One thing that I have noticed in this console generation is the trend of reinventing arcade classics. Much like what Geometry Wars and, well, every Tower Defence game that came out a year ago did for those genres, Shatter adds to this by changing up the old ball breaker formula. While it doesn't entirely revolutionize itself, it does enough to separate it from the rest.
Shatter plays a lot like the old Breakout and Arkanoid games. Meaning, you control a paddle and must break blocks with a ball while keeping the ball from falling off the screen. What Shatter does differently is adding a bit more physics to the genre. Any time while your ball is busting up blocks, your paddle can start to either suck or blow wind out of itself, causing the ball’s trajectory to change. This can change up the game dramatically as you no longer have to wait for the right angle to position your paddle as you attempt to hit the last block of the stage. Instead, you can try your best to blow out some wind and watch the ball hit that final target. Of course, you still have to be in the right position to hit the ball, but, it gives you a bit more control, which is a great thing.
Now this wouldn't be an Arkanoid type game without some form of power-ups. Shatter has some noticeable ones like Unstoppable, which makes your ball break all incoming blocks without it being bounced off them. Or Manoeuvraball, which makes it a bit easier to adjust your ball’s trajectory. Other than that, there are the typical double point, extra lives and such. There isn't much variety, primarily because the game wants you to focus more on using the sucking and blowing aspects than any of the others.
Other than the power-ups, you can shoot out up to three balls at once and get some extra points. It's kind of a high-risk/high-reward feeling but the game seems to balance this out by giving you a lot of extra lives items as you deal more points. Even when playing with just a single ball, the extra lives come fairly frequently, so it comes down to your own choice of play. Sure, it can get super hectic with three balls bouncing around, but you get a higher multiplier for your points.
As you break all the blocks in the stage, light particles spread out from their destruction. You absorb them by using the sucking mechanic, and once you absorb enough, a meter on the upper left corner of the screen will indicate it's full and then you press the Triangle button. This initiates a Shard Storm which will go into bullet time, and your paddle will start to rain down shards on all the blocks, destroying everything in sight. It's a pretty neat feature that keeps the game up-tempo. Of course, the drawback to sucking in the light particles is the fact that you might lose sight of your ball. But you have lives in these games, so long as you’re not at zero, it won't be game over. And even if you do get a game over, you have three credits to start again from where you left off, which is plenty to finish the stage.
Other than watching out for your ball while using the sucking mechanic, you also have to watch out for some of the blocks. As the game progresses, there are different variations in the blocks. Some will explode upon contact; some will act like a missile, while others will have their own sucking/blowing mechanic to them. But you really have to watch out for the ones that just float endlessly. When you start to break blocks apart, some of them will start to just float around. So when you have a huge pile of light particles to collect, you better watch out as those blocks will also start coming your way. If you do get hit, then your paddle is momentarily stunned. However, there is a shield feature that basically shields you from incoming blocks, but this depletes your charge meter so you sacrifice your ability to shoot the awesome Shard Storm to protect yourself.
The game itself has a total of ten stages, each divided into seven or eight sub-stages. When you first enter a level and clear all the blocks, you move on to the next stage and so on and so on. There are three different types of stage layouts: one being the classic horizontal view, the other is a vertical one and the last is a circular one with you controlling a portion of the bottom section. It's a pretty neat feature and it keeps you engaged in the game. And finally, at the end of the stages, you have boss battles with some interesting looking creatures. Some of the ones you'll fight are: a snake, octopus, a bigger meaner version of your paddle, and some that I'm not even sure what they are.
The way you go about beating a boss is by hitting it in an area specified by the game. It starts off slowly, but eventually you have to start using your sucking and blowing mechanics to properly hit the enemy’s weak point. All the bosses are unique and it never feels old. Also, they look totally awesome.
One thing that you will notice quickly is that the game has an amazing sense of style. The colour palettes are bright and fit the mood, and the backgrounds are just as amazing. Not only does it look great, but it sounds awesome. The music is rather techno-funk but it fits the style the game is going for and keeps you engaged throughout the entire ten levels.
Once you finish the game, you unlock Boss Rush mode, which basically makes you fight all the bosses in a row. You also unlock bonus mode, which is given to you after each stage, but now you can play it whenever you want. Bonus mode is basically you trying to keep three balls alive for as long as you can as they get faster and faster each time you hit them. They’re nice bonuses that are a great distraction from the initial story mode. But unless you’re one of those guys that keeps wanting to get higher and higher scores, there isn't much staying power other than going back and just having fun.
Simply put, Shatter is a great game. The stages never feel so long that they start to wane down your experience, and the graphics and music keep you engaged for a very long time. The game has that “One more level” feel about it that kept me coming back. It may only take you an afternoon to finish the game, but for eight bucks you can't go wrong.