I was babysat by shoot’em ups when I was a youth, still to this day making it a tradition to play a handful of side-scrolling shooters every year. Sine Mora is not the first shoot’em up I’ve played in 2012, but it firmly cemented itself onto the foundation of my favorites. Grasshopper, Digital Reality, and everyone else who pitched in work for this project has not only revitalized my attention-span for “shmups”, they’ve set a standard for the future of my scrolling-shooter expectations.

Sine Mora tells a convoluted story of time travel, revenge, and sacrifice in a beautifully designed steam-punk world. It’s like rubbing against wood grain, talking about lore in a “bullet hell” shooter, yet here you walk away splinter free. Sine Mora has a story to tell, and unlike typical stories found in shmups this one wants to be taken seriously. Unfortunately, it may take a few replays to grasp the tale fully due to the way it’s told, ping ponging the player with protagonist pilots level after level. Regardless, story telling in the genre is a step in the right direction.

Time is what sets this game apart from the pack; unlike traditional shmups where catching a bullet means losing a credit, Sine Mora penalizes the player’s descending timer when his plane meets a projectile. Tying together its time-theme is a capsule mechanic which slows down the action on-screen, sparing the player seconds to pinpoint an escape out of those damaging walls of bullets.

By design, Sine More nullifies the existence of shooter boredom. Giant awe-inspiring bosses litter each level, making the peons you shoot down in between confrontations feel like pre-game practice. Each scene you pilot through is different from the last, some expansive while others claustrophobic, all of which possess a challenge different from the last. Each game mode – aside from story – lets players customize pilot load-outs with an abundance of unlockable sub-weapons and capsules. Needless to say, Grasshopper rounded the bases when it came to attracting a new audience to shoot’em ups, while not stranding the core audience on 2nd Base with a “lite” shooter.

Sine More is a masterpiece in nearly every way a shoot’em up can be. It’s fun, challenging, intricate, and packed with replayability; all I ask from these games. It evolved its 2D roots into a 3D presentation that moves fluidly and beautifully throughout. One things for certain, the work put into Sine Mora was a labor of love for those who still frequent the genre, and the kind of labor that I respect and desire to see more of from all genres alike. Fan or no fan of side-scrolling shooters, you owe it to yourself to have this game in your library.

Sine Mora[1,200 MSP] is rated “M” and available now on Xbox 360’s XBLA.