I have to admit that if it wasn’t for the free ten level version of Peggle called “Peggle Extreme” that is available on STEAM I would never have given Peggle a second glance. After rapidly working my way through Peggle Extreme I knew I had no choice but to get my hands on Peggle Deluxe, the 55 level commercial version of the game. Popcap has proven themselves to be masters of the casual games arena, most notably in the puzzle genre, but with Peggle DX they have outdone themselves.
Like all great puzzle games the idea behind Peggle is so simple you’ll at first wonder how on Earth it could be any challenge. Heavily inspired by Japanese “Pachinko” machines each board in Peggle has a certain number of coloured pegs on it arranged according to the lines of the whimsical background image. The blue pegs are just there as obstacles, but the orange ones need to be cleared to complete the level. The catch is you have to launch your ball from the top of the screen and any pegs it hits as it ricochets around the board gets cleared away. Once the ball falls down the bottom of the screen its gone, unless it lands in the “ball catcher” that systematically moves back and forth. Since you have no control over the ball catcher and only have a limited amount of balls (usually ten) you can see where things start to get tricky.
The gameplay is so involving that initially you’ll just be launching the ball directly at random nearby orange pegs in order to clear it, but once you have your head wrapped around the concept you’ll be using the blue pegs to bounce the ball off in order to hit as many orange pegs as possible on the way down and hopefully land in the ball catcher thus netting yourself an extra shot.
To help you out a bit there are ten “Peggle Masters” each with their own special powers that are activated when you hit one of two green pegs that are randomly placed on each board. Some will show you the angle your ball will bounce while others might give you pinball flippers at the bottom of the screen or even blow up nearby pegs. They all have very limited uses, though, so don’t always count on them to get you out of a jam. Getting a very high score on a single shot will also net you a extra ball and when your ball goes off the screen you have a fifty percent chance of getting a retry ball, but all in all you need to plan your shots very carefully in order to get the most out of them.
The graphics are very basic and feature all kinds of unicorns, sunflowers, cats and other things that hardcore gamers wouldn’t want to be seen dead playing with but if you can overlook the cartoony, childish visuals you will find a game that is very challenging not to mention supremely addictive. In fact the game is so addictive that a special version was even included within the popular online RPG World Of Warcraft in order to keep players hooked. The audio is pretty low-key apart from the song “Ode to joy” that comes blaring out of the speakers when you hit the last orange peg on a level and the game goes into fever mode. During this time you have no direct control over the action apart from hoping your ball falls down the bucket with the highest point value that appears on the bottom of the screen.
Fifty five levels might sound like a lot, but Peggle is a victim of its own addictive gameplay and can easily be finished in a single day. At least the Adventure mode that is. Challenge mode should last quite a bit longer and then of course there is the duel mode where you can play against another player or a CPU opponent in a shot for shot contest to get the highest score. For casual players and puzzle fans Peggle DX is a no-brainer and even hardcore gamers brave enough to try out a game that looks like this might find themselves drawn into its addictiveness.
*Review originally published 2008.