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Shatter, by Sidhe, is a game in the vain of classics Breakout and Arkanoid. What sets Shatter apart from the many modern clones of those older games is its use of physics and your ability to guide the ball after you’ve already sent it off into the wide, scary world. Shatter is like the helicopter parent of the Arkanoid-clone world.In Shatter, your paddle has five special abilities.

  • Suck, allowing you to suck the ball and other elements towards your paddle.
  • Blow, shockingly enough just the opposite, allowing you push things away.
  • Shield, using some of your power to protect the paddle from collision with dangerous objects.
  • Launch Ball, allowing you to launch additional balls (up to a maximum of 4, but limited by the number of lives you have left).
  • Shardstorm, only usable when you have full power, slows down time and fires a continuous deluge of bullets from the paddle.

The defining feature of the game is the paddle’s ability to suck things toward it and blow them back. This allows you have some fine control over the ball. In addition, each ball projects a star, showing where it will impact and taking all the guess work out of controlling them. You must be a bit careful, however, as the balls aren’t the only things subject to your paddle’s influence. Some bricks are loose, or may become loose if you destroy their anchors, and if they smash into your paddle it will knock it off the board, stunning you for a moment and potentially causing you to miss powerups or even miss the ball.

You have a shield you can activate to protect you from collisions. The shield uses a power bar which is filled by collecting crystal shards. Shards appear whenever you destroy a brick, and may be sucked up or blown back by the paddle. When your power bar is full, you can also deploy your shardstorm power. For a few seconds, time slows down and your paddle lays waste to everything in front of it, but it leaves your power bar completely drained.

You can also launch extra balls. Launching balls manually can be fun, but risky. Each ball you launch costs you a life, which you are refunded if the ball survives until the end of the level. In essence, if you have 2 balls out on the field, you have the potential to lose 2 lives. Things can get particularly hectic with large numbers of balls, as the balls bounce off of each other somewhat unpredictably.

There are also powerups which spawn randomly. 1-Ups give you extra lives, and actually seem to become very plentiful whenever you’re low on lives, encouraging you to use the multiball feature generously. Maneuveraball increases the influence you can exert on the ball, giving you much tighter control over its course. Unstoppaball allows the ball to continue through most bricks, only bouncing off the walls and bosses. Finally there’s extra power which does… actually, I’m not sure what extra power does. Counter-intuitively, powerups can not be sucked or blown by the paddle.

To be honest, the powerups feel a bit sparse, and I’d like to have seen a bit more variety, as well as perhaps some bad ones as well to keep you on your toes. I suppose they’re saving that for the inevitable sequel.

On the topic of disappointment, the graphics leave a bit to be desired. My big gripe, which I fully admit is purely pedantic, is that the game is limited to a small selection of resolutions, and noticeably omits both very high resolutions and less common ones. For example, my LCD monitor’s native resolution is 2048×1152 but I’m forced to play at 1680×1050. Playing at non-native resolutions on an LCD monitor is something I try very hard to avoid.

The game suffers from some surprising load times, given how spartan it seem to be. There is a load time before each level, with a level being broken into several boards and a final boss.

The controls take a lot of getting used to. In particular, trying to steer the ball can sometimes be very difficult, especially on circular levels. Add into that trying to steer the ball while trying to avoid sucking debris into your paddle and sometimes it feels as if you might be better off ignoring the special abilities altogether and letting nature take its course.

Additionally, the default keyboard and mouse control layout feels a bit odd, as it centers your controls on the right side of the keyboard. The developer has said on the Steam forums that the reason for this was to ensure there was no overlap for the default 1- and 2-player controls, but personally I recommend changing them up to something more comfortable and familiar.

Changing settings is another issue I have with the game. You can’t actually configure any controls from inside the game, but rather must launch a separate settings editor. Very inconvenient.

The game supports local cooperative play for two players, and it features native support for game controllers. I have not used either of these features and can’t comment on them.

Shatter is available for PC on Steam for $9.99. It’s also available for Playstation 3 on the Playstation Network, though I don’t own a Playstation 3 and don’t know how much it costs there.

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