Shatter

In theory, Shatter should be about half as much fun as Pong. The latter, released almost two hundred years ago, well, in 1972, featured two paddles - one on each side of the screen - controlled by human or computer players, with the aim of the game being to keep a bouncing ball from exiting the screen on the player's side. In Shatter, the paddle returns, albeit in fancier form, with curvature, lighting and a twinkle, but on only the left side of the screen. There's no multiplayer support, online or offline, and yet, somehow, Shatter provides one of the most enjoyable and satisfying gaming experiences around. Perhaps best described as a member of the Ball Breaker genre, presumably alongside such popular titles as Nad Kickers and Woman, Shatter sees your intrepid bouncy paddle doing battle with wave after wave of brightly-coloured enemy blocks, breaking each to pieces in a quest for clear skies. Not a fan of the genre? Perhaps this game will shatter - oh dear - your expectations.

Shatter

One day, in a strange, made-up plot far, far out, a little paddle gets bored of spending its days bouncing a ball backwards and forwards repeatedly along the same path. Breaking from its pattern and, after a little too much excitement, breaking free completely, the paddle decides its time to clear up the entire universe, all in convenient block layout form. A revelation, far from shocking: the plot doesn't matter, and nobody minds how the scenarios come to pass, the point is that it's just incredible fun. The controls, though very basic, are augmented by the ability to influence the balls path with a weak push/pull force, and also powerful lasers that can be gradually charged during play, and unleashed on the blocks ahead. To add to the frantic fun, players can also choose to release more than one ball at a time, adding significant difficulty to proceedings, but giving an extra destructive advantage over the opposition.

Offensive capability is key in the game, since it's not always a case of reflecting the balls path back into blocks, and repelling the resulting debris: boss characters will also appear after certain waves, each requiring an inventive strategy to use against them, particularly since most will have defences conveniently geared at defending against bouncing balls. It's another example where plot and motivation is, correctly, discarded, to facilitate great gameplay, in this case the existence of classic boss fighting. It's not just the bosses that take some thought though, since block types variable considerably, with some absorbing much of your ball's speed, others reflecting at remarkable speed, and some even exploding on impact. Picking targets carefully to initiate chain reactions that break up entire clumps of blocks can really aid progress in the game, adding a welcome tactical element.

Shatter

Smooth gameplay and enjoyable action aren't the only things that make Shatter great though. In this game, the sense of style and pacing is brilliant. The combination of images and music, perhaps inspired by rhythm action games like Rez, generations ago, provides an impeccable display of visual and audio supremacy. It's not about polygon counts and textures, but simply a dazzling disco of stylish lighting effects, smooth, Wipeout-style designs and music that continually spurs you into action, blending perfectly with the on-screen mayhem. Cracking tunes and sparkling visuals aren't everything in a game, but Shatter proves that they go a long way to making a title right, even before the gameplay is considered. Since Shatter pulls it off brilliantly in playability too, there's a definite gold star, probably with twinkling lights, waiting for it.

Gaming has come a long way since Pong, and Shatter is quite probably a genre leader. It's disappointing that there's no multiplayer support (a cooperative mode, in particular, would have been great fun), but there's still a huge amount to be impressed by. Other than Wipeout there's almost nothing that can compete with Shatter's sense of style, and thanks to a reasonable pricing point, the inclusion of trophies and bonus modes, and a good selection of levels to beat, Shatter is good value for money. Arriving on the store during one of the PSN's strongest weeks (alongside Wipeout Fury, Crystal Defenders and more), there's plenty of competition to consider, but Shatter is an extremely worthy purchase, providing much-needed spangly entertainment for the summer, while the disc-based game publishers lick their wounds while waiting for the next Christmas scrap.

Game details

Game logo

Publisher:

Sidhe Interactive

Developer:

Sidhe Interactive

Players:

1

Online:

Rankings

Release:

2009-07-23

Trophies:

18

Review summary

Gameplay:

Fast, furious and incredibly addictive fun

Graphics:

Incredibly stylish visuals bring the game to life

Sound:

A decent soundtrack makes up for average effects

Lastability:

Quite a few worlds to work through, plus bonuses

8.3

Pulsar

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