Ah, young master. I see you are ready to enter the Peggle Institution, yes? Before you lay challenging puzzles, requiring patience and a clear conscience. Be warned, for your path will be a long and arduous one, but help can be found in powers from the ten Peggle Masters to help you on your journey to excellence. Good luck, undergraduate, and may the Zen be with you.
To dismiss Peggle merely as pinball serves the title’s tactical approach and addictive nature a disservice. Whilst the basic mechanics of pinball exist – aiming a ball to hit pegs for points – it is the obstacles and constant time-outs for analysis of the next shot that sets Peggle apart – well apart – from any ball-pinning shenanigans. Few players will come out from the Adventure mode with the same mindset of that when they first started; the various characters referring to it as the “Peggle Institution” hit the nail on the head, for this process serves more as a tutorial than a simple story full of unicorns and bright flashing lights.
The idea is to light up, and thus clear, all the orange pegs and bars on the screen by making contact with them. This is done by firing a ball onto various formations of pegs from above, with blue pegs forming an annoying obstacle to the cause. At the bottom of the screen is a moving basket that will give you another ball if filled; missing the basket loses the ball and fires up another.
“Hearts will sink when all seems lost, only for the sphere to gather inertia from hitting a peg at an angle and rebound off onto another course.”What transforms this dull activity are the various obstacles, or sometimes just the formation of the pegs, that litter the screen. Mobile barber poles and other shapes offer many opportunities to bounce the ball into areas that were otherwise inaccessible, whilst those who “graduate” from the Peggle Institution will have learned to use blue pegs to rebound off. Even the moving basket at the bottom of the screen can, when entered at certain angles, fling the ball back up for another shot at grabbing points and lighting up those orange pegs.
The physics of the ball can, and often will, change a game. Hearts will sink when all seems lost, only for the sphere to gather inertia from hitting a peg at an angle and rebound off onto another course. It’s when lifting up from your seat, willing the ball on, somehow thinking that your own physical encouragement can change the outcome, that you know Peggle has you in its grasp. Those who are familiar with the ways of the ball are patient with the trigger, only firing when the alignment of the direction arrow falls into place – after accounting with several rebounds – with the position of the basket at the bottom of the screen.
It’s impossible to clear all orange pegs and bars with tactical thinking alone. I say impossible, I mean inhuman, for anyone without access to the powers belonging to the Peggle Masters would likely be driven to insanity before too long. The path through the Institution introduces you to each of the ten Masters of the game, each with their own beliefs to what it takes to clear the orange pegs from the board. Jimmy Lightening, a skateboarding hamster with an uncanny likeness to the Disney film Bolt, offers multi-ball play when one of the two green pegs are lit. Lord Cinderbottom, an impatient dragon, grants you a fireball to instantly eat through every peg in its given path. Many people’s favourite Master, including my own, is Master Hu. Being a wise owl, Master Hu practises in the art of Zen, and gaining his power for your next ball sees him deviate your shot slightly onto a better path. Often enough, his vision results in a high yield of points through some lucky bounces and rebounds, or a finish into the basket, both of which gains another free shot.
Once proficient in the art of Peggle, and graduating from the Institution, Challenge mode unlocks, allowing you to undertake some whacky formations of pegs to clear, which will take some considerable time to complete. There’s also Master Duel which pits your skills against those of the masters in a head-to-head battle, in case you weren’t frustrated enough already.
“Lifting up from your seat, willing the ball on, somehow thinking that your own physical encouragement can change the outcome”It’s after these that Peggle Deluxe feels rather light on its feet. Though many hours of fun can be found either online or through a two player duel on the same console, compared to the various PC versions, this Xbox 360 Arcade port lacks content. There could easily be a few more single player challenges, maybe another 100 puzzles perhaps, and the omission of a level editor (and the chance to play other created maps) makes the experience feel restricted. That said, it looks as if there may be more additional content to download in the future, though at a price, no doubt.
Peggle Deluxe is a delight to play and its charms shine throughout. Build-up to a game appears still, and during a stage there’ll be some background music and pings as pegs are hit, but nothing that can be considered anything but tranquil. That is until you get down to your last peg, in which the camera zooms in and time slows to a crawl as the ball makes its way to hitting the final orange peg. At this point, blaring music is played, championing your success, firecrackers shoot up the screen and a brightly coloured rainbow appears with your final score. It’s almost as if the game itself wants to give you a hug and a pat on the back, just rewards for the frustration that can build up when the ball just doesn’t bounce the right way.
For 800 Microsoft points, Peggle Deluxe is a bit pricey for the lack of content available, especially when other titles such as N+ offer so many more puzzles, and a level editor, for the same price. All criticism aside, this is a title that winds away the hours and, for the most part, is a joy to play. What I first considered to be a silly, childish story turned out to be a true portrayal of what most players will go through learning the ways of Peggle, in that you have to be patient, disciplined and sometimes lucky, too.