Popcap games are one of the leaders in casual games, most of their franchises are among the most played games in the world. Among their catalogue you can find such gems as Bejeweled, Bookworm adventures, Zuma and now, Peggle.
Each of these games brings the casual gamer a simple gameplay mechanic dressed up in lovely artwork. These games are incredibly addictive. This is due to their simplicity, which attracts not only gamers, but their mums, dads and grandparents. You could say that popcap achieved Nintendo’s goals of bringing gaming to everyone years ago.
To prove the reach of Popcaps games. The Bejeweled franchise, which has been mimicked many times now, has sold over 25 million units – that means a Bejeweled game is sold every 10 seconds and has consumed roughly 6 billion hours of consumers’ leisure time since 2001 – that’s 684,000 YEARS (equating to 60 people playing Bejeweled nonstop since the end of the last Ice Age [9400 B.C.])
In 2007 Popcap unleashed the gaming form of crack on us with Peggle.
Again bringing simplistic gameplay, You, the Peggle trainee must launch balls into the playing field and clear as many “Pegs” as possible.
There are several colours to clear; Blue, Which scores you points. Purple, Which adds a points bonus. Green, Which activates a special power (More about that later) and Orange, Of which there are a certain number on each level, These orange pegs need to be cleared in order to “beat” the level.
You get ten balls at the start of each level and these are fired from a cannon at the top of the screen, the ball then travels down the playing field bouncing randomly from peg to peg.
Along the bottom of the screen is a bucket which moves from left to right, if the ball drops into the bucket it awards you a free ball.
You accumulate points by hitting pegs and making them disappear and making skilled shots. Breaking 25,000 points on one ball will award you with a free ball too, as will breaking other levels of points, such as 75,000. Once all the orange pegs are cleared the ball continues bouncing around the screen in extreme fever mode. Which slows the ball down and for each peg it hits, it awards more points until it drops into one of five point buckets at the bottom of the screen. The buckets are for 10,000, 50,000 and 100,000.
For each “chapter” of Peggle you are given an instructor from the Peggle institute. Each one of these has a special power, which is activated when you hit one of the two green pegs. These range from adding an aiming aid to your cannon to making the green peg explode and triggering all the pegs in the area around it. There are around ten instructors to use and they each have a unique power, when you have beaten each of their levels they become unlocked for the Master levels and challenges.
The challenge mode is found on the main menu and challenges are unlocked throughout the adventure mode. The challenges are very varied and can range from clearing a level with only 3 balls to scoring over 500,000 points in 5 balls. These levels are very taxing and take quite some time to clear. This adds to the longevity and appeal of Peggle.
One of the best aspects of Peggle is the fun of it, you don’t really need any skill to play. Just aim and fire. However if you do work hard on working out trajectories of the ball you can become a Peggle master.
Even though the series uses very basic graphics and gameplay it uses an extremely good physics engine. This can be seen by watching the ball bounce from peg to peg and seeing the intricacies of how the ball will move when aimed at different surfaces or angles. There is a certain thrill to launching the ball and racking up a ridiculous amount of points and clearing many pegs at once.
Peggle brings back the giddy feeling of playing games like Pinball or Bust-a-Move and achieving High scores which friends can try to beat, or you can beat yourself. Much like how anyone can play Pinball, anyone can play Peggle.
Based on the major success of Peggle, A successor came in the form of Peggle Nights.
Peggle Nights did everything that Peggle did but in a slightly different setting…….well, at night.
Popcap used the philosophy of “If it ain’t broke, Don’t fix it” and the Peggle gameplay certainly ain’t broke.
Due to it’s popularity, the Peggle franchise has/is now being launched over several platorms, including Mac, iPod, Nintendo DS and XBLA on 360.
Being the Peggle whore that I am, I’ve played each of these (except XBLA, soon to be released) and they each bring something different to the party. But much like guests at a party they aren’t always welcome.
Just released was the DS version of Peggle, Named Peggle Dual Shot it brings peg clearing to Nintendos handheld. I was thrilled when I heard this was coming, surely it would be the best way to play Peggle on the move?
No, it’s not. The DS version of Peggle struggles to display the simple graphics of the game, I know the DS isn’t powerful but it’s simple 2D graphics.
On the DS version, your playing field is on the touch screen and stats are on top. All of the aiming is done with the stylus, Which even though normally quite accurate on most games, Fails on Peggle. Why?
You have to actually touch the cannon at the top and move it left and right, then once you’ve lined up your shot, You press the big red fire button on it to shoot the ball.
This is a very laboured way of playing and makes each shot take a lot longer than it should.
On certain levels the pegs will be moving around the screen, which means that you need to line up your shot and then wait for the peg to move back into the line of fire, Then hope and pray that the touch screen recognises your press of the fire button.
If you hold the stylus on the screen for a couple of seconds, the top screen will zoom into the peg you’re aiming at so you can fine tune the shot. However if you move in the slightest your shot will veer off on a different line and miss your shot.
One of the best features of the DS version is that not only does it contain both Peggle and Peggle Nights, But ten new exclusive bonus levels made by Q Entertainment. All of the challenge modes are featured and two player modes as well.
If you’ve never played Peggle there are small hiccups on this otherwise decent port, But anyone looking to take their Peggle addiction on bus journeys or road trips should leave this one out…………….
…..And go for the ipod version instead.
The clickwheel on the ipod is such a better control method, it put’s the DS stylus to shame.
There are moments in Peggle that are based around reactions and the stylus lets you down there. The clickwheel is much easier to swing the line of your cannon and then hit the “select” button to fire.
The graphics, although on a smaller are more faithful to the PC/MAC versions and even though it runs at a slower framerate, the fun is not spoilt in any way.
To sum up, this rambling feature/review is here to say that you MUST play one of these versions.
The original PC version is still the best one to play as the mouse movement is by far the best way to play it.
Only time will tell if the XBLA version surpasses the PC version (and the achievements will help)
If you want to play a portable version then the ipod one is for you, but the DS version is still great for a Peggle Newbie.
Peggle is a rare gem in casual gaming and is taking the internet by storm, if you haven’t played it yet, you must. Play Peggle and become a Master.
Peggle – 9/10
Peggle Nights- 9/10
Peggle ipod- 8/10
Peggle Dual Shot- 7/10