flow of te game changes into a very hectic experience, which isn´t a bad things. The constant time pressure is great and adds up to the experience.
Considering how hard Sine Mora Ex actually is, this feature becomes even more fitting. Yes, it´s a hard game, where the bosses are one hell of a challenge but the best thing at the same time. The level design or gameplay is very basic but as soon as a boss appears, usually 1-2 times per level, a true bullet hell chaos starts to unfold. Divided into different phases every boss has its unique fire patterns, weaknesses or unique traits, combined with hundreds of bullets shot from different guns. Said guns can be shot off in most cases damaging the boss and disabling some of its fire power. They´re truly some of the best bosses in Shumps I´ve ever seen because they give so much feedback to the player´s action without seeming too much of a gamification.
Unfortunately the level design itself isn´t nearly as impressive in the later parts. The enemy spawns in particular get worse, unfair and more unpredictable throughout the game. Starting out as the classic left to right spawn the first few levels stay very conservative but working. Yet, as soon as the enemies begin to spawn from behind or above they become more unpredictable. As a result, the game indirectly forces the player to learn the level themselves by constant repeating them. It´s not fun to replay the same levels over and over again.
Concerning the overall presentation and artstyle, Sine Mora Ex is a stunning experience though. Not only is the Dieselpunk world full of amazing machines, full of details and seemingly perfectly copied from the initial artwork. From the Kraken to a giant train with guns, all look great and truly impressive. Dieselpunk is a very unique style and is perfectly captured within this game. On the Switch it looks nearly as impressive as on other consoles suffering only from the known flaws like a reduced framerate or resolution.
Sine Mora Ex is a great Shmup, featuring a unique artstyle and easy to learn but challenging gameplay. It´s simple but hard, easy to play but hard to master and a damn fine choice for a local coop session. Sadly the more than lackluster story and levels which force the player to learn the enemy spawns, as well as the price of 30 bucks, three times higher than on PC, make it a tough sell and it´s up to you, if you´d buy it.
[A Review Code was provided by THQ Nordic]