Tuesday, February 01, 2011
8.5 - [Excellent]
Publisher: Sidhe Interactive
Developer: Sidhe Interactive
Multiplayer: Local co-op
Console(s): PC, PS3
Reviewed on: PC
ESRB rating: E (Mild Fantasy Violence)
BMR rating: E (No Descriptors)
Fresh, exciting gameplay - Simple but full of depth - Uber-awesome soundtrack - Shiny visuals are appealing but not distracting - Great bang for your buck
Not so good points:
It... could have used an online mode? I don't know, I'm stretching here.
Sometimes a simple concept is the best kind, and it doesn't get much simpler than tried-and-true Breakout-style gameplay. Everyone has played it in some form or another, be it an old Atari 2600 title, a cheap Freeware knockoff, or a recent Nintendo DS remake. It is amazing to consider, then, that Sidhe Interactive was able to so profoundly transform an idea as stale as a month-old box of Tostitos into a full-fledged product of real substance. Yet that is exactly what they've done with Shatter, a downloadable game that boasts style, sheen, and class. There's nothing old-hat about this thoroughly entertaining experience.
The core concept remains the same: maneuver a paddle back and forth in an effort to bounce a ball off walls and into blocks. If you slip up and let the ball get by you, a life is lost. Once all the obstacles have been destroyed, the level is complete. Fun, but almost boringly straightforward. Shatter, however, manages to make this both exciting and deep, improving upon classics like Arkanoid in all the ways that matter. The game takes place in a cyberspace land full of neon lights and abstract backgrounds, and not only looks fantastic but does an excellent job of keeping the hectic action manageable during the craziest of scenarios. The fitting electro rock soundtrack is phenomenal, flowing with pulsing beats and fast-paced vigor. This world is inhabited with a whole mess of blocks that take on a variety of shapes and properties, and Shatter teaches you a few nifty (and surprisingly versatile) tricks to bash them into oblivion.
You can practically feel those scores rising, multipliers combo-ing, and meters filling.
First and foremost is the multipurpose ability to suck in air and, conversely, shoot it back out. Everything is affected by this subtle push and pull, and if you're not careful you'll find piles of blocks hurtling your way to knock you out of commission for a critical moment. A shield helps to avoid this fate, but eats up the energy bar as a ravenous sea lion would several delicious fish. Use it sparingly, for a full meter unleashes a Shard Storm that slows down time, allowing you to barrage offending blocks with devastating bullets and spectacularly rad explosions. Blue shards pour forth from destroyed blocks to either fill up the meter or ricochet off your shield, becoming weapons of their own. It's supremely satisfying to pull in heaps upon heaps of the shiny prizes after an especially successful frenzy of destruction. To keep things even more interesting, a range of power-ups appear from time to time, awarding you with some game-changing abilities. All of these elements combine admirably to create an elegant stream of action that never lets up.
Level design in Story Mode is clever and fresh, making it a necessity to think fast and devise strategies on the fly. It's not terribly challenging, but it'll take a good two hours or so to complete. Each of the ten levels is comprised of several waves, a boss fight, and a bonus round, all of which entertain. The Endless and Time Attack modes task you with surviving for as long as possible and racking up points in the allotted time limit, respectively, both of which can be played via local co-op. Bonus Mode lets you practice your skill in the Pong-esque bonus stages, and Boss Rush pits you against each boss in succession. All told, there's a ton of stuff packed into this deceptively deep game, and it's consistently fun to come back for more. Easily surpassing the worth of the asking price, Shatter is a smashing success that deserves to be played again and again.