Call of Duty, Gears of War, Elder Scrolls, there’s always one game series that stands out as being the best of its genre. Those three games are prime examples of games that are not only technically and graphically sublime, but hugely popular. Well, here we have another, the unquestionable kingpin of the often heckled puzzle games genre. If you’re any kind of gamer then you’d already know this, but here it anyway, it’s the heroin of the video game world, yes, it’s Peggle.
It’s been a huge best seller on the PC platform for years, with the game dominating the puzzle genre over on the PC gaming distribution system Steam, but after a while of wondering when it would happen, it happened. Peggle finally came to the Xbox 360. Now, while Peggle has been a feature on the Xbox Live Arcade marketplace for a while now, users are still stumbling upon this little gem. I’m once such user…
You might be forgiven for thinking that Peggle is a casual, casual game. In fact, it can be anything but casual at times, especially when you suddenly realise that it’s 5am and you’ve been Peggling the night away for nigh on ten hours.
If you’re unfamiliar with Peggle, then the game sees you fire a ball into a screen full of colourful pegs. Each peg that your ball hits is removed at the end of the turn, but be careful, you’ll find out in the later rounds that attempting to simply get as many pegs as possible is often an incredibly fatal way of doing things. The orange pegs are your main concern, however. Getting rid of every orange peg will see you progress to the next level, whether there are other coloured pegs still standing or not. Blue pegs give you scores, but can also be used as a kind of ‘lift me up’ in the later rounds, for example, ricocheting off a blue peg in order to get to an orange peg that’s hidden in a very awkward position that your ball wouldn’t be able to reach normally. Along with blue and orange, there are pink pegs, which randomise each turn and give nifty little points boosts.
At the bottom of the screen lies a bucket, it glides uncontrollably from side to side and if your ball falls into it, you’ll not only get a handsome points boost but an extra ball to use as well. Thanks to Peggle’s very intuitive physics system, the ball will often ricochet and bounce off walls erratically, meaning that nine times out of ten, your ball will completely miss the bucket and just fly out of the game. This doesn’t result in a points loss, but you don’t ever get to use that ball again.
A nice little way of getting an extra ball when you need it is by racking up an impressive score of 25,000 in one shot (easier said than done!), a great way of helping you accomplish this feat is to use your character’s special ability. Your character changes throughout the game, it might be a dragon in one round, an alien in the next, and a flying unicorn in the next. Each character has a nice little special ability, and from time to time you’ll be able to use that ability. My favourite ability is that of the dragon, which throws a flaming fireball at the pegs and, instead of bouncing off the pegs, wall and god knows what else, it will simply destroy anything in its path, racking up a neat little score in the process.
Each character must be unlocked by beating their respective sections in Adventure mode. You’ll play a few levels as a dragon, a few as a wise owl and on and on. There are tactical advantages to each character and their special abilities, but no single character or power is better than the other, so it’s all down to personal preference at the end of the day.
Despite being a game that, for the most part, is very simple, it can be trecherously addictive and at times, frustrating. There’s something so satisfactory about racking up points and using a wise owl to throw ‘Zenballs’ all over the place.
As well as Peggle’s Adventure levels (which took my at least six hours to complete!), you can pit your wits against 70+ Challenge levels and the immensely competitive online mode, which will see you pit your wits against many an opponent, some on a PC, some on an Xbox.
If you haven’t gathered by now, I like Peggle a lot, it’s probably the best puzzle game I have ever experienced. Everything is so simply yet so well thought out and polished, right down to the last detail. So if you’ve got 800 MP to burn this festive period, spend them on this little beauty, I’m certain you won’t regret it.
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