Developer: Sidhe Interactive
Publisher: Sidhe Interactive
I’ve never really gone out of my way to play block breaking games in my history of playing video games, but that’s not to say I do not enjoy them when I do. Once I begin to play one, and enjoy it, it can be fairly tough for me to put it down. Case in point is the recently released PlayStation Network block breaking game Shatter. Block breaking games, like just about every puzzle game, have been around for a very long time, and after many years of similar-styled games that fail to break free from the crowd (editors note: no pun intended) it is hard to really care about new ones, that is why Shatter is so refreshing. It is a block-breaking game no doubt, but it is one that is surprisingly fun and quite enjoyable.
I was quite surprised with how good looking Shatter was when I first started playing. My immediate thought was that it is easily one of the better looking games on the PlayStation Network. It is absolutely vibrant as it is full of life with a ton of flashy effects and some very well done and unique cell-shaded backdrops. In addition to the gorgeous backgrounds there are some great effects going on between the paddle and the bricks. Unleashing a Shard Storm looks excellent, and the boss fights are all animated nicely and show a lot of creativity. Add to this the crazy effects and colors flashing on screen and you have a visually strong game. Technically there is never a moment of slowdown, at least if there was I had a hard time finding any hint of this or any framerate issues. The game does move at a fast pace so nit-picking is tough when it is not apparent enough to notice. In short, gamers would be best served to see the game in motion to really appreciate the visual spectacle.
The games audio sound effects are quite well done matching the effort put forth in the visuals. I was surrounded with some great explosions and cool sounding effects, but the real star of the show is to be the game’s musical samplings. It is absolutely fantastic. Over 90 minutes of some of the best techno music I have ever heard. It fits the art style of the on-screen actions and also helps to compliment the gameplay with some of the best techno beats I can remember listening too, and perhaps some of the best music in a downloadable game to date. It is both catchy and epic, and it will have most of you buzzing. The development team has done a bang-up job in this regard. If you have a decent audio/visual setup at home; it’s really easy to get sucked in to a trance-like state. Well done!
Shatter doesn't come loaded with a ton of features or a huge amount of extras. In fact the game packs only three modes: Story, Boss Rush and Bonus Mode. The story mode doesn't actually have a story per se, but it is the best of the three modes, allowing you to play through a series of levels one by one before facing an epic boss fight at the end of each world. The boss fights for me was the highlight of the game because they are based around a unique idea for the genre and they require a good amount of reflex and strategy. There can be frustration to be had here, but because of if it’s addictive nature you’ll push through eventually. Each level gives you three shots at success so it shouldn’t too tough. As a hint; try to launch two balls at once, while other times play defensively rather than offensively. I found the game somewhat forgiving on these types of strategies, extending the fun factor immensely. The other modes are good if you are after some specific trophies, but other than that they don't do a whole lot to give the game extra legs.
The gameplay is what you'd expect from a typical block-breaking game, you move a paddle back and forth and try to knock a ball into blocks to break them and move on. What makes Shatter so much more fun than other games in the genre is that it gives you the ability to push or pull balls and objects. This in turn gives you more control over the game which makes hitting that last block less frustrating. It also helps the story mode as it brings you through the various colourful levels while also changing the perspective in ways that keep the game feeling fresh. The shift in perspective can be a bit unnerving at first, but you will come to expect it, and even want it later on. One minute you'll be moving up and down, then the next minute you will be moving left and right, and then in a circular pattern. It works great, and it keeps the game play interesting throughout.
As you play you will begin to fill up a meter in the top left corner, and when it is full it allows you to unleash a Shard Storm or use a shield. The Shard Storm is a rain of shards (editors note: DUH!) that you unleash from your paddle that can blow up bricks and is extremely effective against bosses. When you use it everything goes into a slow motion mode and you can move around and blast everything up for a limited time. It is a cool way to spice up the gameplay, and is good for some great eye candy too. Occasionally I found with all the flashy effects going during these times it can be easy to lose track of your ball, and chaos can ensue. When you hit certain bricks they will be drawn towards you and they can knock your paddle out for a second, which in turn allows the ball to pass. This maddeningly causes you to lose a life. Activate the shield however and you can blow the bricks up upon impact. It’s a tricky bit of timing, luck, and skill, but strangely enjoyable.
The buttons are mapped intuitively and the PS3 controller felt pretty comfortable in my hands. I found the control extremely responsive, even bordering on over sensitive at times. Gamers will find a happy medium fairly quickly as I found myself doing well after 15 minutes or so of gameplay.
Overall Shatter is a bit of an easy game. You will most likely struggle through it your first time, and lose most if not all of your allotted lives. That being said, you will probably never lose all your ‘continues’. The more you play the more you will learn to adjust and correct your plan of attack. The game’s levels are not overly long, so starting again is really no big deal. The boss fights are undoubtedly awesome, but they're also somewhat easy as their attacks can be simple to avoid and they constantly spit out 1-ups. This is good news for trophy hoarders because the game ends by giving you a bronze trophy every time you finish a world, and a silver trophy for finishing them all. On top of that it doles out some trophy love for such things as beating the Boss Rush (unlocks when you finish the entire game) in under ten minutes and destroying the last brick with a reign of shards. Sadly there are no multiplayer modes to be had, but there is a promise of some DLC later, which could be fun.
For a sub-10 dollar game ($7.99 USD), Shatter is totally worth your cash and time. It is beautiful, unique, and most of all fun. It manages to take a debateable and tired genre and turn it into something innovative and original. I think it might just be one of the PlayStation Network's best exclusive games to date. Sure, it is not the longest lasting game unless you're into breaking high scores, but it lasts about as long as a game of this genre should.