Sine Mora is turning back the clock
Confession: I love shmups.
That doesn't mean I'm particularly good at them, however; I'm certainly not one of those guys who can blaze through Ikaruga on a single life while blindfolded and dangling upside down. I'm not ex-VideoGamer Will Freeman, basically.
Sine Mora, then, is being designed for people like me. And people like you, too - developer Digital Reality is aiming to make the ideal gateway drug for casual players.
The Hungarian developer is working in conjunction with Grasshopper Manufacture, with the Japanese studio overseeing Sine Mora's art style and producing its music. The actual mechanics, then, are a western take on a predominately eastern genre.
Make no mistake, however - there is also an 'Arcade' mode that turns the game into a bullet hell nightmare tailored for grizzled shmup veterans. On this setting I died in, like, seconds. Back to the friendlier 'Story' mode for me, then.
Sine Mora is a side-scrolling shooter (think R-Type or Deathsmiles rather than Ikaruga or DoDonPachi), and a gamescom 2011 demo included a single but lengthy level - the final game will have seven - playable on either the game's normal or insane difficulty levels. In it you take an underwater dip, raid a factory, and blast open a military train, amongst other things.
The world is a retro-mecha fusion of devastating biplanes and sea vessels, and the level on show mixes bright outdoor colours with grim underground hues. Enemies attack in prescribed attack patterns, with a mix of red and blue coloured projectiles that, similar to Ikaruga, can be dodged with the right shield.
Mechanically, Sine Mora swaps a health bar with a timed checkpoint system - and you lose seconds off the clock by taking damage. Kill enemies, however, and you'll gain some precious time. You can also use your temporal-bending abilities to slow down and freeze time, which does come in handy when you're starting at a screen full of teeny tiny (but 100% deadly) bullets.
As you progress you'll be able to upgrade the weapons on your plane, which starts out with a rather drab but undeniably effective peashooter, but enemies will also throw more complicated bullets in your direction. Some of the more initially frustrating attacks include streams of bullets that then burst and scatter.
Like all shmups, it really comes down to patterns and scoring - and how satisfying it is to dodge the clusters of bullets on the screen. It's still hard to tell how Sine Mora will shape up on that front (I honestly didn't get enough time with the game to assess its intricacies) but the initial impressions were very positive. Like with Jamestown earlier this year, it seems Digital Reality is bringing something new and interesting to the genre.
Maybe, after Sine Mora, you'll find yourself loving shmups too.
Sine More is scheduled for a release on PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Arcade in early 2012.