Sine Mora Preview (Vita)

Shoot-em-ups and digital distribution go hand in hand these days. Sine Mora, the brainchild of Digital Reality and Grasshopper Manufacture, was originally slated to release on the PlayStation Store and the Xbox Live Marketplace, until Microsoft Studios picked up exclusive publishing rights, and the game released in March. It has now been ported to the Vita, and is almost ready for release. PSLS got some hands-on time with the game at E3, and here’s what we thought.

Sine Mora is best described as a 2.5D shooter, where the action is locked to two axes while the environments and objects are all rendered in 3D. It’s also a “bullet hell” shooter, which is a pretty apt description; on multiple times per level, practically the entire screen will be filled with bullets that you would be wise to avoid with your plane. Whereas most shoot-em-ups expect you to navigate a sea of bullets, Sine Mora includes a nifty feature – time control. Using the R trigger on the Vita, you can slow down time and effortlessly dodge bullets while you take down enemies. Purists may call it cheating, but hey, if slowing down a sea of death is wrong, then I don’t want to be right.

This sidescroller also has a couple of things rarely seen in shoot-em-ups – narrative and cutscenes. There is an overarching story where a serial killer is intent on committing genocide in an era where a massive floating fortress maintains the peace of the land, and it’s your job to stop this murderer before it’s too late. There are also what can be considered cutscenes between levels, though these usually consist of a close-up of your aircraft as it performs a few moves while a few characters converse.

In the short time I had with Sine Mora, I quickly became accustomed to the game’s “health” system. At the start of each level, a timer starts. If it reaches zero, your game is over. To keep the clock up, you must destroy enemies and any time extension power ups they drop. Taking damage causes you to lose a couple of seconds each hit, and some levels can come down to the millisecond. I found this kind of health system pretty clever, and it’ll be interesting to see just how close I come to death before finishing a level. The time-slowing aspect was not gimmicky, since you only have a limited amount of it. No matter how many bullets and enemies were on screen, the Vita never flinched. I didn’t see any screen tearing or slowdown whatsoever, so all signs are pointing to a wonderful port by Digital Reality and Grasshopper Manufacture.

Sine Mora is set to launch later this year on the PlayStation Vita, and of course you can expect our full take on this promising sidescroller when the game launches.