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Review: Sine Mora EX (PlayStation 4)By Insanoflex At 07.08.2017 15:02

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Bullet hell action games have been getting recognised as the genre that truly tests the mettle of action gamers - the recent popularity of Ghost Blade, Blue Rider, Resogun and the shoot 'em up parts of Nier: Automata being shining highlights of the genre. It has been a while since these kinds of games got the attention they are getting now, and perhaps when Sine Mora first came out it was ahead of its time.

One thing most will agree on is that Sine Mora EX's visuals are truly sumptuous and eye-bleedingly gorgeous. For a game with such a dour and heavy story (more on that later) the art direction is very bright and colourful. The ship designs are also pretty striking, bearing some resemblance to the engineering and styles of aircrafts seen from the 1940s era.

Every rivet and panel is pronounced, and pipes, tubing and wiring are wrought throughout the larger machines and structures. It's part retro, part diesel punk, with an unusual dash of Hungarian anthropomorphic characters. The stylish art direction is likely where the Grasshopper Manufacturer influences came into play for Digital Reality's project, and it looks even better than ever on PlayStation 4, with crystal-like plastic wrap clarity. Even the design of the enemy bullet patterns have an interesting look to them.

During the course of Sine Mora EX, there will be several playable aircrafts (sometimes they transform into submarines) and each one has its distinct qualities. Usually this means they have different kinds of shots or special AOE attacks. Regardless of which aircraft is being used, the main mechanic of gameplay is centred on a timer that counts down to death, and the only way to stay alive is to build up a large combo for extra time bonuses.

Health is also tied to the timer, so getting hit too much will lead to a fast Game Over. It's a fairly satisfying mechanic, since it leaves a lot of room for highly-skilled players and is also much more lenient than one-hit deaths that games like this usually have. There is also the limited use slow-mo charge to easier avoid the many projectiles that will pollute the screen with hostility, and there is an added co-op mode in this "EX" edition, a feature that was not in earlier versions.

Sine Mora EX uncharacteristically has an unusually involving story about really depressing anthropomorphic animals who are at war and deal with betrayals, rape and revenge. The story jumps around a lot between characters in parallel, making the timeline of events really confusing. Most of the time, the story prefaces a stage with voiced-over text over a black screen with a character's static portrait. The acting is pretty melodramatic, and the tone is dark and sometimes macabre, which really doesn't gel with the crazy shoot 'em up action and multi-phase boss fights with transforming tanks, giant worms and huge warships.

Really, though, nobody is ever going to play a bullet hell action game for its story, so it's perplexing that the developer put as much effort as they did, since most people won't be able to follow it or will lose interest and just skip every story beat.

Akira Yamaoka, famed Silent Hill musician, sadly kind of phones it in with this one. The music is just forgettable, and while it's not bad, the real weakness of Sine Mora EX is its sound design. This game has the wimpiest explosion sound effects. Even the sound of the player-aircraft's death explosion is barely audible and lacks a punch. Sometimes it may not even be apparent of death due to the screen teeming with bullets, and the lack of audible feedback is what can lead to confusion.

Graphics ()

Gameplay ()

Sound ()

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Final Score
As far as shoot 'em up bullet hell games go, [i]Sine Mora EX[/i] is a pretty strong entry. The audio is lacking, but the video really does make up for it thanks to impeccable designs and art direction. This is a pretty hard game, but it is also a short one. However, the various modes and challenges even out the experience to keep the adrenaline junkies coming back for more. Just don't bother trying to get invested in the story; come for the pulse-pounding scrolling action.

8

/10

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