Don't worry, it won't shatter your bank
Oh my god, retro! Instant 10/10!!
I'll be honest - I'm not huge on the retro gaming revival trend. Games like Mega Man 9 and New Super Mario Brothers don't really come across as face melting classics. One tries too hard to be retro to the point of just not giving a shit about roping in newer audiences (some even consider it masochistic... what the hell kind of nonsense is that!?), while the other takes the retro concept and decides to make an easier remake of it. No matter what, I keep feeling certain concepts should be done under a different name, if to prevent disappointment or anything. Bionic Commando: Rearmed seems to be the only one that manages to keep the style AND keep it awesome under the graphics, achievements and other new elements. And then comes Shatter, which takes a classic Atari 2600 game called Breakout, and enhances the experience. You got the usual graphical and audio enhancements, but add a few different panels, powerups and a new mechanic that changes the experience, and you got yourself an excellent retro experience, combining itself with elements of today.
Not sure how I can simplify all of this...
Shatter is basically Breakout. What's Breakout? That's where you have to get rid of all of the blocks on the screen with the little ball without it passing the bar. As the bar, you have to make sure the ball ricochets off you so that you can get rid of all the blocks. You kept on going, building up that score you get from smashing blocks until you couldn't keep it up no more, and then you come back to get a better score. It's a simple concept that attracted millions back in the day. Remember when moving a bar back and forth to keep a ball in a rectangle to smash blocks was such an innovative concept and a captivating one to boot... uhh... be right back, folks...
One lengthy session of Breakout later...
So anyway, what makes this game stand out? A good number of things, actually, and they can change the game a fair bit. All of these features deserves applause, as they are an excellent way to turn a game from a simple Atari 2600 game into a PS3 remake actually worth playing ON THE PS3!
First of all, you may not be playing on a rectangle during levels. Sometimes, it'll be a square, or even a circle, or any other shape this game allows. This changes control a bit and - for the more circular shapes, anyway - makes you concentrate more on where the ball ricochets before it heads out of play and causes you to lose a life or so. Other interesting innovations include the ability to launch an additional ball or two, so long as you got the lives to pay for those, and give yourself a bigger challenge, as well as even more points. It makes for an excellent risk-reward system that keeps you on your toes, managing really involve the player in playing the game beyond moving the bar left and right.
It's not just in play control, either. Sometimes, some loose bricks will move around due to the force of gravity and will smash you up good if you don't dispose of it immediately or just avoid it if it gets to you. Some blocks, when hit, can explode and destroy some blocks around it, or thrust towards blocks and destroy them. Some require a few hits before they shatter, some multiply themselves if not destroyed... there are a lot of bricks, some of which add either a score multiplier or allow for the balls to gain easier mobility in the winds, though the latter is a huge no-no in my books, as it makes the game easier than it should be. Mobility and control makes it too easy with this powerup, and can actually put a damper on the experience since it's unrewarding. Might as well use cheats while we're at it. It's kind of annoying, too, because the other blocks make sense in practice. One that floats around and eventually screws you over if you don't do anything about it? Hard blocks? Yep. They make playing the game a bit more interesting, since they're not such pushovers and actually make you focus a bit more on the game than just moving the bar. But hey, it's still a bit of innovation, right...?
Well, if that wasn't enough, check this - through the power of innovation, there's an addition that will really get you into the game, and that is the ability to either suck or blow with the bar. You can use this to either suck in particles that come out of the bricks and suck in the ball, or blow the ball away to smash more blocks. There is a sort of rhythm to learn with this, like moments that call for sucking, and others that call for blowing. What I mean is that if you can get the rhythm, the ball won't be hitting you too much, and you'll clear the room and get heaps of points before you know it. I'll tell you what, this can take a good while to master. Back when I was first playing through this game, I just couldn't get the hang of it for a few minutes. I often led my ball to blocks, but didn't collect any of the shattered fragments that came out of them, and I often sucked them in... and forget all about the ball. This is how you'll experience it at first. It's not the controls, though; it's you not getting used to it! Once you get used to it, it should be a breeze (no pun intended) to get the hang of things and rack up an excellent score.
One last thing I'll mention is that if you suck in enough particles and fill up that blue bar enough, you can unleash HELL... bullet hell, that is! When it's full, just press Triangle and blast the hell out of everything - from blocks to even bosses. This helps in exterminating them quicker, especially when you haven't got too many lives to spare. Also, when you press Square, you can activate a shield, which protects the bar from damage, but it takes a bit from your meter.
From the working side of left field.
Shatter has boss fights. At the end of each world (10 worlds, to be exact), you have to deal with some nasty big contraption. Battles are essentially one of those "expose the weakness" kind of battles, and the first few are easy-ish, but later on, you'll have additional obstacles to deal with, making for some rough customers. You definitely won't be beating the last few bosses on your first few tries.
Never worry, for the game is never too hard. Shatter is definitely a test of reflexes, especially for the bosses, so you don't lose because of controls or difficulty; you lose because your reflexes weren't sharp enough. For somebody with decent reflexes, Shatter is a game with above-average difficulty, which is basically one that will satisfy you with some failure and some victories! Yay! Of course, this means that the game will last a good few hours, unless you're a Trophy-hound; in which case, stack up on some soda and some pot. You'll need it.
It's like being in some disco.
I guess it's a way to cash in on a fad or whatever, but Shatter definitely has some bright neon colors. Those are the sort you'd see in discos back in the 70's and 80's, or in other neo-retro games like Pac-Man: Championship Edition and Geometry Wars. The colors shine brighter when there are bigger explosions, so basically, you'll be attracted to those bright colors more than the colors that the ball leaves behind for a bit, but thankfully, it won't be too late before the ball gets attention. If you play this with the lights off, you'll definitely experience the graphics at their best. Goddamn, this game looks awesome!
The soundtrack compliments the graphics with some techno beats. Each world contains its own set of beats and really gives a disco kind of feeling alongside the graphics. Even on its own, the soundtrack is pretty impressive and makes for some impressive techno music. Nothing that really gets me into the genre, but close enough.
Either way, it's eight bloody dollars!
I don't give a shit about what anybody says - THIS is how you do a neo-retro game. This, and Bionic Commando: Rearmed show that you can appease newer gamers AND old school gamers by fusing elements from new AND old games! None of this Mega Man 9 crap will do much to gaming (I actually don't mind the game, but goddamn, it ended up overrated), but it's games like Shatter and Bionic Commando: Rearmed that will do a LOT! Shatter manages to take a very simple concept, and sexify it! Suffice to say, no other neo-retro game is going to impress me to this level unless they redid Pac-Man with hookers and blow.
Definitely gives Breakout a makeover, making it well worth playing for more than just nostalgic sakes. The additional powerups for the ball can shake things up big time, especially the first time, though one powerup made the game too easy and not in an enjoyable way, either.
Tell you what, controlling the flow of wind takes time to get the hang of. The controls are, for the most part, flawless. No problems moving up and down, that's for sure.
Not exactly the flashiest looking game, even on HD, unless you turn off the lights. It does, however, still exhibit excellent colors and some flashy effects that really work in the game's favor. Can't say I wasn't impressed by explosions when I saw them for the first time here.
Consisting of techno tunes befitting a disco... Well, it suits the visual style quite well, and even on its own, the soundtrack sounds pretty cool. Sound effects are also cool. Bonus points if you have a killer sound system.
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