E3 09; Hands-on with Shatter; Arkanoid on steroids
The Breakout genre of games have always been popular. There have been tons of different remakes and re-imagining of the game yet people continue to flock to it. The latest comes from Sidhe (surprisingly pronounced as ‘she’), titled Shatter. This version, however, is like no other brick-breaking game we’ve seen.
You star as an energy charger who has broken out of its facility and must escape by progressing through the levels. Yes, the game actually does have a story. You will travel across ten different worlds, each with eight unique stages, the last being a boss battle. Should you be able to defeat the boss, you’ll be able to rack up more points on the bonus level. Doing the math, that’s a total of 90 different stages to complete!
Gameplay is like nothing else. After you launch the ball, you then have the ability to either suck or blow using the left and right triggers. Doing so affects the trajectory of the ball, making it so that you can control how it moves. To prove just how functional this feature is, it is possible to complete a level without ever having the ball touch your paddle. At any moment, you are able to launch another ball out into the field if you have the lives. Be careful though as it can get pretty chaotic.
Breaking the varity of blocks produces shards for you to collect. Gather enough of them and you can go into an overdrive mode in which time slows down and you rapid fire the shards back at the remaining blocks. It’s a massive attack that can clear a level in seconds. The ability could use a little tweaking as it seems too powerful at the moment. Shards can also be used to put up a shield around your ship to protect you from free-falling blocks. Gather in shards while the shield is up and you’ll reflect them back towards the top. Aside from shards, there are also power-up to be collected such as one that makes your ball unstoppable, extra power, and extra lives.
We were able to play through the first two worlds of the game and boy was it exciting. At first, we were hesitant of the controls. There is a lot going on at once and controlling the ball with the suck and blow features looked fairly complicated. It only took us a level to get used to the controls and it works beautifully. From pushing the ball to gathering shards, the physics of the game is wonderful. Everything is constantly being effected by how you maneuver your ship.
The level layout itself also changes as you progress though the game. We witnessed three different level types; the traditional top to bottom, left to right, and the unusual circular layout. Each design has it’s own style of gameplay. The circular one, for example, forces you to think creatively when going into overdrive as you simply can’t aim up at the blocks you want to destroy. You have to shoot at them from the opposite angle. These little differences make Shatter such a different and more engaging experience that your traditional brick-breaking games.
Now lets talk about the awesome boss battles you’ll encounter. We fought two very different bosses; a snake-like creature and Blocktopus, an octopus made from blocks. Each boss has a weakpoint that you must aim for. Getting to that spot, though, requires some strategy and skill. Destroying the boss’s body gains you shards which you can use to reach overdrive and then pound the creature with you gunfire, making for a quick health drain.
Once the boss is down, you’ll then proceed to the bonus round which plays out like the classic game. There are no blocks, no shards, and no abilities. It’s just you and three balls that you must keep in play as long as possible. The more hits you get, the higher your score. With each bounce, the ball gets faster and faster as does the music as well. Your scores will then be uploaded to the web leaderboards so try to get the highest possible.
Shatter is a fun game that is perfect for the PSN. It builds upon the classic brick-breaking style by adding a more interactive suck and blow feature. We have our worries too though. We were able to complete two worlds during our demo session and with only a total of ten, the game could be finished rather quickly. There is also the overdrive we mentioned above. All these things can be sorted out by the time the title reaches our PS3’s though so don’t fret. Stay tuned for more on Shatter as we talk to Sidhe about the game and the future of the company. Another Gripshift anyone? We’ll see…