Posts Tagged ‘ Peggle ’

iPlay iPod

Last week I thought it about time I downloaded some games to my iPod classic. The first game I got was Peggle, a game that I know and love on the 360 and PC and owning a copy of Peggle in my pocket proved too much to resist. Then further down the page on iTunes there was a title that piqued my interest, mainly due to the fact it was made by Square Enix.

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Song Summoner is certainly an interesting game, it’s a tactical JRPG in the same vein as Final Fantasy Tactics. With the same tried and trusted Square Enix storyline. You know the drill, you and your younger brother are out and about and wouldn’t you know it, a bunch of baddies turn up and kidnap your sibling. Cue a five year jump into the future and some training from the Soul Master (who’s a dead ringer for James Brown) and you are ready to get your revenge. The main hook of the game though is the ability to turn songs on your iPod into Tune Troopers which are a kind of summon magic to help you out in battles.

Using what can be only described as some form of black magic, Song Summoner takes your selected tunes and turns them into a host of different characters. There are five different classes of potential Tune Troopers, Mage, Knight, Monk, Archer and Soldier. The song you choose has effects on the starting stats of the Trooper, these base stats can be upgaded over the course of the game by collecting and using Pitch Pearls. Every so often when creating your Troopers the Soul Master will pop up giving you a chance to make a special character, this involves him giving you some set criteria to stick to. Criteria such as choosing a long song or picking a tune with the word love in the title will lead to more powerful and often one of a kind Troopers to play with.

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To be honest I’ve not played much of the story yet as I find the draw to making better Tune Troopers just too much to resist. While the fighting is great fun it would have just made the game a notch better if the intro to the song you used for your summoned in Trooper played at least for a bit. If you have an iPod and a spare £3.99 you could do a lot worse than this little JRPG.

Let’s Talk With PopCap

As many people who visit Hi-Score know, I am a huge fan of PopCap and everything they do. Most recently Peggle and Plants Vs Zombies have stolen far too much of my time and I think my Wife is becoming a PopCap Widow. I’m very lucky to have a great relationship with the guys and girls over at PopCap, So I took the opportunity to conduct a little interview.
A few of your questions were asked, some were answered and some were not. Read on to find out more…..

Thanks for putting aside some time for me, first off, could you introduce yourself to our readers and tell us what you do for Popcap?

My name is Cathy Orr and I’m European PR Director at PopCap Games

Most people who have played ANY Popcap game are instantly smitten with the gameplay, what do you think is the secret of success in the popularity of your games?

In the early days, PopCap’s founders used a ‘mum test’ to gauge a games’ potential. They would sit their moms down in front of a game in Alpha or early Beta stage, and leave them there. If the moms were still playing 30 minutes later, the company co-founders knew they were headed in the right direction.
If you make games that moms find appealing, without actually building “games for moms,” you’re off to a good start.

We begin by asking: “Do WE like playing this game? Is it adversely affecting productivity because everyone in the office is playing it all the time? Good – that’s an excellent sign!”

PopCap spends a lot of time enhancing the casual game experience – prioritising a superior design process and spending about twice the time developing and polishing each game. It is expensive but results in extremely high quality games that set PopCap’s top titles apart from other casual games and make them truly special and memorable – and hopefully nearly infinitely replayable!

A lot of Popcaps games are highly addictive and playable, obviously you must playtest these titles with different demographics, What goes into that process?

As mentioned before, PopCap’s three founders started with just three Beta testers – their mothers. Today, they have a slightly larger pool of 200 employees to test the games on an ongoing basis.

In addition, we have 200+ customers who we’ve recruited as beta testers…long-standing fans of our games who’ve shown an aptitude for critiquing our games effectively after playing them thoroughly. A few months before a new game launches, we provide these beta testers with advance access to the new game, with strict confidentiality/secrecy enforced: those testers are not allowed to say anything about the upcoming game publicly, but have 24/7 access to private message boards where they provide feedback and discuss the game with other testers as well as our QA and dev staff.
As the game is refined and polished, those testers gain access to increasingly more complete/final builds of the game, until the game launches officially.

Being that most of your games are picked up by people in the “casual” market, how much has the social network era helped?
Particularly with sites like Facebook?

Social networking is one of the hot topics in the casual games space right now and we’re only really beginning conversations about how it can best serve the industry and grow the casual game player base. Sure, there is a level of organic growth that has happened with more instantaneous communications but I think there’s still a lot more to come – right now we’re seeing the tip of what could be a very large iceberg.

In terms of Facebook specifically, once again the casual opportunities here are still in the process of being revealed. As part of a grassroots experiment, PopCap launched a game called Bejeweled Blitz on Facebook
early this year. It was launched primarily for PopCap employees but has made itself a number of friends on the social networking site so it will be interesting to see what happens next.

How important is the iPhone to Popcap? Your games seem perfectly suited for handheld gaming on the fly.

PopCap makes gamers out of non-gamers. We believe that EVERYONE is potentially a player of casual games – though broken down, different audience segments will play at different times, in different places and,
therefore, on different platforms. PopCap aims to reach as many customers as possible by building game experiences that uniquely leverage the characteristics and capabilities of each platform. This multiplatform strategy means every platform – whether PC/Mac, online, mobile, iPhone, PDAs, iPod, consoles – is important as it serves to reach a different audience segment.

In terms of iPhone specifically, this platform is responsible for a lot of industry buzz as it redefines the parameters of mobile gaming and serves to open the industry to discover new and exciting ways to have fun on the go. PopCap have launched a number of titles for iPhone already – we have recently learned that Bejeweled 2 is the #4 paid for application of all time in the Apple app store! Plus our other titles, Bookworm and most recently, Peggle are getting fantastic reviews. So absolutely it’s a very exciting platform for PopCap.

I think it’s safe to say that Popcap has had plenty of success recently with Peggle, how surprised were you with it’s success and the coverage through the specialist press?

We at PopCap are delighted that Peggle has been received so well by such a broad audience, and we’re really proud of the game. Peggle’s sales have been growing steadily since release and the game continues to find new fans with its launch onto new platforms – most recently DS, iPhone and XBLA.

Peggle combines elements of pinball, pool and pachinko to create a completely different kind of casual game that plays with the casual games genre. Peggle is famed for its character and colour – this, coupled with almost limitless gameplay, will appeal to the casual game audience of ‘everyone’ – from teenagers and parents to Grandparents.
Peggle is as accessible and fun from the very start – you can be enjoying the game within fifteen seconds of launching it but, unlike other classic casual games, Peggle is very ‘deep’ and continues to surprise and amaze you even after 100 or 500 hours of playing! To that same point, a casual gamer can play Peggle in a relatively “relaxed” way, just enjoying the sights and sounds while proceeding through the relatively easy Adventure mode of the game. But “hardcore” gamers have discovered that Peggle can be played in a “serious” way, applying a healthy dose of strategy with pinpoint accuracy to accomplish all sorts of achievements in the game. It’s this ability to straddle both sides of the gaming fence that makes Peggle – and others of our games, including Zuma and Plants vs. Zombies – so broadly appealing.

Whilst we’re on the subject of Peggle, Do you have any plans to add a level editor to any
future updates or iterations of the franchise? (Asked by Sam in London)

We tend not to talk about future plans as a company policy so you’ll just have to watch this space!

Still on Peggle but also linked to other franchises, Where do you get the inspiration for the characters in your games? They have such an endearing quality. (Asked by Paul in Wickford, Essex)

We originally thought Peggle might have just one character, and use different types of pegs to represent each power up as this seemed to be the easiest approach. At the same time, we were struggling for a theme,
and it was really hard to come up with something we thought would tie the game together.
The idea of the kung-fu school metaphor came up over beers at a local pub e.g. how about a School of Peggle, with Peggle Masters as the characters teaching the player? That really fit well with the game mechanic and overall flow since you could learn a lot of strategies and hone your skills over time to become a Master yourself.
It took a while to come up with 10 characters that fit with the powers we chose. Walter Wilson painted some fabulous character portraits that were so full of life, it didn’t take long to create personas around
them. We actually ended up nixing a lot of extra back story about each character that had been written, mostly because we found it ended up interrupting the flow of the game.

This will be a tough one for you, one of our readers would like to know why there are such differences between pricing for your games?
Peggle for instance is $20 from popcap.com (PC), $10 from steam (PC), $10 on Xbox Live Arcade (360), and just $4.99 for the iPhone/iPod versions.
Then the DS version, which started at $30 dollars and is now reduced to $20. (Asked by Jason in Texas)

Pricing for PopCap games is largely left to the the discretion of our partners and PopCap can’t control pricing for our products through most distribution channels – online or retail. Therefore most casual games, sold by PopCap or other companies, will have varying prices by distributor. Similarly, support, additional game information, extras, etc. will vary by sales channel.

Moving on to your latest success, Plants vs Zombies is taking the gaming world by storm.
First off, congratulations on it’s success, It seemed like a very bold move using Zombies in such a “family friendly” genre being tower defence, was there a worry that it might not “catch on” with regular PopCap gamers?

The goal was to take the tower defense standards and simplify them down to the point that almost anyone could pick up and play. Tower defense games as a whole aren’t necessarily for everyone, but Plants vs. Zombies is. It’s easy enough for someone with no knowledge of gaming to pick up but yet, has enough strategic depth to keep a hardcore gamer thoroughly entertained.

With Peggles success, there ended up being a crossover with Half Life on steam, Will we see a cross over between Plants Vs Zombies and Left4Dead? (If not, you should, But we want
royalties, lol)

Given the casual nature of the industry, we’re all friends and ideas often grow organically out of industry friendships and, as game development should, having FUN. In the case of Peggle, we heard that Peggle was all the rage at the Valve offices. We even got a few emails and calls from Valve staffers pleading for tips on beating some of the more difficult challenges.
At the same time, we were hearing other anecdotal evidence that while there were a lot of hardcore gamers
getting into Peggle. The Peggle theme had always been tongue-in-cheek for PopCap – though obviously doesn’t come across that way to everyone.
We proposed the idea of a special free version for Steam players only, using our characters in Half-Life 2 themed backdrops. We figured no one could resist a game with a machine gun toting unicorn. Valve loved the
idea. And it grew from there.

I don’t have any confirmation on similar plans for PvZ, I’m afraid…you’ll just have to watch this space!

If I don’t ask this, I’ll get hunted down……When will we see Plants Vs Zombies on iPhone and/or DS? It seems like such an easy translation? (Asked by, Well, Everyone)

If I even hazard an uninformed guess, I will get hunted down! PopCap tend not to announce forthcoming launches as a company policy and I don’t have any confirmed plans for this at present. It’s fair to say
that the game’s tremendous initial success is very encouraging in this regard – we’re now starting to explore which platforms lend themselves to adaptations of Plants vs. Zombies – but we haven’t yet made any final
decisions.

Lastly, What’s the future for Popcap?

As you know, we at PopCap are of the opinion that that everyone is a potential player of casual games. We make games that appeal to everyone and anyone – commuters, office workers, families – as well as hardcore
gamers. To reach these diverse audiences, our overriding mission at PopCap has to be to have our games in as many different places, and on as many platforms, as possible – to make them accessible to this
audience of ‘everyone’.

I’d like to thank Cathy for taking some time to sit down and talk to us. I’m sure we’ll see PvZ launched on iPhone, So don’t be disheartened that it wasn’t confirmed.
I hope you enjoyed this interview, I hope to arrange more in the future.

Peggle XBLA

Anyone who follows Hi-Score will know what a huge fan of Peggle I am and after I wrote my recent feature on the franchise, the XBLA version arrived on the marketplace for me to wallow in.
Peggle with Achievements, I was due to be in Heaven. I knew my only real concern was going to be the control system, as I’ve mentioned before a mouse feels like the best input method to play.

I’ll have to admit, after throwing my 800 points at Microsoft and impatiently waiting for it to download, I was not disappointed with this version of Peggle.
Nothing much has changed from the PC version of peggle other than crisp HD visual on a big screen TV.
All of the original Peggle levels are here as well as challenges and Duel modes. As nothing much has changed from the gameplay I’ll concentrate on the control system for a while.

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The analogue stick on the 360 pad feel very comfortable to use, due to it’s sensitivity, you can control the aim in smaller fractions by holding the shoulder buttons or using the D-pad. The A button shoots, X speeds up time if you’re waiting for that perfect shot and Y replays your shot, which is helpful for readjusting your shots.
I was pleasantly surprised with the control system, in fact I found the game slightly easier to play on the pad, maybe that’s just the fact that I’m more of a console gamer anyway.

Another thing that this version of Peggle has going for it is XBOX LIVE.
With LIVE support for Duel Mode and Party play, Having the stability and chat options of LIVE, Playing Peggle online is an absolute joy.
The traditional Duel mode sees you and your opponent playing on the same board fighting it out to score more points than each other. You can choose any of the characters you’ve unlocked from the adventure mode, So character selection is key to playing.

Party mode is a bit more laid back than Duel. You each play on your own screen on the same level and again battle for the highest score. A nice feature of party mode is a press of the Y button will show you the other players screens so you can see how they’re getting on.
The only minor downside to the online side if Peggle is a delay between your opponents shot happening on their screen and you seeing it on your screen. So when the other player is cheering or groaning at their shot, you’re wondering what’s going on the whole time, You’ll only find out five to ten seconds later.
But this is a very small gripe at an otherwise solid multi player aspect.

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If you own an XBOX 360 and you’re after a great puzzler, you can’t go wrong with Peggle.
The achievements are fun and mixed between easy ones to pick up for a beginner, all the way to really tough ones that will have Peggle masters scratching their heads.
It took me around 5 hours to complete the adventure mode, which is good considering how many times I’ve played Peggle. With plenty of challenges to keep you going after the adventure mode, the online gameplay and DLC coming in the future, Peggle certainly has long legs.
A must buy on XBLA.

Hi-Score- Great gameplay, tight controls, longevity
Lo-Score- Delays in Multi player modes.

Final Score- 9 out of 10

Do you Peggle?

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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