I can vividly recall seeing Breakout in an arcade for the first time. It was the late ‘80s, and even though far more impressive games existed, I could still tell that Breakout was special. It took the concept of Pong and created a more rewarding single-player experience. Simple, yet elegant. It’s a testament to Breakout’s greatness that bat ‘n ball games are still being created almost 50 years later.
Shatter Remastered Deluxe has history too. The original version was first released on PlayStation 3, via PSN, and Steam back in 2010. This remaster runs at 4K/120fps while featuring a modernised UI, remixed music, and other visual improvements. The 3D backdrops are pleasingly abstract, being merely evocative of their themes (nature, ice, lava, etc) and the colour schemes for each world are bright and vibrant. This also marks its first appearance on Xbox and Switch.
You may be surprised to hear that Shatter doesn’t share Breakout’s simplicity. This is a modern take on the brick-breaking genre, constantly mixing things up with vertical, horizontal, and even circular playing fields. There are power-ups too, including extra balls and “untouchaballs”, while each of the ten stages in the story mode ends with a boss battle. Bosses are cleverer than you may expect – aside from two that are quite similar – including a snake that strikes out in retaliation, a circular clock able to restore broken bricks, and a Pong-style battle against a bat (of the mammal variety.)
All of this, and there’s a central gimmick that happens to be a game changer. The LT/RT triggers are intuitively used to inhale and exhale, with both forces altering the ball’s trajectory. Sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worst – it all depends on your reaction speed and aiming. It’s vital to inhale shards left by breaking bricks, which in turn boosts your score. But this also speeds up ball movement, making it tricky to rebound. Inhaling can also dislodge loose blocks, turning them into heavy hitting projectiles.
A few ideas have been implemented to stop players from simply puffing the ball upwards instead of striking it with the bat. Firstly, you won’t be able to inhale shards – and will consequently fail to break the online leaderboards. The circular stages don’t really allow for ball juggling either due to their curvature. Then there’s the presence of fan blocks, which can even send your ball spinning.
There is a window of opportunity to blitz through a stage in mere seconds, though. This requires multiple balls, and a full power gauge to release a volley of fire. Very cool, but not something that can be pulled off regularly.
The difficulty level is mostly smooth, granting three continues per world in story mode, although using a continue resets your score. Making it through an entire world and beating the boss without a Game Over is incredibly satisfying. Just to put an even bigger twist on score chasing, each world also ends with a brief bonus stage where extra points can be earned.
It’s possible to practice bonus rounds on the main menu. It’s also here that you’ll find the endless mode – where new blocks emerge every minute or so, cascading across the screen akin to a puzzle game – which can also be played in co-op, as can the time trial mode. The story mode is the meat of the game though, unsurprisingly, and it takes a few hours to beat all ten worlds. Don’t be surprised to blitz through your continue stockpile on a boss battle. They can be tricky.
Shatter Remastered Deluxe showcases smart design choices throughout, right down to the fact that the bat is curved, allowing for more daring trick shots. Adding further risk, it’s down to you how many balls are launched at once. You can play it safe with just one or fire up to three to try and clear the screen quicker. Being quite a forgiving experience, it will also often dole out an extra ball mere seconds before a Game Over screen appears.
This is a game that knows how to hook, making it an easy recommendation for those looking for a fresh twist on a classic formula. At around £8, this brick breaker won’t break the bank either.
Pik Pok’s Shatter Remastered Deluxe is out Nov 2nd on all formats.