Sukhbir Sidhu, Studio Director over at Pop Cap, recently compared Peggle to Criterion’s acclaimed racing franchise Burnout. It might sound like an unlikely coupling, but in truth it couldn’t be fairer.
In Peggle the goal is simple; clear a board of twenty-five orange pegs with ten balls. You fire a ball from the top of the screen and watch as it bounces through different patterns of blue, orange, pink, and green pegs. Each stage, of which there are fifty-five, is clear once all twenty-five orange pegs have been hit. Blue pegs make up the majority of board and offer points, pink pegs increase the value of other pegs, and green pegs activate whichever power your chosen character yields.
The Burnout effect comes into play with the various ‘style shots’ attainable. Sliding the ball across a line of bricks scores you an ‘Extreme Slide’, netting an unlikely shot across the board rewards a ‘Long Shot’, catch two Spooky Balls in the ever-sliding bucket caressing the foot of the screen to ‘Spooktacular’ effect – all fusing together into a final conclusive level score. At first this just makes it fun, but later upon return they become vital to achieving the highest score, or clearing the board entirely.
Adventure Mode sees you through eleven chapters, each with five levels. A first play through introduces you to the ten Peggle Masters each harnessing their own special power, Lord Cinderbottom, a dragon, has the ability to launch a fireball through the board, capturing all pegs in the fiery path, Renfield, a pumpkin, adds another ball to the blend. None of them feel overpowering and they all add a tactical edge to completing each level.
After completing the Adventure Mode Challenge Mode is unlocked which pits you against increasingly tough, to the point of torturously difficult, levels. This, along with the challenge of clearing each level entirely, or beating a leaderboard high score, or just the effortless joy and unlikely warm sensation that accompanies success means replay value is abundant.
Peggle has no right to be as addictive as it is. The constant pitch increasing beep beep beep as the ball hits a new peg, the slow motion zoom that initiates as the ball nears the final orange glow, the unlikely tension as it bounces on the bucket lip, only to decide that yes you do deserve another shot. It’s all so minute, yet without one small feature, Peggle might not be quite so easy to sit in front of hour after hour.
At heart, the unparalleled simplicity of firing a ball into a wall of pegs and watching eagerly as it springs and ricochets across the screen makes Peggle as entertaining as any of the best Arcade games. Its genius however, stems from its ability to make the most pleasurable features those that also make it the most addictive. The score multipliers that at first make the luck of the bounce so tense are later strived for to clear the board and achieve the highest score. It’s accessible to everybody and, when you get right down to it, Peggle hits all the right notes regardless of whether you devote hours or just minutes to it’s bouncing bliss.