Extreme Fever! A Peggle Review

Epic win!

Epic win!

In this day and age, where the line in the sand has been drawn, gamers are either hardcore or their not. Either you blow people up with rocket launchers or you look for hidden pictures. You either spend three days zerg rushing the enemy combatant or spend three days perfecting your chocolate empire with mini-games. Well, PopCap Games is here to tear down that wall with their blockbuster hit. Peggle doesn’t care if you like shooters or sims; it just wants to make the world a better place through digitized Plinko.

The idea behind Peggle is ridiculously simple. In each level, you shoot silver balls reminiscent of pinballs from the top of the screen. The ball in turn bounces off of the many blue, orange, green and purple pegs below; each peg lighting up and giving you points as your ball pings off of it. The bottom of each stage is pit for the ball to fall into but if you time your shot right, you may hit the bucket that roams side to side at a steady pace. If you manage this, the game will give you an extra ball; the equivalent of an extra life. Each level gives you a set number of balls and the goal is to clear the board of all the orange pegs. The strategy is involved in finding the quickest way to clear the more plentiful blue pegs to get to the orange ones. All before you run out of balls. In later stages the pegs become animated, rotating or moving on and off the screen, making this simple task more and more challenging.

Those inner tube circles don't stay put.

Those inner tube circles don't stay put.

The other major gameplay element is to build up your score. For each peg hit by a single ball, a multiplier is added. Blue pegs are worth the least, followed by the orange ones, with the elusive purple peg being worth the most. If the player manages to reach a certain threshold of points with one ball, the game will reward your Peggle skills with a free ball. Once you’ve managed to clear all the orange pegs, the camera zooms in on the ball and goes into slow motion while Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” from Symphony No. 9 plays in the background. The bottom of the screen, once a cavernous mouth stealing your balls, becomes five separate buckets for you ball to fall into; giving you an extra point boost anywhere from 10,000 to 100,000.

Of course that’s only the basic premise. Once the player has that down, the game adds on a layer of depth and that’s where the mind numbing addiction comes into play. The first time you play Peggle, the game will be in Adventure mode. Set up into groups of stages, each themed chapter has its own avatar. These Peggle Masters, ranging from a jack o lantern to a gopher to a sunflower, will be visible from the top of the screen. The stages for each avatar’s chapter set up the pegs into shapes that accurately depict the current theme or background; such as flowers, a river bank or car.

Vroom Vroom!

Vroom Vroom!

Each avatar also has a special ability. Special abilities are designed to make hitting the pegs easier. Using your ball to hit one of the two green pegs in each stage will trigger the special. For example, the jack o lantern’s ability is called “Spooky Ball”. Triggering this effect causes the ball to return to the top of the screen once it hits the bottom instead of disappearing. The flower will cause twenty-five percent of all orange pegs on the board to light up and so on…

Challenge Mode

Challenge Mode

After completing the 55 modes in Adventure, the rest of the game opens up. The player is now free to go back and play any level with any avatar; not just the ones affiliated with it. Dual mode allows players to go head to head against a friend or computer player and Challenge mode offers 75 new puzzles with varying tasks to complete.

On the version for the Xbox 360 there are the added bragging rights of trying to get the highest score for any individual level which will then be put on Live for the entire world to see your mad Peggle skills.

This is usually the paragraph where I go into detail about the game’s flaws, but I really can’t think of anything to put. Peggle has sold over 10 million downloads on PC and has been in the top ten XBLA games since its launch last week.  It’s spawned versions on the iPhone and DS and already has a sequel. Not bad for a little game from the company that brought us Bejeweled.

So whether your idea of gaming is Halo 3 or Solitaire, do yourself a favor and give Peggle a chance to win you over. Download the trial for free at PopCap games or XBLA on Xbox Live.

Peggle is available for the Xbox 360, PC, Nintendo DS and the iPhone. It is rated E for Everyone.

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