Peggle Review (Xbox 360)
Developer: PopCap Games
Platforms: Xbox 360, PC, Mac,
Reviewed on Xbox 360
Bounce balls through fields of pegs with the aid of magical powers to rack up the kind of scores that will qualify you as a Peggle Master!
Nearly two years ago, PopCap Games unleashed Peggle on unsuspecting PC gamers, leaving hordes of PC players dropping balls on clusters of Pachinko-style pegs in a strongly physics-based puzzle game. But it's more than a puzzle game, it's a set of ongoing rewards that make me want to fire off one more ball, or finish just one more level to get the reassuringly positive rendition of "Ode to Joy" as rainbows and score multipliers flash across the screen.
Now, Peggle is available for the Xbox 360. Despite the fact that I played through the entire adventure mode, repeatedly tried every level and completed all the challenges in the game as released for the PC, I found myself compelled to do it all over again on the Xbox 360. Peggle is, simply put, obsessively engaging, incredibly satisfying and while easy to pick up and play for a few minutes, it's awfully difficult to put down.
Pachinko is a long-time amusement device in which balls fall through a box of pegs, bouncing chaotically to the bottom or into slots and baskets. Most modern pachinko machines are gambling machines in which players buy balls in the hope of winning a large jackpot.
Peggle is a long way from gambling, but a lot is left to chance. Each board is filled with pegs and blocks (usually creating themed illustrations), some of which are orange. When a ball hits a peg, the peg vanishes from the board, giving you points. Eliminating all the orange pegs clears the level. It sounds simple, but it takes some skill to clear a level, and even more skill to hit the right combinations of pegs to increase your score multiplier and rack up large numbers of points.
To help you in your quest, there are 10 Peggle masters, each of them with a special power that changes the dynamics of play. One can help you predict the path of the ball, another adds pinball-like flippers to the bottom of the screen and yet another tweaks your shot to achieve even higher scores. One play-through unlocks all the Peggle Masters so they can be used for any levels or challenges.
Just completing the Adventure mode to unlock all the Peggle masters is a noble goal. Then you can compete for high Adventure scores. But the game also supports a variety of challenges and the ability to duel an opponent. Challenges involve activities like achieving a particularly high score on a level, or eliminating all of the pegs. Duels have players (two humans or a human and the AI) taking turns on the same level to see who can achieve the highest score. Between the adventure mode and the large number of challenges, Peggle can keep the average gamer busy for a long time. Especially if they play it casually, a few levels at a time.
Peggle for the Xbox 360 is exactly the same game as for the PC, but with a pleasant graphical frame on HD sets for the play field's standard dimensions. The game's controls have been well-adapted to the Xbox 360 controller, giving a clear and fine level of control. The only way in which the game is more difficult for the Xbox 360 is that on the PC, the ball goes to where the mouse pointer is located – on the Xbox 360 you actually have to follow the projected ball trajectory suggested by the arrow. If I was at all disappointed, it's only that this Xbox 360 rendition doesn't include anything from Peggle Nights, including the extra Peggle Master, additional levels and more sophisticated challenges. But it's reasonable to assume we'll get Peggle Nights (either on its own or as an expansion) for the Xbox 360 fairly soon.
As with the PC game, a keen eye for trajectories and a little practice makes it easy to learn the best way to clear each level, and strategies for truly stratospheric scores. The orange pegs and other bonus pegs do change locations, but this isn't enough to keep the game fresh, particularly once you've completed the Adventure Mode – especially after completing all of the challenges. It's a little like billiards, in that a novice can have a great deal of fun knocking a ball around the table, but an expert is very much in control of the ball, and is only going to be challenged by competing against another expert or striving to record a video of the highest scoring ball possible.
Virtually everyone will find something to enjoy with Peggle, and the game offers far more play than one might expect from its price tag.