To oversimplify things a bit, Shatter does for the Arkanoid school of power-up-filled block breaking what Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved did for the dual-joystick shooter. It doesn't totally revolutionize a long-standing genre, but it makes interesting changes to the well-worn formulas of its forefathers while sucking you in with its stylish look and kick-ass soundtrack. The only real drawback is that the game contains about an afternoon's worth of content and isn't especially difficult, which doesn't lead to a very replayable game unless you're the type of player who values your place on an online leaderboard.
While most post-Arkanoid block breaking games have followed very closely in Taito's footsteps, Shatter only has a few actual collectable bonuses. Instead, most of your time spent with Shatter involves manipulating your paddle's innate power to suck and blow. Sucking in lets you collect particles that fill up a power meter that powers both a shield and a super attack that lets you shoot at blocks for a short period of time. But it also affects the trajectory of the ball. Blowing, as you might have guessed, is the opposite of sucking, and it'll repel your ball, as well as any loose blocks that might drift in your direction. So in addition to simply hitting the ball to keep it in play, the core skill of Shatter lies in using the suck and blow functions to manipulate the ball and aim it at the blocks you're trying to break. Since there are different types of blocks--some of which put their own spin on the ball as it draws near--there's a certain level of strategy involved in attempting to hit certain blocks first. This is the key to the entire experience and it's what makes Shatter much more than yet another Arkanoid clone.
The levels in Shatter also come at you from a few different angles. The game starts out horizontally, with your paddle on the left side of the screen. But eventually you'll encounter vertical stages, and finally stages that take place in a circle, with your paddle able to cover a chunk of territory near the bottom of the circle. It would have been nice to see more angles and more variety in level design, as you see a little too much of each perspective as you work your way through the game's ten worlds. Each world, however, ends in a unique boss fight. You'll fight large creatures, like techno-snakes and cyber-squids, as well as a larger, meaner version of your paddle. The boss fights are pretty cool, and beating the game leads to a boss rush mode where you'll attempt to beat all of the bosses in the shortest time possible. There's a trophy in it for you if you can beat all ten in less than ten minutes... that's not an easy feat.
Shatter plays really well and keeps you engaged from start to finish by giving you such direct control over the ball and changing things up just enough from level to level. But you'd probably get pretty tired of it very quickly if it wasn't for the game's killer presentation. Shatter looks great, with different color schemes and backgrounds for each world. It also sounds great. The Shatter soundtrack is a terrific collection of melodic electronic music that really stands out as the best thing about the entire game. It's available for purchase separately for a price that's actually higher than the game itself, but I found that purchase to also be totally worth it.
There isn't any direct multiplayer in Shatter, leaving you to compete against an online leaderboard. But the game integrates these scores very well into the game by showing you the next score to beat from anyone on your friends list. This gives you a set of achievable targets as you work your way through the game. It's a great implementation that personalizes the chase for higher scores.
So with that in mind, Shatter is best-suited to people who have a friends list full of scoreboard fiends. That's what'll bring replay value to a game that's only going to take you a couple of hours to see in its entirety. But even if you're not that type of player, Shatter still has enough style and action in it to be worth checking out.