Shatter is a Breakout clone from New Zealand-based developer Sidhe, which is primarily known (or not known, as the case may be) for low-profile releases such as Gripshift and Hot Wheel Battle Force 5. If you’ve played Breakout, Arkanoid or any of their derivatives over the years you know what to expect at a base level: you’ve got a paddle, you’ve got a ball, and you’ve got various types of angular objects to destroy using the two. Throw the usual assortment of power-ups in and you’ve got the basics of any game in this genre. Shatter builds on that established base with new variations of previously introduced mechanics and a couple of its own twists. The most unique of which is the ability to “suck” or “blow” in order to influence the flight path of your ball and express some limited manipulation of objects on the playing field.
The game contains five base modes with co-op versions of two making for a total of seven (yay, basic math!). Each mode supports Steam leaderboards for indirect competitive play with friends or strangers. The core of the game lies within the “Story” mode which tasks you with moving through 10 multi-challenge worlds with differing visual themes and with each world ending with a boss battle. Between completion of one world and the start of the next the game will throw you into a bonus stage where your goal is to keep three objects from hitting the bottom of the playfield for as long as possible, getting faster and faster each time they hit your paddle. Once all objects have been eliminated the game adds the total bonus score to your overall score for the current campaign/world. The other game modes are Endless, Time Attack, Bonus and Boss Rush — two-player offline co-op being an option for Endless and Time Attack modes. They’re all pretty self-explanatory and allow you to experience isolated elements of the game outside of the campaign.
During gameplay you’ll encounter various types of blocks, some being neutral and others directly affecting other objects on screen. Some act as gravity wells which suck other objects toward them and absorb shards, and others act as rockets that fly off when you hit them. There are anchor blocks that when destroyed will allow objects that were attached to them float around freely or, in the case of the weighted blocks, drift toward the bottom of the screen. You’ll encounter other types as well, all of which requiring you to adjust your strategy based on what’s in play.
Letting your paddle get hit by falling blocks or letting blocks hit the bottom of the screen doesn’t take away lives but it does reduce your point multiplier for every block that gets past your defenses. If you play too carelessly your multiplier will get hit hard and your score potential will be severely impacted. Lives are represented by the number of balls you have, the one currently in play and whatever you have in reserve. It’s possible to have more than one ball in play but doing so can quickly become hard to manage and often isn’t worth the risk, although high-level Shatter play may require usage of this mechanic. I can’t confirm that though, as I’m not good enough to know for sure.
Outside of the ball the only other way to destroy blocks is to use your shield which allows you to deal with blocks that get too close to your paddle and the bottom of the screen when the ball is off in the distance, giving you a chance to save your multiplier. The shield uses energy which is also used to fuel a powerful projectile attack dubbed a “Shardstorm” that you can use when your energy bar is full. Energy is built up by collecting shards released from destroying blocks, which you then suck into your paddle to collect. It’s important to collect shards because not only does it provide you with energy, but it also increases your point multiplier.
From a presentation standpoint shatter is both visually and aurally appealing. The graphics are clean, simple and effective, providing some trippy background visuals and serviceable general effects. This carries the advantage of looking good while still being playable on a wide range of systems. Sound effects are solid all-around, giving you what you’d expect to hear from the on-screen action. However, the meat of the audio comes from the games top-notch soundtrack. Hell, if you enjoy it enough the developer even sells it separately.
From top to bottom Shatter is a really solid product, providing somewhere around 4 or 5 hours of campaign play and replay value that varies depending on the person playing. Steam leaderboards and achievements could potentially keep you coming back long after finishing the campaign. If you’re looking for a good pick-up-and-play title or just want to add a good rendition of a classic genre to you collection then I’d highly recommend picking up Shatter.