We’re beginning to pay closer attention to the PlayStation Network; the number of top-quality and endlessly entertaining titles available for download is increasing at a rapid rate. Some are even exclusive to the PSN and another potential winner is headed our way next week. We wanted to give you a look at this one before it popped up on the Store, because we have a very simple and straightforward policy at PSXE: if it’s a game we deem to be worthy of your time, we’re gonna want to tell you about it, regardless of the intended format. Let’s not forget that Battlefield 1943 released earlier this month and while some may want to call it a “watered-down Battlefield,” we maintain that for only $15, it’s tough to find better bang for your buck. And unless we miss our guess, Shatter will fall into that very same category. It would also help a great deal if you are a long-time fan of the old-school block-buster (note the hyphen in that word) known as Breakout. This new PSN game is similar, but of course, it’ll be prettier, spicier, and more diverse.
In simple terms, all you really control is a paddle (even though it’s actually a spaceship), which may immediately remind you of archaic mechanics the likes of which we found in Pong. And in some ways, that idea is in full effect in Shatter: you must keep a glowing orb of energy ricocheting around the screen; the paddle is on the left side of the screen, and that orb will fly towards you after wreaking havoc on the targets in the middle. All you need to do is keep bouncing it back, in the hopes that you will “shatter” every last colorful shard in the playing area. However, Sidhe Interactive has implemented some definite twists to this simplistic gameplay element: firstly, that aforementioned playing area won’t always be rectangular; i.e., the shape of your TV screen. It may also be circular, which immediately adds another interesting dimension to the travels of the orb. Furthermore, the game includes a variety of power-ups that will continually head in your direction; you simply need to position that fancy “paddle” in the appropriate position to nab ‘em. Of course, you have to balance your greed for power-ups with the necessity of keeping the orb in play.
But it doesn’t end there. You will also have some control over the orb, as your ship can either “suck in” or “blow out.” For example, when those shards shatter in the middle of the screen, they turn into little “s” fragments that you can “suck” in your direction. This will be done using the L1 button but you should bear in mind that doing this can affect the orb if it gets caught in the vacuum, so you also have the R1 button to expel a gust of air if necessary. Those miniature “s” pieces you collect will build up a power bar and when it’s full, you’ll be able to unleash a horde of orbs at the colorful obstructions, which should be uber-effective. You will continue to progress through new areas until you finally reach the final “boss” of a particular level, and this is where things are gonna get interesting. To add to the chaos of controlling the orb, “sucking and blowing,” and collecting power-ups, you will also have to dodge debris tossed in your direction, all the while waiting for your power bar to fill to make short work of the fight. If things get out of hand, you can always use a handy-dandy shield, although we imagine the length and frequency of use will be limited.
We’re not sure yet if other modes will be available, but we are aware of the bonus stages. Basically, you just move as fast as you possibly can to keep three orbs bouncing around and gathering points, and you can give this a shot after completing your first level. There are 10 levels in all and each will be unique in terms of artistry, flavor and feel, so it’s unlikely that you’ll get bored with the flashy presentation. If you consider yourself skilled, you may want to check your position on the Leaderboards…but don’t blame us if you find you’re lower than expected. Some people get seriously hooked on simple games like this, and they’ll play until their eyes fall out of their heads. We don’t necessarily condone this kind of rash dedication, but hey, if a game has this affect on people, doesn’t that speak volumes about the fun factor? Can anybody say, "Tetris?" We expect Shatter to be one of those games that you can play quite literally forever; when you have some downtime but don’t have hours and hours to launch into an RPG, this potential gem could be the perfect distraction.
7/16/2009 Ben Dutka