'Sine Mora EX' Builds a Beautiful Bullet Hell

There is a lot to look at that threatens your life in this bullet hell game before even considering how wicked everything else around you looks.

Sine Mora EX

Publisher: THQ Nordic
Price: $9.99
Developer: Grasshopper Manufacture
Release Date: 2017-08-08

Sine Mora EX is quite difficult, which is good, since that's what players in this genre are looking for: difficulty.

Sine Mora EX is also quite pretty, a kind of balancing act the game plays between its darker themes and extremely challenging play and what are some gorgeous looking animations. The game creates difficult moments and difficult boss battles but all within a beautifully rendered world.

High contrast defines the bullet hell genre, though. A genre that on the face of it seems quite simple, run and gun, but is difficult to pull off because of that simplicity. Truth be told, “run and gun” really means that you need to avoid bullets on the screen while gunning down anything you can destroy and while still eking out your survival in what becomes a deluge of bad guy bullets continually filling up the screen.

In that sense, almost any bullet hell game is interesting to look at. Sometimes they can seem to just be playgrounds of chaos and madness as your ship dodges through spirals of bullets, but the pleasure of looking at them is watching the cool of a pilot who can navigate this chaos and still make a stand against it.

In a sense the overall enhancement of this game's graphics, an improvement on the original 2012 release of Sine Mora, into the especially pretty enemy models and skyscapes that you jet across tends to get lost sometimes from the pilot's view. The pilot's dominant goal being survival and creating devastation rather than concerning him- or herself with the beauty of the spaces he is exploring or the coolness of the robotic opposition that he or she destroys. There is a lot to look at in this bullet hell game before necessarily considering how wicked everything else around you looks.

Admittedly, I'm a bullet hell noob more than anything else, so, perhaps, my view is limited in terms of how I should really be seeing Sine Mora EX as a player and pilot. Sure, I remember the release way back in 1984 of what is often considered one of the seminal works in the genre, 1942, but I dropped my quarters in a lot of arcade games in the 1980s. I was really a master of none. I have had 30 years in which I could have been practicing for this review, but the evolution of the genre has left me behind. However, that doesn't mean that I am uninterested in attempting to master this highly refined version of the bullet hell shooter even now.

After all, perhaps because I was raised on arcade levels of difficulty, a challenge is something that I enjoy. One of my own perennial favorite go-to games of all time is the rogue-lite The Binding of Isaac, so I don't mind suffering and practicing, suffering and practicing to get better at a game and surviving difficult onslaughts of enemies.

Of course, a rogue-lite, like Isaac and a bullet hell shooter, like Sine Mora are not quite the same thing. Both games are about memory, getting to know how certain enemies work to better deal with them in future encounters, for example. However, the bullet hell game presents a sameness from level to level. It depends on the familiarizing of the player with very difficult bosses that you will meet again and again as you get better at the game. By contrast, the rogue-lite, randomizes encounters and levels, forcing the player to adapt to new scenarios every time that you play.

I tend to prefer the latter to the former, which makes it more likely that Isaac will remain my constant go-to game when I'm just not sure what to play rather than Sine Mora EX. However, this is not to say that I have no interest in attempting to master Sine Mora. I'm enjoying the game very much. I just probably need a lot more practice doing so, and the game is just pretty enough and just difficult enough to encourage me to continue doing so for some time.


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