What other iPod game features unicorns, rainbows, choirs singing, fireworks, and metal balls?
I'm a big believer that most games, given enough development time or just enough tender-loving-care, can be molded into critical and commercial successes. But many games, no matter how much care went into their design, just can't slide gamers into that blissful positive feedback loop that turns a merely good game into something truly great.
Peggle is one of the few games in recent memory to achieve this feat
The game itself is deceptively simple, and even at high levels of play, success is determined probably more by luck than skill. Peggle is perhaps best described as half pachinko, half Breakout (or Arkanoid, if you prefer). Gamers launch a ball from the top of the screen at an angle of their choosing, into the pattern of pegs below. The ball bounces around, lighting up any pegs it touches, eventually falling out of the bottom of the screen. Each peg the ball touched then disappears, and its up to the gamer to get rid of all the orange pegs on a stage before they run out of balls.
I can pinpoint the exact moment I knew I was addicted. It was just as I was finishing the first level. You see, when you complete a level in Peggle, you're not rewarded with a simple "congratulations!" and a point tabulation. No, when you beat a level in Peggle, the game goes absolutely crazy. There's fireworks, rainbows, the camera zooms in on the ball and goes into slow-mo, a drumroll plays, the words "EXTREME FEVER" flash brightly, and (I swear I'm not making this up), a choir begins singing "Ode to Joy."
This makes you feel like a golden Peggle God, every single time you complete a stage. Don't believe me? Just check out this from the PC release. Keep in mind this shot is just the final cap after clearing a whole level of its pegs. It's so satisfying:
Here's another, just for kicks:
All those effects at the end are just that - effects. The ball doesn't behave any differently when you hit your final peg. It doesn't become bouncier, or floatier, or faster. It's acting the exact same way it would with any of your shots. And that's what makes all the fanfare brilliant. I genuinely believe if Peggle levels ended with the ball just bouncing off the final pegs and falling off the screen as normal, this would not be a 5-star review. It sounds silly, but that level-ending exclamation point keeps you going - that's what puts you into the positive feedback loop I brought up at the top of this review. After beating every level the game is telling you "Wow... you're awesome!" and after a while you really start to believe it.
The game is helped along by a heaping helping of features and modes, to boot. There's an impressive 55 levels to clear, as well as 75 "grand master challenges" that require gamers to revisit levels in an attempt to reach a specific score, clear more pegs than they had to clear before, or clear a level with less balls, etc. Gamers also get to choose from eight power-ups, including the ability to burn through a line of pegs instead of bouncing off them, or the addition of a trajectory guide. A turn-based multiplayer mode with CPU opponents was also included.
The iPod release did remove the replay-saving functionality, and there is the occasional bit of slowdown (especially when playing the CPU), but neither issue matters. The fact is Peggle is addicting as hell, and comes stuffed with enough content to satisfy that addiction for a long, long time. Plus, it's only $5 on iPods - half the price of the PC original, despite containing all the same content.
Peggle is the best dollar-for-dollar gaming value I've experienced all year. Buy it.
What's Hot: Over 120 levels of EXTREME FEVER action
What's Not: Some slowdown. No replay saving.