I’ve harked on about the golden days of dirty arcades many times before, but please just indulge me one more time. When I ventured into these places of wonder in my younger days, armed with a pound’s worth of 10 pence pieces, I had to be careful how to spend my cash. I would always go for the game where I could get more for my buck, like football or Pac-Man or Double Dragon. I wouldn’t go near the 2D “bullet hell” side scrollers, that would get you addicted and eat your coins, for these were hard as nails, and more importantly, I was terrible at them.

Sine Mora EX is one of those games, but now, without the fear of bankruptcy, I can confidently play this from the comfort of my own sofa. But is it going to be as difficult as those arcade shooters that I remember?

Sine Mora EX is an extended and remastered version of the game that was released back in 2012. It offers a wealth of different modes, a compelling story and of course some frantic shooting gameplay. The game is a 2.5D side shooting scroller, similar to games like R-TYPE and Defender.

You steer your ship across the screen, avoiding enemy ships, and the constant spray of bullets and horror that they propel at you. You’ve the option of dodging these attacks and have a special move which slows down time for a short while. This really helps in tight situations and is a brilliant trick to have up your sleeve. BUT time is of the essence in this game and you only have a certain time window to complete a section, so it’s all about time management and how you apply it. If you find yourself running out of time, then you’ll need to shoot something – anything – just so a few more seconds are added to your clock. This is a great addition to the gameplay and something that never tires or gets boring.

The other – more standard – weapons that you have at your disposal are attached to the fire button, but you’ll just need to keep that constantly pressed down for damage to occur. You get points, extra time and special power ups for your main weapon, making it more powerful with a greater range. When you get hit, the power ups fly off into the world and you get left scrabbling around to get them back, before you die. The other ability that Sine Mora EX brings your way is that of the special attack – a weapon that covers stuff from a huge laser that fires out and destroys everything, to two drones who will give you extra firepower while flying beside you.  

There are some stealth sections thrown into the gameplay mix too, like having to fly alongside some factory debris in order to disguise yourself from the deadly lasers, but mainly it’s good old-fashioned shooting. The boss levels you encounter are frequent and very testing, but interestingly different enough from each other to keep the love going.

Normal difficulty in story mode is as hard as that man sitting next to the fruit machine in your local pub. The story is surprisingly good; very adult, with some great writing. The characters are distinctive and the whole narrative makes it stand out from the crowd of games like this. There is also an arcade mode which is really just for the hardcore fanatics out there, which I am not one of. There is a challenge mode, which is great for people who want to try even more heart attack inducing gameplay, whilst the local versus mode pits you against a friend in a battle to the death. Then there’s the usual leaderboards, which every ‘bullet hell’ fanatic will want to rise to the very top of. It is a pretty neat package for the price and there’s loads to do.

Regarding the graphics and overall look of Sine Mora EX, and there are a lot of pleasant things to see. There has been a sheen upgrade from the old version on previous consoles, but there is nothing remarkable that stamps it out as a new generational shooter. However, everything looks great with some colourful backdrops and fascinating enemy design. A big shout out goes to the boss design throughout, and the inventiveness gone into making these work. The soundtrack is exciting and engaging while keeping in time with the action on the screen, whilst the effects are good and sharp, with the voice over giving the story a serious and believable dose of drama.

Overall though and there is a lot of fun to be had with Sine Mora EX. It’s a solid, hard as nails, well crafted bullet fuelled shooter, with a lot to do and a whole bunch of different modes to try out. I’ll be honest with you here and now, I’m not a great fan of games like this, so it was occasionally a struggle, and not being able to save your game at checkpoints and having limited credits are big annoyances for me – mainly because I don’t want to remember those sad old days in the arcades. BUT this is a very well made game, with a good story and some excellent gameplay that I can’t fault. If you’re into these “bullet hell” type affairs then add a half star to this review as you’re sure to have fun.

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