Not everyone needs an epic, 80-plus-hour adventure. Sometimes, gamers just want a quick and easy arcade experience. Personally, I like a quick game that I can play for about a half hour before bedtime. One of the types of arcade games I really love are those that harken back to the arcade or Atari games of yesteryear. Thankfully, with the rise of indie developers over the past decade or so, we've been privy to a lot of these types of games.
One of my favorites was always a classic called Arkanoid (or Breakout, if you prefer). It's a very simple concept: you have a rectangular bar at the bottom of the screen, and bounce a ball at a wall, slowly chipping away at it until the wall is gone. You earn points with each brick you destroy, and the goal is simply to get the highest score possible. If the ball goes past your bar, you lose a life. That's it. It's a simple premise, and I love it.
Shatter Remastered, out now on all systems, is one of these love letters to the classic brick breaking genre. The concept is similar to those games – just keep bouncing that ball off your bar and destroy all the bricks to make it to the next level. Now, before you go thinking that this concept will get old fast, let me assure you that Shatter Remastered brings enough content to the table to keep it fresh and engaging.
The Story Mode in Shatter Remastered isn't really much of a story, but it doesn't need to be. You'll play through 10 different worlds, with about 71 stages in total. You'll blast bricks, earn power-ups, and yes, even take on bosses as you try to get through each stage. Once you beat each boss, you are treated to a bonus level, so you can try to top out that high score.
There's a few new mechanics in this game that really make an impact. First, if you are hit by a moving brick or boss attack, your bar will get knocked back and stunned for a brief period. This brings in a very interesting risk factor: should I let the brick go past my bar and miss out on points, or take it out and risk losing a life as the ball comes back. Another factor that I found to be quite brilliant is your vacuum ability. You can either suck in air or blow it out, and this impacts the game in several ways. First, it can either bring the ball closer to you or push it back into the field of play. If there's a tough brick to hit, you can just blow some air and affect the ball's curvature and try to guide it towards your target. You can also use one and then the other to bring the ball in on an angle and then push it out with increased speed and impact.
Another important factor while using this mechanic is that when destroyed, the bricks shatter into several pieces. You can then suck those into the bar to fill up your power bar. You use this energy to activate a shield, and a full bar unleashes a barrage of bullets that can take out bricks and damage bosses. But be wary – the airflow that sucks in these shards also impacts the ball's path, and could result in it bypassing your bar and potentially, the loss of a life. This addition to the gameplay really adds a new layer of thinking and decision-making to your playthroughs.
Shatter Remastered Deluxe is about as challenging as this style of game should be, but to add to that challenge factor, some of the levels can really change your perspective. Literally. Some stages switch the gameplay from “bar on the left” to “bar on the bottom” or, even crazier, a “spherical” stage. Once that happens, you have to rewire your brain to adapt – and this can be especially challenging in the sphere stages. Bosses can also be pretty tough. You have to take out the bricks protecting its weak point, and then hammer it with the ball. Luckily, power-ups such as multi-ball, extra lives, and lasers that you can shoot from the bar are plentiful. These emerge as you break bricks, and can really help in a pinch.
Once you're done with the story, you can unlock other modes. Some of these include an Endless Mode, Boss Rush, Time Attack, and Couch Co-op. And to make it even better, there's global leaderboards – because in this day and age, every arcade game needs an online leaderboard. So there's enough here to keep you entertained for quite a while.
The only real complaint I have about Shatter Remastered Deluxe is that there's real estate on your screen that is under-utilized.The entire game takes place on a smaller screen within your own screen (see the images throughout the review). It would be nice to have the whole game take up the entire screen, but I eventually got used to the smaller field of view.
Shatter Remastered Deluxe is not only a great game for longtime fans of the genre, but it's also an excellent entry-level game for newcomers. The new style of gameplay in which you can control the ball's direction adds a new layer of challenge, while at the same time brings down the intensity a bit. It's great to play in short bursts and the online leaderboards will keep you coming back to “break” your high score. And at a price point of $9.99, you'll definitely get your money's worth. I know I spent much more than that on Arkanoid in the arcade. Now, all we need is a spinner controller.