Years ago, the puzzle genre was dominated by Tetris, Dr. Mario and all of their variations. Those games still hold up brilliantly despite their age, but now, the genre is seeing a bit of a renaissance. Games like Katamari Damcy, Lumines and Bejeweled have been the kings of puzzles in recent years, and the developers of the latter game have crafted another far too addictive game in Peggle Deluxe. This just further cements PopCap’s reputation as an enormous hindrance to productivity.
Peggle blends the aiming of Puzzle Bobble/Bust-a-Move with the randomness of The Price is Right’s Plinko. Each level contains a unique design of pegs, and by aiming the ball and firing, a peg is lost on contact as the ball bounces down into oblivion. Once all the orange pegs are eliminated, the level is complete. There are only ten balls to start with, but by scoring a certain amount of points in each shot or by landing in the moving bucket at the bottom of the screen, a new ball is gained. There’s no time limit or sense of urgency, so there’s an opportunity to aim carefully on every shot. Like most puzzle games, Peggle is incredibly easy to grasp, but mastering the game requires plenty of practice. Unfortunately, it also requires far too much luck, which is something that prevents the game from becoming truly special.
“Peggle requires just a bit more luck than other games”In the different modes, there’s a variety of cutesy characters to choose from, such as Cat Tut and Lord Cinderbottom, and each has their own special move that levels the playing field. Hitting one of the rare green pegs on each stage enables the move, which ranges from pinball-style flippers to extra balls. My particular favorite is the Zen Ball of Master Hu. The shot is automatically aimed into a better one, and watching the ball masterfully move from one crucial peg to another while racking up tons of points is a joy to watch.
The heart of the game is the Challenge mode, where there are dozens of goals ranging from bagging a certain score to beating a level with only one ball (an addictive yet aggravating experience). It could take ages, depending on skill level, to complete some of these challenges. Less time-consuming is the Adventure mode, which is essentially an expansive tutorial through several dozen stages. Duels against the computer or a friend add a few twists to Peggle. Each player takes turns firing their shot, and if none of the orange pegs are hit, then 25 percent of the points are lost. It’s great fun and can prove very competitive, but sadly there is no online play, rankings or anything of the like.
While most puzzle games rely heavily on skills (except when waiting for that damn long piece in Tetris), Peggle requires just a bit more luck than other games. The ball always bounces wildly, but that is at least a mostly controllable aspect of the game. Once all the pegs have been cleared, “Extreme Fever” mode begins. A stirring rendition of Ode to Joy blares, and the ball moves in slow motion to one of the five new gaps on the floor. Each of these gaps nets a different amount of points, which can mean the difference between beating an opponent or passing a difficult challenge. Since there’s so little control over this one aspect, all the hard work from a well-played game can go to waste because of the final ball. It’s particularly annoying when playing against a friend and they get to brag because of one poor bounce.
The abundance of luck in the “Extreme Fever” aspect of Peggle Deluxe is frustrating at times, but that doesn’t mean that it’s difficult to spend many hours on this game. There’s just something hypnotic seeing where the ball will go next, the bright colors and the hope that a high score will be broken. It may not be a puzzle game for the ages, but not many games can make time waste away like this one can. I just hope that the American workplace doesn’t get a hold of this game or I fear the economy will worsen even more.
Eight out of ten
- So absurdly addictive it should be illegal
- No online play
- A bit too much luck involved