Itâs a tricky proposition reviewing a game from a Kiwi outfit like Sidhe. On the one hand, you want to root for developers in our own country standing tall on the world stage. But on the other hand, the words âjournalisticâ and âintegrityâ arenât exactly things we can (or should) cast aside here at NZGamer. So in the interest of full disclosure, you should know that one of our writers (the inimitable Alan) also works at Sidhe, and was the producer on Shatter.
So, we good? Great! Onto the reviewâŚ
Shatter is Breakout (or Brickbreaker, or Arkanoid) on steroids, with a hefty dose of shoot âem up tropes thrown in for good measure. At its most basic level, you are controlling your bat/paddle/spaceship/thing along a single axis, trying to bounce a ball against a bunch of obstacles. Once theyâre all removed, itâs on to the next to level to repeat the formula.
That all sounds a bit boring, doesnât it? Happily, the gameplay in Shatter is anything but â power-ups, special abilities, numerous block types, and much more have all been crammed in to createâŚwell, fun. But the most important feature, in my opinion at least, is the addition of âafter touchâ controls for the ball in play. In a typical Breakout game, youâd launch a ball and wait passively for it to destroy some blocks before needing to be bounced up again. However, in Shatter, you can use the triggers on your controller to either âsuckâ or âblowâ (yes, yes, I know). Using this, you can curve the path of your ball. Itâs a simple addition that makes a world of difference to the genre â suddenly, youâre a lot more involved, with more skill and less luck needed to succeed. I donât think Iâm overstating things when I say that this feature really makes the game.
This ability also affects many blocks and power-ups as well. Many objects in each level can be affected by physics â in one level, for example, you might have to fend off numerous blocks falling towards the bat while also trying to keep the ball alive. If a block hits the bat, it goes out of action for a couple of seconds â more than enough time for the ball to fall out of the screen.
You can actually launch as many balls as you want at any time â itâll let you rack up score multipliers, but also increases the risk of losing as you try to juggle several things at once. Itâs a good balance that will see score-hungry gamers explode from multi-tasking. Your bat/ship also has a rapid-fire gun. It works like this: every time you hit a block, it leaves behind âshardsâ. To collect the shards, you need to hold down L1 or L2 to suck them towards you. As you collect them, a bar at the top of the screen fills up â and once itâs full, you can hit Triangle to unleash a hail of bullets. My advice: save them for the boss battles.
Oh yeah, and there are boss battles. In a Breakout game. This is where the shoot âem up comparisons come to the fore. The gameâs main story mode is split into 12 worlds, each of which is made up of eight waves (or levels) plus a boss encounter. These bosses have all the familiar trappings, including hit points, weak spots, and patterns. Defeating them usually involves a combination of getting the ball/s in the right place, tactical use of your blow/suck powers, and a liberal smattering of machine gun fire. Overall, they work well, and are a great break from the traditional gameplay. I did find that some of the latter bosses were way harder than the final two or so, but your experience may vary.
Continuing with the shoot âem up theme are the power-ups. Two of these are pun-tastic: the maneuveraball gives your suck/blow ability a lot more force, making it really easy to keep the ball down the far end from your bat indefinitely. The unstoppaball, on the other hand, can charge right through most blocks without actually bouncing off them. There are also shard multipliers and extra power for your gun to vary things up, along with the traditional 1up. Just donât do what I keep doing, and try to get both the power-up and the ball at the same time as theyâre hurtling towards you: youâll end up getting neither.
Even amongst the blocks thereâs a lot of variation. In any given level, you can encounter blocks that move around, detonate on impact, continually replicate, or even have personal gravity fields. Needless to say, all of this combines to create levels that never feel tired.
After all that, I havenât even gotten onto the aesthetics of Shatter, which arguably play just as important a role. Have you played Lumines? If so, youâll understand the kind of immersive feeling you can get when gameplay, graphics, and audio all seamlessly interweave with one another. Well, itâs like that here. The graphics are a mix of Geometry Wars, Rez, Wipeout, and whatever other futuristic, neon-infused title you can think of. Colours pulsate and change as you move through trippy themed levels, and the special effects on the main game screen add to it all. Itâs a simple, yet highly polished and consistent look.
Just as important is the music. Kiwi composer Module has done a bang-up job in this regard â the audio tracks plays very nice alongside the visuals. If you have a decent audio/visual setup at home, itâs really, really easy to get sucked in to a trance-like state.
While the game is short, its main selling point is replay value. Key to encouraging this is the constant reminder of integrated leaderboards. Just like in LittleBigPlanet and other titles, youâll always be aware of where you stand in relation to your friends â and the whole world. If youâre even a really casual score fiend, you may get hooked on this for some time. If youâre the type of person to only play through something once, however, Shatter wonât occupy you for long â but then again, you should probably be looking for a different kind of game entirely.
So does it all work? Is it fun? Well, yes. Taken as a whole, Shatter combines well-thought-out gameplay with a highly polished and immersive aesthetic. Only a particular type of person need apply, perhaps, but if youâre into Geometry Wars or other score-based titles, Shatter should keep you satisfied. At NZ $10 on the PlayStation Network, it represents a lot of bang for your buck.
Ed - The current NZ pricing is $11.50, it is hoped to be back $9.90 within the next 24 hrs - 12:20pm NZT, July 24th.