canuckeh's Shatter (PlayStation Network (PS3)) review

For all of paddlekind.

Being that the calendar for July comprises of such hotly anticipated storewide releases as “Starcraft 2” and “jack all else”, I figure that now is a good time to redirect my attention to the downloadable market. I had originally felt like I was missing out on some unique experiences and concepts, but aside from some business involving flowers and cats shooting yetis, not really. The same kind of marketing one-upmanship that Sony and Microsoft continually engages in happens on the online realm too. “You’ve got your Gears, we’ll raise you an Uncharted. We’ll combat your Gran Turismo with a Forza, suckahs! You’ve got a subscription-based network, well so can we!” (That last one confuses me on so many levels.) And now we have Shatter to counteract the existence of Geometry Wars. I used to say that it was only a matter of time before all major games were released on a single, universal gaming console. The time may be now.
 
Shatter takes all the themes and concepts of Geometry Wars (and it’s many, many, too many clones) and translates them into the context of Arkanoid/Breakout/That Blackberry game. Upbeat techno music will blare in the background, fancy techno geometry will spiral in the background, the blocks and balls have techno-motives rife with flashy neon glows, even the logo screams future-techno-vibe. I guess what I’m trying to get at is that there is some futuristic theme prevalent within the game. And I think there is a storyline about a paddle breaking out of the prison of an evil empire and trying to liberate a civilization of paddles everywhere. But don’t quote me.
 

I can see the music!
So you’ll move a paddle across a specific plane of space blanketing a presumed bottomless-pit. And your weapon of choice is a bouncing ball thing used to SHATTER the blocks that lay above you. To say this race of paddles would be screwed in a war against would be an understatement. Now, Shatter being a game made in this modern era where video game physics are the hip trend, all of the blocks and balls operate with unique Shatterverse physics. Some blocks fall, some don’t, some rocket around, some pass gas. The physics reacts accordingly (well, whatever constitutes as “accordingly” in the technofuture paddle-land) based on how you destroy adjacent blocks and use your powers of wind. Your paddle has the ability to either suck, blow or be the victim of sucking and blowing jokes, which will affect the trajectory of your ball and the movements of blocks and powerups around you.
 
Speaking of, you also have a readily available shield, screen-smashing death laser and the option of sacrificing extra lives to let loose multiple balls on the table. I know these are, give or take, abilities obtained from making the reach for the special pill items in Arkanoid. But I kind of missed the spontaneity of those prescription drugs appearing at random over the control given to the player in Shatter. Like a drug addict that wants to be surprised with what needle is inserted in his vein. Now, I get why Shatter takes a more tactical approach, as this is a pure score-driven challenge. People are expected to develop the best block-breaking strategies and rub it against their pals in the online leaderboards.
 
 The boss fight against the penile monster.
But I feel like Shatter isn’t as exhilarating as its premise or even its title let on. You’ll see all the different kinds of blocks and abilities early, and the later levels become variations of “the sky is falling…on you!” Some levels have your paddle moving horizontally at the bottom of the screen, some vertically on the left side, and some of the bottom end of a circle. But I couldn’t help but feel like the game would benefit from letting you move across a larger variety of stranger surfaces and angles. And finally, I learned that the quickest road of success is to merely let the falling blocks enter your bottomless pit and vanish. Worst case scenario is they hit and stun your paddle anyways. (Do paddles get concussions?)   Sure it doesn’t do any favors to your high score, but the guy on my friends list has such a superhuman high score that I can’t be made to bother addressing it.
 
Though I should probably mention that there are some redeeming qualities. As far as techno soundtracks in techno-fused retro revivals go, Shatter’s has a pretty great selection of beats. Songs that’ll probably trap themselves in the far corners of your mind as you sweep the floor in your house, clean your windows or dance to a club’s selection of songs that are inferior to Shatter’s. There are also some pretty clever takes on bosses, with such great names as “Bad Bat” and “Over Reactor” that remind me that actual people with actual souls were behind actual desks programming this game.
 
Shatter is another of those specific games catered to a specific audience, that audience being the gamer who thrives on topping leaderboards. The way this game is designed, I’ll be enough of a man to admit that it takes a peculiar skillset to rule the paddles, a skillset I do not possess. But it doesn’t make for the most exciting straightforward game experience. As the kind of person who lacks the skills or patience to make any serious go at any online leaderboard in any game, I am not Shatter’s target audience.
 
3 stars
 
Though I was Top 100 in the Weekly Rankings for Guilty Gear X2 on the Xbox a long time ago. For a week. With the new week’s scoring starting on the Monday that I checked my ranking.  
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