Shatter(ed) Dreams – A look at the inde game ‘Shatter’

In 1975 Atari released a game with the inherent influence of the timeless smash hit Pong. This game is known as Breakout! The gameplay, like many games of the time, was simplistic yet thoroughly entertaining. You bounce a ball off of a paddle and smash bricks one by one. Since it’s release, there have been a lot of games over the years that have been released in various formats. Cell phones, dollar store pocket games, even as extras in computer programs or some special package deal you get when you buy a new computer from one of many vendors all chipped in to help to not only keep this game’s memory alive but also gave the game the chance to evolve and keep pace with the constant evolution of gaming. While some kept the game simple, others attempted to emulate Breakout’s successor, Arkanoid.

Michael P. Welch forever set his name in the great stone of video game icons when he came out with his clone, DX Ball. Released in 1996 for the PC, DX Ball did what many others couldn’t. He took a classic and gave it a evolutionarily chronological make over without removing any of what made the game so great back in ’75.  The graphics were boosted to allow it to look as smooth and shiny as the original Unreal, gameplay challenging to both the casual as well as the hardcore gamers, and a soundtrack using a genre of music that was also beginning to get it’s start around this time. However, even with these aspects giving the game strength amongst gamers, the one aspect that completely overshadows all others… DX Ball was SHAREWARE!!!!!1!!!!11!1111!!11!!!1ONE!!1!1!1!1! For those of you who may not have been around during the 90’s, ‘shareware’ is a term for games that are not only free but also encouraged to be passed around any and all gaming circles as if it were crack or MP3s on a P2P network (yes, it was once legal to share PC games!). DX Ball has had three sequels released over the years, but none of them caught on as the original, seeing as DX Ball 2 was the only sequel that was also shareware.

Of course, as the years fly by DX Ball becomes more and more like the original Breakout. All but completely forgotten and left as a footnote in the pages of gaming history. That is, until Sidhe Interactive developed a game that has changed the face of Breakout forever with they’re independent game, Shatter! It takes its cues more from Arkanoid than it does from its more simplistic predecessor and then proceeds to blow the mind with its stylistic visuals, up-to-date graphics, impressive and creative music, and it’s intense gameplay. Rather than ramble on about just how much this game has changed the face of Arkanoid forever, lets dig a bit deeper and see just what makes this game so f@#%&$g epic, shall we?

Upon entering the game for the first time, you are met with how the 2.5D graphics enhance the game’s visual prowess. The opening scene of the tells the basic tale of this game, escape! What appears to be some sort of scientific testing causes an ‘accident’ to occur and thus we are thrust into the meat and potatoes of Shatter. From here, you are shown different methods of gameplay level by level. More specifically that of the game’s main strategy, the suck-and-blow method. With every brick destroyed fragments fly about. Collecting these fragments build your power meter. The use of the shards as well as an explanation of the power meter shall be explained later in this review. The ‘suck’ ability allows you to collect these fragments in abundance. It also allows you to control where the ball will bounce. This shall be referred to from here on in as the ‘bounce point’. You can set the bounce point using the suck and blow method as a means of enhancing how many bricks you can hit per re-collision with the paddle, or as the game calls it, the bat. Simply using the suck feature as a means of collecting shards is all but eliminated, as you could reposition the bounce point to an area where you are unable to bounce back the ball.

There are various bricks in the game, ranging from the standard stationary bricks, to brick that move in patterns, even brick where upon hitting them will collide with other bricks. The possibilities in this game for clearing levels seems endless. But this is only a more than direct impersonation of Arkanoid, as the game goes one step further in enhanced gameplay with its stage designs. The first level immediately reveals its innovations by taking the basic game board and flipping it 90 degrees to the right. Boards can vary from the simplistic up-and-down gravity-esque boards to boards that are circular rather than square in shape. A circular board presents a level of challenge similar to that of DX Ball, where the precise area of the bat collides with the ball can change the angle at which the ball is bounced back.

And much like Arkanoid and DX Ball, hitting bricks can also yield power-ups to drop. Collecting the power-ups with use of the bat changes gameplay, allowing the ball to become more controllable or giving the ball the ability to rip through every brick in its path. There are also power-ups to increase the number of shards dispensed per brick break, gives the power bar a significant boost, and the ever useful 1-ups. Unlike Arkanoid and DX Ball, multi-ball power-ups and ball size power-ups absent from Shatter as well as power-ups which yield negative affects. The multi-ball power-up is now an ability which can be used to increase the challenge of the game and allow you to break more bricks and clear levels faster. Using this feature also eats away at the number of lives you have. For each ball released, a life is dispensed; so unless you’re incredibly skilled at maintaining multiple balls in a single game board you’ll find yourself losing the game quick, fast, and in a hurry.

However, the simple action of breaking bricks in multi-versed levels would get boring to players that don’t have the basic nostalgic love for Shatter’s predecessors. Sidhe Interactive has thrown in yet another twist to this cocktail…boss battles. Yes, you read correctly! Boss battles are an element in the game that not only enhances the gameplay but also challenges your skill in the game as now, simply clearing bricks has become a less than secondary task. Bosses have their own life bar which depletes every time they are stuck with the ball is a specific area. This area is clearly marked by the game, but the real skill comes in being able to hit this area as bosses tend to move about as a means of defending themselves. Bosses also have bricks as part of their ‘bodies’ which allow you to further collect shards and power-ups. Some bosses even use their bodies to strike at your paddle, sending it back and preventing you from being able to collect fragments and power-ups as well as bouncing the ball back for a brief moment.

No need to panic, however, as Sidhe Interactive compensated by not letting you go at it with simple Breakout skill alone. As mentioned before, the shards from the broken bricks you collect fill up your power meter. The power meter is a very unique feature to the game that grants you the ability to use two key tools in the game. The first you learn is the shield. At times, bricks as well as bosses will be sent flying in your direction. The collision causes the bat to be sent off course and spins uncontrollably for a short time, which can prove to be rather costly in completing a level. The shield will destroy any stray bricks and protect you from incoming boss attacks. This allows you to continue your assault as you chip away at the bosses life meter, but depending on your basic Breakout skill and use of the suck-and-blow method, simple ball hits to the boss’ weak spot will take a considerable amount of time. Again, no fear, as you are given one more special ability…needle shot. You can use the power bar as ammo and send needles flying at bosses, thus increasing your chances at total victory. There is one more perk to the needle attack, once you are able to completely fill your power meter, you completely drain it and send a barrage of needles flying at your enemy in a Matrix style slow-motion effect. The needles are not exclusive to bosses, however, as you can also use the needle barrage method to quickly rip through bricks and clear levels in record time.

With all these perks in full effect, Shatter is enhanced one step further with its in game music. The music is created and composed by artist Module, and can be heard on such mediums as iTunes, Rhapsody,, Zune and AmazonMp3 and consists of over 90 minutes of original music to help tease and tantilize the senses during gameplay. Each level has its own ‘look and feel’, and the music reflects this with seamless and flawless effort. During the boss levels, the music intensifies and gives you the sense of dread and urgency similar to what you’d expect from any epic boss battle from games such as Prince of Persia or Unreal.

For any of you nostalgia freaks out there, you may make note of a failure to mention the Ricochet series from Reflexive Entertainment, developed back in 2007 just two years before Shatter. In all honesty, Ricochet could be seen as a reimagining of DX Ball, as the graphics and gameplay are similar if not identical. Where Shatter exceeds Ricochet is in the gameplay, as Sidhe Interactive created something with more of a progressive aspect to Shatter. One could also make mention of the fact that Ricochet is adding to it’s levels each week, thus increasing game replay value, Shatter is a relatively short game. However, this is not as much of a ‘short’ coming for Shatter one would think. Shatter was originally released for the PS3 via the Playstation Network back in ’09 and released this year for the PC via the gaming network Steam. Currently, Ricochet is only available for the PC also through Steam. The game’s small size is also a valuable merit, as it downloads in little to know time at all. One more thing to consider is while Ricochet was released in ’07, Reflexive Entertainment has had valuable time to establish a fan base as well as the ability for its players to download updates and new level sets. Shatter is still in many ways a relatively new game and is still developing its own fan base. And with Shatter being a part of the Steam network, addons and updates are much simpler, as Steam has a reputation of offering excellent deals for game updates. A prime example of this is with the Left 4 Dead updates being available on Steam for free while XBL gamers had to pay for the same updates.

In conclusion, Shatter picks up where many others left off in the evolution of Breakout by not only updating the graphics, gameplay and music but by surpassing all it’s predecessors with something innovative by all aspects of the term. Should you come across this game via Steam or PSN, definitely pick it up, for it is more than worth the price!!!

The Orphan


Shatter’s official website
Sidhe Intereactive’s forums
Steam’s store

A long over due introduction…

Zero gave me this space to share ideals, give helpful advise, and to spice things up a little by adding a new player to the table. So, with all the respect I can muster, I’m calling my hand! Here are the cards that I’ve been dealt…

If you were to ask me of my background looking at me now, I could tell you a story that has so many twists and turns you’d get lost just trying to follow me. Sometimes I look back at my past in disbelief to what I am now. So, the best thing that I could tell is I’m nothing more than a man with no real origin. Or if you prefer simplicity, I’m an orphan.

If you were to ask me where I’m going to end up…well, no one can answer that question with full conviction. Sure, people say it’s important to have a plan in life. We all know the age old question, “Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?” Mitch Hedberg said it best and ever since I’ve adopted this as my answer, “Celebrating the fifth year anniversary of you asking me this question!” Sure, I have a plan for my life… In fact, I have a million plans. But seeing them to fruition is a different story entirely. I may stumble upon fortune or my hard work may pay off in the inevitable end. Either way, nothing is certain. So I accept the misfortunes given to me, humbly receive what it is I do deserve, and take everything else in between and beyond. And once that’s done, I just move forward. In essence, I’m a nomad.

As far as me, the one that exists in the ‘here and now’, it’s best left to say: nothing ventured, nothing gained. And if you still desire more from me, then this much can be said: curiosity killed the cat, but generosity brought him back!

No hesitation. No regret.

So for now, just call me Xan and leave all else to the imagination!

Budget Men’s Care Double Feature: Dove Men+Care and Axe Hair product lines.

Face it, even as male geeks… We do desire to look good and be presentable to the female side of the human species. Sadly… Even some geeks fear using nice, but girly products to keep themselves in top form. Sadly for a long while… Top echelon men’s care has been a sector dominated by brands like Men’s Science, Anthony, and Billy Jealousy. As with top echelon goods, they cost a pretty penny. While I have used those brands and appreciate them, I also empathize with my geeky male brethren. Some of us are students working to degrees and bumming around with no cash. There are also those who are saving up for that one piece of equipment  be it a bolt-on turbo kit for their car, Radeon 5970, or Street Fighter Tournament Edition Arcade Stick  and skimming out on “frivolous” expenses… To those geeks, otaku, etc, I salute their enthusiasm for their obsessions of choice. However I will say that hygiene and grooming are not only important on the ideal of finding a woman but also for the sake of your fellow human being.
Continue reading Budget Men’s Care Double Feature: Dove Men+Care and Axe Hair product lines.

Upcoming projects – Gear, Men’s Care and Independent Games!

Lately, my life has been swarmed with an influx of men’s care goods and and independent games. With spring in the air and new things abound… I want to seize the moment! I’ll be working on my evaluation of the following items…

– The Art of Shaving Fusion Chrome Power Proglide razor
– Anthony Logistics for Men: A Clean Start kit
– Dove Men+Care product line
– Axe Shampoo product line
– Shatter (May be saved for the new gaming site collaboration…)
– Coniclysm (May be saved for the new gaming site collaboration…)
– Asus Eee PC 1001P Seashell

Stay tuned for these works soon to come!

The Value of a Gift

This year… My birthday has been both the worst and the best with all due respect. My theme this year was “spend time with the ones you love and cherish, gifts optional” because with good friends, you don’t need gifts. The ultimate gift is the company of your friends as well as the bond shared over years and years. I had chosen the site of The Cheesecake Factory for my event, because I figured it’d be a fun and with a a taste for everyone that may be picky. I didn’t feel it was something ostentatious like the Steve Field’s Steak and Lobster Lounge or something ratty like a greasy all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet. To me, it was a modest middle ground with food from almost all cultures to pick and choose from. I also wanted to celebrate in a mature way and to be able to have a glass of beer or a martini with people I love being with. With that said… I had told my guests to just come as they are. I wasn’t expecting people to be in tuxedos and ball gowns for an outing that would cost thousands. I just wanted my friends to be there with me.

The gifts I have received so far are not ones that I demanded for… below I give you the register of items.
UHA Pucchu candy
Steam game: Dark Void Zero
Steam games: Commandos Collection (on sale)
Shiner Bock 6-pack
Steam game: Shatter
Tucano netbook bag
Steam game: Command and Conquer Red Alert 3
Steam game: Grand Theft Auto: Episodes from Liberty City
Anthony Logistics for Men: Clean Start Kit
The Art of Shaving Fusion Power Chrome razor
Asus Eee PC 1001P Seashell netbook
Time spent with my friends

There is one more gift a friend made mention that is on order, so this will be known as the following:


The greatest gift on this list is my friends. Sure, the material things are nice… but I won’t disregard the matter that even the material things vanish, wither, or break. The most important value to be absorbed from a gift is that… the value from a monetary stand-point should not be viewed/mentioned. If you make it a point about the value of a gift… at that point, it is not a gift. I think Sol said it best with his quotation: “Dude, at that point… reciprocating the value of a gift voids out the meaning of a gift, it’s a loan at that point.” Another friend of mine named Seelen gave a great example: “If I won the lottery and decided to buy you a yacht… I am not gonna say that I expect a Bentley Supersports coupe!

To be honest… if my friends came to my birthday hangout and just gave me birthday cards… I’d have been happy as all hell for it. Friends last forever, material things will always be come-and-go.

Double-13, A Birthday and Declaration of War

Tonight… I had my loyal friends show up to laugh, dine, and spend an evening with me. I am glad that my friends were there to help me celebrate an early birthday before the next week of school. However… It also is the night of my ultimate dishonor from my family. Let this fact me know… For my birthday event, I didn’t make presents mandatory because I value the company of my friends before anything material. My expectations were for a friendly gathering of people eating and wind away the night with a drink.

My sister decided to bring the war to my footsteps. So by next week… I face the hardest battle of my life. To be fair, I have my own “tactical nuke” to deploy on my sister with regards to family drama. I will say this: I do not die silently. I die fighting.  My sister will regret making my life Hell because I will ensure that she will regret causing me to essentially declare an emotional war with my family.

I leave this quote as a prelude to the “Theatre of War”…

Do unto others as you would have them do to you.
Luke 6:31

If I don’t talk much, just know I will probably be trying to re-stabilize my life…

Need for Speed World Beta Thoughts

These aren’t final thoughts… but it’s more my current evaluation and hopes for later on.

So… today I got my invitation to play in the Need for Speed World beta. I will say, it’s a little interesting seeing MMO aspects in a racing game. The selection of cars is quite sparse but it is a beta… However, balance is an issue that I hope they address as I hated ending up dead last in the first few races. Controls really need work… The awkward scheme of driving with the arrow keys, hand brake to be operated with space-bar, and power ups to be managed by the 1 – 4 keys on the number row… It just doesn’t work. The inability to configure a controller properly really irks me… As the 360 controller works, but the only buttons that work are the left analog stick to steer, A for your throttle, B for your hand-brake, and X for your brake pedal. The directional pad sadly doesn’t work, as it would be nice for managing the power-ups…

Multiplayer is a little broken… That being said from me trying to join a few races and it can’t reconcile the users together. The single player races need some work on matching up the level of opponents… I mention this as the Lotus Elise later on and I am somehow matched up to 2 Nissan GT-R (Tier 3), 2 Lamborghini LP640 (Tier 3), and a few cars around my tier (Tier 2). The gameplay is a little frantic, but well thought out… The power ups are pretty balanced out. I would rather they work like the question boxes a la Mario Kart, but that could change. Graphically, the races feel pretty cinematic at some points.

Kudos to the Need for Speed folks for venturing into the multiplayer realm. The leveling system will definitely have to be cleaned up, as leveling up for more car access and a few skill points is rather weak. Hopefully a tuning system will be in place, cause I’d love to hop-up cars with better engine parts, turbochargers, superchargers, etc… On top of that, adding in things like adjustable suspension, being able to custom tailor out the attack-angles or racing wings would be nice too. I look forward to the development to the Need for Speed World off-shoot and leave you with a screenshot of me taking on my computer opponents.

Driving my starter Mazdaspeed 3 in a race