|System: PS3 (PSN)||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Sidhe Interactive||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Sidhe Interactive||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: July 23, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
a 21st Century Makeover
by Caleb Newby
You may not have noticed, but the PlayStation Network is on a roll as of late with top-shelf downloadable games. Not long ago the redheaded step child of Xbox Live Arcade, Sony has come into its own with fun, high quality games exclusive to the system. The trend of innovative exclusives continues with Sidhe Interactive's Shatter.
At its core Shatter is a simple brick-breaking game in the mold of Arkanoid or Breakout. For anyone who's missed these ground-breaking games, or any of their many clones, it is a simple premise. Controlling a paddle, you must keep the ball in play as it bounces around the screen and destroys all the "bricks" to clear the level. Once clear, move on to the next stage, rinse, and repeat.
Obviously a game concept that simply won't cut it in today's game market. Shatter does an extraordinary job of differentiating itself to provide a unique and spirited experience. Colors and effects are bright and explosive for plenty of visual stimulation reminiscent of a frantic game of Geometry Wars. The downside is that with all that's going on, it is a bit too easy to lose track of the ball in the excitement and chalk up some losses that "aren't your fault."
Sidhe has incorporated several unique gameplay mechanics as well. As the ball breaks, objects' shards are released into the game that serve to fill up a meter on the top of the screen as they are collected. While it's possible to wait for the shards to fall to the paddle (or "ship" as the case may be), you can suck in objects or blow them farther away. This not only will push or pull the shards but will change the trajectory of the ball as it bounces around the screen and allows precision in aiming for specific regions of the game board. This is possibly the most significant additional layer Shatter brings to the table. The ability to control the ball's trajectory while being aware of pushing or pulling other objects makes for that much more of a challenging experience.
Once you've filled up the meter from collecting shards, you are able to unleash a Shard Storm - a few second bombardment from your ship that shoots the collected shards out and destroys whatever they hit on the screen. The Shard Storm is a powerful game-changer, particularly helpful in boss battles. Provided you have enough extra lives stocked up, you can also launch extra balls to increase your score. It seems more risky than rewarding to have two or three balls bouncing about, but it does serve to keep the pace at frantic levels.
To keep things varied, there are several boss battles (which can also be played back to back in a "boss attack" challenge mode). Each boss has its own weaknesses and tactics that often involve a bit of playing around to figure out. Some are definitely harder than others, but none is so difficult to lead to a thrown controller or similar violent outburst. In fact, the game never gets too difficult. Shatter instead resides in the fun, casual game space, eschewing a more challenging or frustrating experience.