My first introduction to Shatter was via the Game Music Bundle 2. The soundtrack, composed by Module, was included, and it did not take long for that to become my favorite soundtrack in that bundle. As I have mentioned before on the podcast, the music has a certain Daft Punk feel without the attitude. I kept finding myself wondering just what the game was like, so I was rather excited to see it end up on the last Steam Sale.
The question is does the game live up to its soundtrack?
Breakout With a Twist
At its heart, Shatter by Sidhe is a variation of Breakout. The basic concept of taking the simple brick breaking game and adding new features has been around for years, with the Arkanoid series being probabaly the most well known. Shatter does soemthing a little different, however: it gives you control over the ball.
Now I am not saying you get to move the ball anyway you want. You have the the ability to either draw the ball into your paddle or push it away (refered to in game as suck and blow, but after one night of that commentary from John over Skype as Chris and I were playing, and I decided it was better to use push/pull). What this gives you is the ability to modify the flight path of the ball itself mid-flight, leading to some great shots. Its also helps alleviate one of the most annoying issues of this style of game: trying over and over again to get the correct angle to take out that final brick.
There are three different ball types in Shatter: the standard, the unstopable ball which goes right through most bricks and the manuverable ball which reacts even more dramatically to the push/pull mechanic. You have a shield you can activate, which becomes important as bricks falling from the field of play which hit you will knock your paddle out of play for a bit, and the shield prevents that. This shield and your major offensive weapon, the Shard Storm, are powered by the shards of the bricks you destroy; you have a bar at the top of the screen that fills the more shards you collect, and once full, you can release a barage of them. These shards are subject to the same push/pull mechanic as the ball, adding another level of strategy to the game. You will also sometimes be rewarded with powerups that will double the shards on the playing field or double your score multiplyer.
Circular Levels, Boss Battles and Leaderboards: What More Could You Want?
If the game mechannics are not enough to point out just how different Shatter is from other Breakout style games, the levels certainly are. Not only do they look absolutely stunning, they offer manny different unique challenges. You start out by actually playing sideways, soomething not nearly as common in this style of game. Later on, you come to circular levels. You read that right: circular levels. These take a little getting used to, as the physics of a ball boucing off a rounded surface is rather different from bouncing off a flat one.
There are seven different worlds in Shatter,each one containing its own ascetic. In the tenth level of each world, you square off against that world’s boss. The boss battles in this game are truly impressive. You must destroy enough of the boss to expose its weakpoint and then hit it with either the ball or your Shard Storm to damage it. The bosses range from a squid which regrows its arms to a clock which will hurl bricks at you. These battles are masterfully done, and they help break up the tedium of the game.
One of the other nice features of Shatter is the online leaderboard. Like many games before it, you can set it so you are seeing your friends who play the game as opposed to the worldwide leaderboards. The game also tells you going into each world what your best score in that world is and who you are chasing on your leaderboards, creating almost an almost autolog style desire to improve your score ala Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit. Scores are dertmined by number of shards gathered, number of times the ball hits your paddle and other modifiers. You can even release multiple balls onto the field of play at any given time, but be aware each ball launched uses a life if lost. While 1 Ups are plentiful in this game, trying to juggle too many balls at a time just to increase your score can be a recipe for disaster. One other note about scoring: at the end of each world, there is a bonus level where you try to keep three balls in play simultaneously. The longer you can keep them in play, the higher the point total of the bonus level.
Don’t Pass This Game Up
Shatter is only $9.99 on Steam and $7.99 on PSN, and the game is well worth that price. While the game itself is relatively short, the online leaderboards will keep you coming back for more. I have not even touched on the other game modes, including Endless, which manages to add a Tetris-like feel to the game. There is also a coop mode, but unfortunately it is not online capable. The game and soundtrack are also included in the latest Humble Bundle, and both are a steal at whatever price you decide to pay. Shatter gets a 9 out of 10.
I am 1/3 of the way through my 30 Reviews in 30 Days. Hope you have been enjoying reading them as much as I have been enjoying writing them