Shatter was first released on the PlayStation Store and subsequently won 'IGN's best PlayStation Store Game of 2009'. Now the game has come to the PC, with a few new game modes to boot. Shatter itself is nothing extremely new, instead it borrows elements from Arkanoid and its many offspring but also offers up enough fresh ideas enabling it to stand out from the crowd. So, the fundamental 'break blocks, clear level, rinse and repeat' still applies here as it did in the almost 40 year old Arkanoid, however, this time around you will have a few tricks up your sleeve to help you on your way.
First and foremost is the ability to effectively push and pull the ball towards you like a reversible magnet. This allows for minor adjustments to your ball trajectory and will certainly go a long way to helping you break that last brick that had you pulling your hair out in other iterations of this game type. Helping you in your task of aiming is also a small line which indicates where the ball will end up, also very useful when you are going for that last, illusive brick.
Shatter has power-ups just like most other 'break brick' affairs. This time however, there aren't any bad ones to speak of. You get the likes of 1-ups, Control ball (making it easier to steer with the push and pull) and a wrecking ball that doesn't rebound off bricks, amongst others. Also, every time you break a brick some small 'shards' will break out of them. These shards can then be collected by pulling them towards your paddle. Once you have collected enough of these you can let them out in a pretty devastating special attack. Whilst this can be saved up for boss fights, I found it more useful for finishing the normal levels quickly as it doesn't do as much damage to bosses as hitting them with the ball does. Another 'power' is the ability to send out multi-balls whenever you wish to. Each time you decide to send another ball into the fray it simply uses up one of your lives. However, with all the brick breaking, shard collecting and crazy explosions going on onscreen, having another ball or two in the mix can be quite challenging. Keeping your eye on them all is a task in itself, and the likelihood of a ball or two being lost is pretty high.
The game's big new feature (the push and pull) also extends to some of the bricks in the game. These bricks float around and will be affected by the push and pull that you apply to the ball. Indeed, when you have one of these bricks left over and you are trying to finish the level, all you need to do is 'suck' it towards you. When the brick hits the back wall it evaporates, completing the level. Just another way the game helps you finish a level when there is only one brick left. Be careful though, if these 'floating' bricks hit your paddle it will temporarily bounce off the screen and you will lose control, if your ball happens to then hit the back wall it will be lost. There are many other kinds of bricks too, a small sample of these are explosive bricks, bricks which take multiple hits and bricks that create 'shields' for themselves. Each of these types adds depth and variety to the gameplay experience.
I mentioned the bosses earlier, something that I have yet to experience in a game of this kind. There are 10 'episodes' to play through and at the end of each episode there is a unique boss to fight. Some have tentacle-like arms that re-grow and others spin around like clocks, causing no end of chaos. Whilst the rest of the game was pretty easy to follow (keeping an eye on the ball) boss battles certainly needed an extra level of concentration. I found I was losing many balls at one point because all the massive explosions and shards flying around skewed my vision. Still, breaking some of the smaller bricks on the bosses will yield special items, like 1-ups which came in very handy.
Graphically, Shatter is a really nice looking game. I can play it on my laptop at full settings and it doesn't slow down during some of the more energetic moments. The 3D background whizzes past with flair when you finish a level, and the bosses look great too. Some of the levels are pretty varied compared to other games in this genre. Instead of the generic 'square' or 'rectangular' levels you also get circular ones and levels where your paddle is on the left of the screen instead of at the bottom. The circular levels are a little tricky in the sense that you have to pay attention to where the hard back wall is and where the empty void is... I lost a few balls this way.
The soundtrack is also pretty good. It's a collection of electronic beats that keep you going as you strive to reach the next level. The sound effects also compliment the game well; they add a little immersion to a game about breaking stuff for no apparent reason. But really, the developers have done well in creating something that won't make your ears bleed after 10 minutes, which is good because this game will keep you coming back for more as you try to complete 'just one more level' before shutting it off.
The game was released on Steam in March, and features 30 Steam achievements. Some of these are co-op only, so if you're going to buy it try to get a friend to do so too. Who ever said two balls are better than one?
In closing, if you are a fan of this genre then you will love Shatter to bits (bad joke, I know), but even if you don't like these 'break out' type affairs, giving Shatter a go would really be worth your time. This title brings enough new features along with it to make it fresher than the competition. It also offers a good amount of replay-ability with the unlock-able extra modes and the Co-Op Multiplayer. All in all a fun game that can be picked up pretty cheaply from the Steam store. Go on, have a go.
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