Shatter is quite possibly the best Breakout clone to come along since the original Arkanoid was released in 1982. This PlayStation Network exclusive features a unique spin on the classic brick-breaking mechanic and is punctuated by a sleek look, fun boss fights and one of the best original video game soundtracks in recent memory.
There are several unique mechanics at play in Shatter, but the most pronounced is the ability to make your paddle suck and blow the air around it, allowing you to manipulate the path of your projectile. This ability all but removes the annoying brick-breaking game situation of spending several minutes trying to hit one last piece on the playfield. Read More…
The suck mechanic is also used to absorb fragments that are created when your projectile shatters enemy blocks. These fragments fill a power meter that can be used to activate a shield for your paddle and, when the meter is full, to unleash a powerful laser attack. Collecting fragments also fills a bonus meter. The meter is depleted when enemy blocks reach the end of the playfield. Activating the shield will burn off blocks that touch your paddle, preserving your bonus level.
If a block hits your paddle while it is unshielded, your paddle will be momentarily knocked from the playfield. Most of the lives I lost while playing Shatter were lost while my paddle was knocked out, many others were lost by carelessly launching too many balls into the playfield at once. Shatter allows you to launch multiple balls at will, which increases your bonus level and makes it easier to hit one or two remaining bricks, but the ability also makes it easier to lose lives faster.
During the main Story Mode in Shatter, if all your lives are lost, you will be given three continue credits per world. Each of the ten worlds is broken down into several levels called waves and is capped off with a boss battle. The continue system is a bit too generous in my opinion and results in Shatter being quite easy to complete. Players also have the option of continuing the Story Mode from the last unlocked level at any time, instead of having to complete the game in one session like an arcade classic.
Shatter also hands out extra life power-up items quite frequently in addition to cleverly named power-ups like Manoeuvraball and Unstoppaball, meaning experienced brick-breaking fans should have little difficulty collecting a trophy for completing the Story Mode in one session; a task that takes about 70 or 80 minutes. While I found Shatter to be on the easy side, it did not detract from my experience much at all. Quite a few waves can become intense because of tricky brick placement or blocks that have the ability to suck or blow your ball around.
Smart use of the paddle’s shield and blow abilities can keep your ball(s) in play for extended periods and I was able complete several waves without the ball even touching my paddle after being launched. This twist on the gameplay felt very unique and fresh among brick-breaking titles in addition to things like having three different shaped playfields and puzzle-like waves that seemed to have a quick “solution” to them.
Having three different shaped playfields - horizontal, vertical and circular - also kept Shatter from getting stale, though admittedly I did not enjoy waves or boss fights that took place on the circular playfield nearly as much as the other two. Something about the shape messed with my spatial judgement and suck/blow technique, despite the presence of a shot indicator that tells you where your projectile will hit.
The boss battles in Shatter were very fun and a definite highlight. Though still not very challenging, each boss has a distinct personality and method by which you can destroy them. Upon completion of the Story Mode, you will unlock something more commonly associated with SHMUPs; a Boss Rush Mode. The biggest challenge in Shatter comes from attempting to dispatch all ten bosses in under ten minutes to collect a silver trophy.
A Bonus Mode is also unlocked by completing the Story Mode. This is a series of the three bonus levels you encounter during Story Mode in which you are presented with nothing but three projectiles that behave somewhat erratically and speed up over time. There are no enemy blocks and your paddle’s ability to suck and blow is removed. Points are accumulated by simply bouncing the projectiles off of your paddle. This could be considered a score attack mode.
Bonus Mode, along with Story Mode and Boss Rush Mode all feature connectivity to online leaderboards that track player’s scores and filter them in familiar ways. Sadly, there are no other features to speak of like local or online co-op or competitive play. Shatter is very much a single-player game. Players interested in high scores or leaderboard dominance will likely get the most out of it, as there is very little replay value otherwise.
The game features a very crisp, modern look that will also very familiar to brick-breaking fans. Though nothing about the graphical presentation particularly stands out, the soundtrack certainly does. Composed by Module, the Shatter soundtrack features over 90 minutes of original, electro-house style music that fans of acts like Justice or Daft Punk will adore. The production of the soundtrack is simply outstanding and it is easily among the best this year. The soundtrack is available separately at a minimum cost of $9.99 USD and can be purchased or streamed for free here.
Ironically, the soundtrack actually costs more than Shatter itself, which is priced at $7.99 in the USA and Canada. At that price, I wholeheartedly recommend the game to anyone that enjoys these types of games depite its brevity; especially those like myself that were soured by the recent release of Arkanoid Live! on Xbox LIVE Arcade, which was mediocre at best. Aside from maybe Nervous Brickdown on the DS, I can say without hyperbole that I enjoyed Shatter more than any other brick-breaking game released in the past 25 years.
+ Unique, Fresh Take on a Classic Formula
+ Excellent Soundtrack
+ Fun Boss Fights, Boss Rush Mode
- No Local or Online Multiplayer
- Story Mode Lacks Challenge
Game Forward Score: 4/5
Brian J. Papineau > Game Forward
Shatter (PlayStation Network) Quick Facts:
Developer: Sidhe Interactive
Publisher: Sidhe Interactive
Release Date: July 23, 2009
Price: $7.99 US/CAN
ESRB Rating: E (Everyone)