Shatter (PSN)

Sidhe’s Shatter came to the Playstation Network yesterday, at a very reasonable price of $7.99. I wasted no time grabbing a copy.

At its most basic, Shatter is a Breakout clone: you move a paddle back and forth in order to bounce a “ball” into the play field where it will smash blocks. But Shatter adds some new twists and gameplay elements that make it different from every Breakout-style game that I, at least, have played.

First, when the break a block, it smashed into Fragments. You collect these Fragments in order to build up a power bar. How do you collect Fragments? By Sucking them in to your paddle. At any time you can pull one of the left shoulder buttons to Suck. And conversely, the right shoulder buttons Blow.

So it is Breakout with Sucking and Blowing. I pity the marketing team.

What makes this interesting is that when you Suck or Blow, it affects everything. The Fragments, the ball and (some of) the blocks. By using Suck & Blow, you can curve the ball’s trajectory (little hint marks on the edge of the playfield help with this). Basic blocks are fixed in place, but there are some special blocks that kind of ‘float’. Generally these are trapped by basic blocks at the start of a level, but once those ‘fence blocks’ are gone the floaters drift. If they drift into you, you lose a life.

So you need to use Suck to pull in the Fragments for energy, but not use so much of it that you start sucking all these floating blocks towards your paddle.

What’s energy for? Well, you do have a Shield that will protect you from incoming floating blocks, and that requires energy. But once your energy meter gets full, you can unleash a torrent of laser fire at the blocks. When you do this, everything slows down in a kind of laser bullet-time.

Shatter also has all kinds of power-ups dropping out of busted blocks, and a wide range of block types, from the basic and floaters I mentioned, to ‘rocket’ blocks, blocks that spawn other blocks, explosive blocks, and so on. The playing field is sometimes rectangular, sometimes circular. In the latter, about three fourths of the field will be surrounded by a fence that things rebound off of, and the last quarter is where your paddle roams, following the curve of the level.

Every few levels there’s a boss battle, which is kind of a new twist for Breakout games. Oh, and you can release as many balls as you want (well, up to the number of lives you have). But every time you lose a ball, you lose a life.

Shatter has PSN Trophies and Leaderboards for you Achiever types.

I’m no where near done with it, nor have I seen everything it has to offer. But for a mere $8 I feel justified in recommending it to anyone that’s enjoyed any kind of Breakout-like game in the past.

Here’s a video of the game in action (not mine). Skip the first 2 minutes or so to get to the actual gameplay. You can see the Sucking and Blowing as concentric arcs moving towards or away from the paddle. Notice how the ball trajectory curves in response to this. Since this is world 1, you won’t see a huge variety of blocks, unfortunately.