Arkanoid for the modern gamer
Shatter is a great indie title from Sidhe Interactive, which manages to showcase all the great things about independent game making. Free from franchises, huge-budget expectations and genre-pigeonholing, independent games tend to focus on the core needs of most gamers: make something fun, visually appealing and competitive. Shatter delivers this in spades, and the PSN classic is now available on PC through the Steam network.
Shatter is a typical “classic-with-a-twist”: take any block breaking game, such as Arkanoid or Alleyway, add in new block patterns and weapons, sprinkle in several game modes, and away you go. Where Shatter really pulls away from being another generic clone is in the execution: by constantly changing the play area and block patterns, and adding boss battles, Shatter really comes into its own. One minute you are trying to hit moving blocks tumbling right-to-left, the next, you are in a round area, frantically working out where your ball will bounce next.
Sidhe then took this further with a neat addition: your paddle has the ability to suck or blow air, thereby affecting the trajectory of your ball further, and allowing curving shots. This also creates a feeling of great control, and you never feel that you lost a ball through anything other than your own lack of skill. The wide variety of block types also add appeal, as later levels require considerable concentration to clear.
At the end of each set of stages, you face off against a boss, and these are where the game is at its best. Careful planning and aiming are the order of the day, and although the opportunity for powerups are abundant, most put up a pretty tough fight. The battles get very hectic pretty quickly, but the sense of achievement when you beat Bloctopus or Xenon Queen is up there with most full price titles.
Visually, Shatter is great. Simple but colourful graphics run at buttery smooth speeds, and everything sparkles and shines like expected. Shatter is somewhat reminiscent of games such as Geometry Wars, with levels pulsing with the music, backgrounds washing with bright yellows, pinks, and greens, and blocks and power ups flashing and sparking at every little opportunity. At times this can clutter the screen, causing a bit of a visual overload, but a little bit of concentration keeps you well in play.
Musically, the game is a real treat too, with original tracks and beats swelling from stage to stage, and sound effects clashing vibrantly as levels get tougher. Although never intrusive, the music complements the game fantastically, and touches the greatness of games such as Lumines or Rez for its excellent integration. Even dodgy J-pop style guitars feature in the bonus stages, and still keep the music fresh without stretching into irritation.
you never feel that you lost a ball through anything other than your own lack of skill
Throw in some alternative game modes and online leaderboards, and Shatter really has a lot to offer for a small package. Although it doesn´t really lend itself to long, extended play sessions (unless you are a real retro buff), the simple nature of the gameplay, mixed in with the addiction of beating your scores, makes it great fun inbetween WoW raids. A couple of simple Co-op modes are included too, adding a further layer of enjoyment to an already entertaining title.
The sheer fact that block-busting games have been around for so long is a testament to how much fun they are, and Shatter shows itself as the true successor to Arkanoid. It takes the simple concept, polishes up the presentation, and implements new ideas that actually benefit gameplay overall. And therein lies its charm: it doesn´t reinvent the gaming world, just makes it a little better in its own way.
The Bad: Still a Breakout clone (albeit a great one); can be a little nauseating after a while.