I am a gameplay connoseur, but sometimes it takes a leap of faith to find new treats. Space Rangers, Fantasy Wars, Civilization et al have generally had a high threshold to overcome before I could taste their sweet, moist innards. I am constantly searching for similar experiences, but sometimes I fall for elegant aesthetics. Like when I saw Shatter.
Some time ago I saw a new game in the Steam indie section while idly browsing. It had shiny 3d space objects and neon lights, and most importantly it was cheap. I was intrigued and watched the trailer. Catchy music, elegant design, shards, boss battles, awesome shard attack maneuver in the end? Damn. But due to extreme cheapskate, I did not purchase it. Until Steam’s treasure hunt, where it was a prerequisite for an objective, and in sale. Sold.
Gameplay is simple. You move the bat with the mouse, and try to shatter the objects on the screen with the ball. You can pull the ball and any loose objects towards the bat or away from the bat with the mouse buttons. You can use a shield that will destroy all objects impacting the bat and launch additional balls in the field. There are power-ups that modify the ball into an agile and fast sniper or an unstoppable god of annihilation, give you more power, score multipliers or lives. An object impacting the bat will knock it back for a few moments, possibly preventing you from saving the ball. Vacuuming shards from the shattered objects increases your power, enabling shield usage. With full power, you can unleash shard storm which can destroy pretty much anything in the field.
I played through the campaign, collecting irrelevant achievements, got the Steam objective and thought: “Well, it was kind of nice. Remake of breakout. Yay for Sidhe.” I left the game, but it did not leave me. Total play time at the time of writing is eight hours.
Shatter has extremely elegant aesthetics. The game sports not a single unnecessary word, instead presenting itself with polished graphics and awesome music. Playing the game feels like watching an opera or a music video. It amplifies the tetris-like tactical immersion with the aesthetics. I feel that without the music and the graphics, I would not have bothered with Shatter at all. It shows how powerful it is when every aspect of a game works in harmony.
Shatter also has another aspect that impresses me. The campaign. It is clever, subtly hinting at a very abstract story of a very abstract… creature with world and music names. The player is a malfunctioning Kinetic Harvester bat that breaks free from the Kinetic Farms and sets out to destroy the Xenon empire and free the Kinetic bats. At least that’s what I thought happened. In the end, it presents the player with a world filled with the Kinetic bats, happily playing pong amidst themselves. I love it how the whole world seems to work with the same logic as the game.
Harmony. That’s the word I would use to describe Shatter.