PAX Prime 2011: Hands-On with Digital Reality’s Sine Mora
While hourly smoke bombs were going off at Red 5′s massive Firefall display, other games touted their wares in a more modest manner at PAX’s Expo Hall. Bethesda cut an imposing figure with a dragon perched atop the screens playing Skyrim, BioShock‘s Songbird was busy kidnapping people, and 2K’s XCom had attendees snake their way through a 1960s army hospital set.
In a small booth in the corner, Hungary-based developer Digital Reality rallied with its offering of Sine Mora, standing side-by-side with BloodRayne: Betrayal and surrounded by imposing walls of Microsoft’s gigantic Kinect set.
Size didn’t matter in this case. This small display packed a huge punch with its dosage of retro gaming and aerial steampunk theme. Creative Director Theodore Reiker was on hand to show off his game as attendees tried their hand to navigate through the bullets.
Most gamers will probably give this game a miss if they don’t enjoy simplicity, and especially if they don’t like a challenge. The easiest game mode setting can have even the most devout side-scroll shooter afficionado crying into their mug of coffee. Retro-gamers will definitely be picking up this game, as it gives nods to titles from bygone years like Gradius, and their modern counterparts like Einhander.
For an arcade game, it’s a beautiful little one. The colors are beautiful, and are key as enemy bullets are highlighted in red and blue. Sorry, there’s no polarity here like Treasure’s Ikaruga, so don’t even think about absorbing bullets. However, the core of Sine Mora is time manipulation.
As the demo began, we’re immediately aware that there is a giant counter in the middle of the screen. It’s nothing to worry about — in another whiplash moment, we’re reminded of the days when we had time limits to complete a level. Super Mario Bros., anyone? The timer is simple to understand too. Take a hit, and you lose a few seconds. Blow up an enemy ship, you gain a few seconds. Make it to the end of the level with plenty of time to spare, you get massive points. Make it by the skin of your teeth, and you don’t get much.
Another interesting mechanic is the “slow time” function. If you’re overwhelmed by the shower of enemy bullets, pull the trigger and you can carefully weave your way through the millions of bullets. It will save your bacon, that’s something to count on. But don’t use it as a crutch, because your meter will run out.
As you play the game, enemies will drop power-ups. This will improve your weapon, from a measly little single shot, to a double shooter and also increased firing rate. Of course, no self-respecting pilot will go into battle without secondary weapons, and Sine Mora is no exception. During the demo we were introduced to a beam weapon and also seeker missiles, the latter being rather self-explanatory. The beam weapon gives your little fighter the ability to, as we delicately put it, “Shoop da Whoop” your way through waves of enemy airplanes. We’re not kidding — you really do have some serious laz0rz to fire.
The beauty of Sine Mora is the presence of chaos, and yet the order among the chaos. There is always a path through the multitudes of bullets flying at you, although sometimes it’s not as clear cut as some would like it to be. Lucky for you, you possess the power of time manipulation.
As we crashed and burned among the beautiful colors and settings of Sine Mora, we’ve come to realize that this game won’t be something any serious gamer should pass up. With the old school charm coupled with a new twist on fluidity, order among chaos, and a beautiful backdrop, Sine Mora will be one arcade title you should not give a miss.
Sine Mora is due out sometime in January or February of 2012 for Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network.