With a genre so old that its roots date back to Pong in the 70’s I thought we’d reached the pinnacle of paddle-and-ball, brick-breaking games when Ricochet Infinity was released in 2007. Shatter showed me how wrong I was.
With strange geometric shapes twisting and bending in the background and electronic beats blasting out of your speakers, Shatter hits your senses full force. The style of this game won me over before the first level had even loaded. It’s a style that has both positive and negative aspects; though the visuals are amazing, you may find yourself getting eyestrain after playing for more than an hour at a time. The soundtrack is really fun, but limited to one track per eight-level world, so you might find a particular song getting tedious after the first few levels. With the breakneck pace of the game, however, these really are minor issues.
Beyond its style, there are a few elements that make Shatter stand out from others in the genre:
Not satisfied with sticking to the typical paddle at the bottom design, Sidhe ups the ante with levels that include brick bashing from the left side of the field and, most interestingly, some frustratingly fun spherical levels. The bricks aren’t content to stay still either: they explode, break off and fly around, and blast off like missiles when struck. Most also break into energy shards when struck, which you want to collect to power your special moves, which I’ll discuss later. All of this results in a whole lot of things flying at you at once. Each world ends with a boss fight, often interesting puzzles in their own right.
The standout ability here is the capability to attract and repel objects from you. It may sound simple but makes for some unique gameplay. You can remove floating bricks from play by sucking them towards you, then quickly moving out of the way to let them pass off screen. But be careful: if struck by them you’ll be knocked off the board for a moment. You can also force the ball to bend and twist its path, even forcing it to stay down the far end of the field and ricochet back and forth amongst the bricks. This ability is so powerful that very few others are needed. You can use the energy shards you’ve collected in two ways: the one you’ll use most often is a storm of bullets that quickly rips through everything in their path, the second is a shield that protects you from stray blocks.
Overall, Shatter plays as a quick and easy game. Intentionally so. This is more about assaulting your senses than challenging your gameplaying skills. The storymode may seem short because of this, but there’s a lot of casual replay value here, with game modes such as Endless, Time Attack, and Boss Rush. A $10 price tag Shatter on Steam is right on target and I’m hoping we see level packs in the future to prolong the fun.