Review: Have you caught the Peggle Fever?
Peggle is a game that I thought I would never play. I looked at the screenshots, watched a few gameplay videos, and overheard scuttlebutt from friends about its wonders, but the joys of Peggle were lost on this grizzled console veteran. After reluctantly giving the game a chance however, I was immediately grabbed by its undeniable charm. For those of you who haven't yet played it, Peggle is a cross between Pachinko and the ancient arcade classic Breakout. Its gameplay?which relies on both skill and luck equally?is easy to learn but difficult to master, and has become a proven success with both casual and hardcore gamers alike. Now, the phenomenon that has destroyed countless hours of my productivity is finally hitting consoles as Peggle lands on Xbox Live Arcade. Does this port retain the delightfulness of the PC original, or has the merriment been lost in translation?
The core concept of Peggle is simple: aim and fire a ball down at a collection of multi-colored pegs with the goal of eliminating every one of the 25 orange pegs littered about the screen. You are given ten balls at the outset to accomplish this feat, but you have the ability to earn more as you play. Blue pegs, moving obstacles, and walls will try and keep you from clearing all of the orange pegs too quickly, and sage players must learn to study the environment carefully before taking a shot. If you manage to wipe out all of the orange pegs, ?Peggle Fever? explodes into your game, bringing fireworks, orchestral music, and a chance for you to net as much as 50,000 bonus points based on where your final ball lands.
The core single player mode in Peggle is called Adventure, which is a 55 level journey that teaches you the basics of the game while slowly ramping up the difficulty and encouraging you to be more careful with your shot placement. The game is divided into ten different chapters, and each chapter gives you a new character with a unique magic ability to try out. These magic powers are activated by hitting a green peg in-game, and each gives you a special advantage for a limited amount of time. Some of the magic powers that you will unlock include the addition of a second ball to the playing field, a bomb that destroys every peg that surrounds a certain area, and even one that sets your ball on fire. The magic powers?both good and bad?are all fun to utilize in one way or another, and players will surely find one that best suits their play style after a bit of practice.
In addition to Adventure, Peggle also includes a number of other single and multiplayer modes. The Master Duel mode lets you play against an AI opponent on any stage that you have unlocked so far. Challenge mode tasks you with completing certain levels under specific stipulations, and can get quite difficult at times. Dual is a multiplayer mode that has you and a friend taking turns on a level trying to beat each other's score, and this mode can be played both online and locally. Xbox Live Peg Party takes this concept even further by having four players take one shot at a time to try and earn the highest score in the room. You all have the ability to pull up a video window of any other player's screen, allowing you to see exactly where they are aiming their shot or how close they are to clearing the board. This mode can get fiercely competitive, and is a great online multiplayer experience that ends up being almost impossible to put down.
All of the above features would be moot had the controls not survived the transition from mouse to analog stick, but that is thankfully not the case here. Peggle's control has always been simplistic, as this has been an important part of its mass market appeal and success. The Xbox 360 port maintains all of this, as the cannon that you control feels just as smooth and accurate as it did before, and I noticed no difference whatsoever in playing this title on a console. The developer's wisely implemented the ability to slow down the cannon with the touch of a button, letting you line up your shots better and recreating the pixel-perfect aiming that the PC version was famous for.
Like them or not, the super-cute graphics have also survived the translation to this version of Peggle, and they are just as vibrant and flamboyant as ever. The characters that you unlock are woodland creatures that would all fit comfortably into a Disney cartoon, as everyone from Lord Cinterbottom the dragon to Claude the lobster are just as endearing as they have ever been. The art style is so super-saturated and undeniably happy that it is impossible not to smile after seeing something new, and the in-game backgrounds are cleverly integrated with the peg layout of that stage to make each level stand out from one another. The music is very calming and light, merely acting as background filler while you try and map out where to place your shots. The sound effects are mostly made up of xylophone-like tones that play whenever your ball touches a peg, and these manage to be pleasant to the ears and never get annoying despite constant repetition.