Remember when people used to play games on their PC? When they were simple enough you could explain the concepts to someone who had no knowledge of gaming? (and no, before anyone asks, I’m not talking about World of Warcraft or Counter Strike!) What I’m talking about are flash games. The games on websites you used to go on as a kid during IT without the teacher noticing. The games that you didn’t have to pay a huge amount (or at all) for. One such game that had such humble beginnings is Pop Cap’s casual puzzle game; Peggle.
Originally released back in 2007 for windows, Peggle kind of came out of nowhere. Clearly taking inspiration of the popular Japanese gambling pastime of Pachinko, Peggle is a seemingly simple puzzle game that takes hold of you and strangely never lets go. The goal; to collect and hit all of the orange coloured pegs scattered about the screen while trying to boost your score by hitting enough pegs in one ‘life’ to increase your multiplier and get a ‘free ball’ . Now, lining up your shots is key here because much like a pinball machine you only have a set number of balls until you run out, as well as having to deal with an excessive number of blue pegs blocking your path. Not only that but because of the way some of the later levels are laid out you may find yourself needing to make some tricky shots by bouncing your ball off a wall or even off of other pegs. Sounds pretty simple right? Wrong.
It can be one of the most frustrating and intense games known to man. Countless times I’ve only needed to hit one orange peg for my aim to be slightly off and either go straight past it or for me to hit a blue peg gravitating around it. That brings me on to the vamp up in complexity of the levels. As you progress through the game the pegs don’t actually stay static, they can rotate and move around the screen, meaning you have to take more time and care over your shots. However, scattered throughout the ‘board’ are other coloured pegs that are there to help you fulfil your goal; Purple pegs, which crank up your score which gets your multiplier closer to a ‘free ball’, as well as the all-important Green pegs which let you use your chosen ‘masters’ ability.
The abilities at work here are quite inventive and bizarre and most certainly give you that edge needed to complete some of the tougher levels. For example, the first master you get to use in the adventure mode is a unicorn named Bjorn, whose ability lets you see the trajectory of your ball once it hits a peg informing and leading you into situations where if you have two red pegs on completely opposite sites, you can possibly line up a shot to get them both in one. That’s only the start! The further into the game you get some of the masters and their powers get quite strange; including a magician Rabbit who, when you manage to hit a green peg, pulls up a type of wheel of fortune, where you can either unlock triple points for a set number of balls or even a magic hat… Yes, you read that right, a magic hat! Said hat expands the radius of the ball leading to situations where it hits any peg it passes on the way down.
Once going through all of the stages and unlocking all of the masters, you then have the option to go back and play any level with any master giving you the option of beating a high score or unlocking and completing a challenge that wasn’t previously obtainable.
If you ever get your fill of just trying to beat your own high score or challenges, there is local and online multiplayer to test your skills at. Here they work pretty much as how you’d expect with local being a turn based game in which you and the person you’re playing with try to compete in hitting a red peg, fail and you get deducted 25% of your score, succeed and your giving your opponent less pegs to aim at. You’d be surprised how competitive this can get. The online portion comes with a bit more variety, giving you another option in which you can face off against three other players across the world at the same time, each having their own board and master to play with trying to outplay and out score each other.
In the end I can’t really say anything bad about Peggle and that’s a good thing! Okay yes there are frustrating moments to be had, but there’s also great fun and accomplishment as well. Whether it be solo, online, or couch cooperative, Peggle is an addictive and an extremely easy game to pick up and play, not because of any dumbed down mechanics or it’s lack of any form of story, but because it’s genuinely entertaining. From the humble beginnings of a small flash game on the PC to a release and sequel on the Xbox Live Arcade, if you’re looking for a quick, easy puzzle game to get in to, you definitely can’t go wrong with Peggle.