Game Description: Shatter is a retro-inspired brick-breaking game that merges familiar action with unique twists and a modern-crafted production approach that includes innovative controls, physics effects, power-ups, special attacks, and boss battles which combine to provide an experience that is always interactive; standard, Boss Rush and Bonus game modes enhanced with leaderboards and trophies; vibrant 3D style presented across 10 distinct worlds in 4xAA 60fps HD; 70 Levels, and 10 different Bosses to defeat; and a fully scored soundtrack by New Zealand artist Module, featuring more than 90 minutes of rich, original music.
HIGH Masterful reinvigoration of a tired subject.
LOW Nothing... it's all good.
WTF Where can I buy this soundtrack?
Remember Breakout? If not that, then surely Arkanoid or one of the million other clones where the player controls a platform that moves from side to side and destroys stacks of bricks with a bouncing ball. It's one of the oldest formulas in gaming, and you can find one version or another on every console since the Atari 2600. If you had asked me a few days ago if I'd be interested in playing another one of these, I'd have said no... until I tried Shatter, that is. Developed by Sidhe Interactive, Shatter does what I thought was basically impossible; it takes the well-worn and tired "brick-breaking" concept and makes it feel interesting and fresh again.
Although first impressions might lead a player into thinking this is just another prettied-up rehash, that couldn't be further from the truth. There's certainly still a paddle of sorts and a ball still gets shuttled back and forth to eliminate bricks, but the elements of gameplay become more layered and complex with each level. By adding significantly new ideas and content tweaks, Shatter is on an entirely different level than the source material.
For example, the player can either "suck" or "blow" at will, influencing the direction of the ball and giving a certain degree of control over the board. The usual power ups are present, but more significant are the different types of bricks. Not content to feature the same inert rows waiting to be eliminated, some bricks exert gravity forces of their own, causing the ball to travel in unpredictable directions. Others explode, and still others fall towards the player thanks to gravity and physics. Although initially subtle, these ideas progressively develop and give Shatter a degree of sophistication totally lacking in other games of this type.
Going further, the developers have included actual offense and defense capabilities for the platform itself, not to mention a series of cleverly-designed bosses at the end of each world. It's still the same core concept pioneered so long ago, but feels entirely more exciting, substantial and engaging than it has in years.
I could mention the razor-sharp graphics, cleanly minimalist design and absolutely phenomenal soundtrack, but there's really no point... Shatter is easily one of the best offerings available on the PSNetwork even without taking any of those things into account. Far more than simply shuttling a paddle left and right, Shatter is a complete, richly engineered game well-deserving of any PlayStation 3 owner's attention.
Disclosures: This game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PS3. Approximately four hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed one time. There are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game contains mild fantasy violence. Seriously, ESRB? Seriously? It's an abstract metallic paddle bouncing a yellow ball against colored bricks and the occasional mechanical boss contraption. Exactly where is the violence? Parents, have no fear... this game's got absolutely nothing harmful to the little ones. It's totally safe, and I would have no qualms about letting my own sons play this.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing: You won't have any problems. There's no dialogue at all in the game, and no audio cues necessary for gameplay. It's totally accessible.
HIGH It was a feast for the eyes and ears all the way to the end.
LOW When it's over, it's really over.
WTF The "storyline" piqued my curiosity more than it probably should have.
I'm feeling a little déjà vu here. Like in my second opinion for Bionic Commando, I'm finding myself once again in general agreement with Brad in his evaluations. Shatter really is an inspired resurrection of Breakout's oft-defiled and regularly beaten corpse. Also like in my second opinion for Bionic Commando, I'm going to part ways with Brad over my impression that the developer—in this case, Sidhe Interactive—just didn't do enough.
Don't get me wrong, Shatter is a fun game. I sat down and completed the game from start to finish and at no point did I feel like I was struggling against boredom. On the contrary, as I blew through its final sequences I found myself wondering what else the game had in store for me. Therein lies the rub. Upon being dumped back to the title screen I was dismayed to see that the only noteworthy addition to the game was a boss rush, which hardly had me chomping at the bit.
Perhaps it's my fault for bringing my preconceived notions to the table when playing Shatter, but I always expect these types of arcade games to have some kind of endless or challenge mode to give the player some added value beyond the main game. I was shocked to find that Shatter had neither of these. The game's mechanics, with its weighted, magnetic, vacuuming and multiplying blocks, practically beg for some kind of insidiously designed extra levels.
I'm not saying that just because any game has potential for a robust challenge mode that developers are required to include one, but Shatter in particular underutilizes these mechanics so much that it feels like a necessity. Despite the unique characteristics of the various block types, it was very easy to just smash my way to success with little consideration for their properties. Shatter is very player-friendly, and the result is that once it was over I felt like I had just finished an extended tutorial for a game that hasn't even been made.
I don't regret the time I spent with the game and Sidhe has definitely demonstrated some serious chops here, but that doesn't stop Shatter from being a Michael Bay movie in game form. Flashy, fun, forgettable, and over in a couple of hours.
Disclosures: This game was obtained via retail store (PSN) and reviewed on the PS3. Approximately 2 hours of play was devoted to single-player mode (completed 1 times).
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game contains mild fantasy violence. There's nothing to worry about here. The "mild fantasy violence" attributed to the game is largely the product of someone's very over-active imagination.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing: Totally accessible. There are no necessary auditory cues or un-subtitled cut-scenes to be found here.