theuselessgod's Peggle Deluxe (PC) review

The only prescription is more fever.

The Short

Pros

- Fun, addicting game that is both like pinball and plinko while being neither

- Has probably the best visual/audio feedback for winning in a game, ever

- Tons of different animals with a variety of powerups

- Large number of bonus stages after beating the main game

- Fantastic for a mobile iOS or Android device

Cons

- Heavily based on randomness

- Some stages can feel unfair due to random powerup layouts, ball behavior, etc.

- So addicting you might forget to do other things. Like eat. Or sleep.

It's time for another game about balls!

The Long

There's something about PopCap games that make you forget to do important things, some of which are necessary for daily survival. What, make dinner? I can just eat chips and dip; I'm sure I'll get hungry later. What, sleep? Eh, I wasn't going to fall asleep before 2:00 am anyway. What, breathe? Well, your skin absorbs some oxygen, I'm sure my lungs will figure something out if it's really necessary. And so on.

Peggle might be the worst offender at soul-sucking time wasting out of all of PopCap's games. Yes, even worse than Bejeweled. Essentially a simple physics game with hardly any depth to speak of, Peggle still manages to suck you in with its colorful visuals, great sound effects and music, and the "one more try" or "one more level" problem that makes it so gamers forget to bathe. And eat. And breathe.

So...let's take a look at one of the most addicting games of all time. And no, I'm not talking about World of Warcraft.

They actually put Peggle IN World of Warcraft. As if you needed another excuse to never get off your computer.

Peggle is a very simple game that pretends it has strategy, when really it requires a hefty dose of luck. Essentially, each level you are presented with a game board that has strategically placed pegs and blocks scattered about (usually in some form of artistic pattern matching a theme). Of these, a good chunk will be colored orange. Your mission (and you'll choose to accept it, until 3:00 in the morning) is to knock out all the orange pegs with the balls allotted. You shoot it from the top of the screen, and it goes bouncing around like the Plinko game from The Price is Right.

Drew Carry, your career has really gone downhill.

It holds a few tricks. On the bottom of the screen is a container that goes back and forth; manage to land the ball in that and you get a free ball. The more orange pegs that are hit or gone increase a combo meter, which subsequently gives you more points and if you earn a set number of points with a single ball you'll earn another extra ball. Lastly, each stage has two green pegs that provide power-ups based on your character of choice. This can include improved targeting, making the container that moves around the bottom bigger, flippers like a pinball machine, etc. But you'll just always use the dragon's "Fireball" powerup, because it is easily the best.

You may have zen, owl, but you lack the dragon's firepower. Literally. Firepower. HA.

This concept may sound stupidly simple, and that's because it is. Some pegs move about in set patterns, stages get harder quick, but overall the game's simplicity never changes. Orange and green pegs are randomized even on the same stages, meaning no two games are exactly the same. In time you figure out the physics well enough to calculate to the second or maybe third bounce, but after that it's all luck of the draw.

So how on earth does a game with such a random element work? Well...without dissecting it beyond what is necessary (read: at all) it's the mix of an illusion of control and belief that skill will sway the results along with the random results that keeps you playing. Being able to think you are actually improving (and you do...though you hit a ceiling after a very short amount of time) keeps you going, the new power-ups helping with that as well, but the crazy randomness gives you the idea that "next game will go better." If it were pure skill it would be stressful, and if it were pure randomness it wouldn't have a point. The mix here is a slippery slope, but Peggle pulls it off perfectly.

Then this happens.

What sells the game, however, it its over-the-top, overly rewarding aesthetic. The game gives you bonus points for just about anything, from long shots to trick shots to just generally doing stuff that it thinks is cool. And by "doing stuff" I mean "having stuff happen randomly 90% of the time." The flashy, crazyness reminds me of the allure of well-made pinball machines, but all this pales when compared to what happens when you are down to the last orange peg. Every shot towards it will cause the camera to zoom in for a crazy slo-mo shot, way more intense than should be allowed for a game about shooting balls at pegs. If you miss a crowd goes "awww..." but if you hit the thing it EXPLODES and "EXTREME FEVER" blasts across the screen, on fire, while a wild version of "Ode to Joy" choruses into your ears. It's...totally bananas.

YOU WIN. CAN YOU TELL?

Honestly, even people who don't like Peggle (all four of you) remember this stage finale, that happens every time you win. While it's overexaggurated to the point of parody, there's no denying there's some sort of euphoric elation and sense of accomplishment every time stupid "Ode to Joy" starts swelling from my speakers. Like the massive amounts of positive feedback the game gives you, this game-ending blast of orchestration is so absurd yet rewarding you want to see each stage to an end, just to hear the song and see the rainbows and explosions again.

You got a lot of characters, but Cinderbottom is the only one you need.

Seeing as this is a PopCap puzzle game, it is also loaded to the brim with bonus content. The single-player is reasonably long as you go through a variety of stages with all ten characters, each level tailored to their unique skills. After that you can replay any stage with a character of your choosing, making some much easier and others harder. You have challenges where they put more orange pegs on the same maps, as well as a handful of other levels that also include challenges. Duel mode allows you to play back and forth with a friend or bot to compete for score, though the addition of the massive bonus pool if you get Extreme Fever by hitting the last peg makes it kind of really unbalanced.

As stated, the graphics and sound are cartoony and simple, but work because they are so visually appealing. It's hardly a graphical powerhouse, but the absurd levels of particle effects, explosions, and rainbows are enough to make your eyes bleed.

I am the king of Peggle.

Is Peggle worth looking into? Well, that depends on how much you hate having free time. Despite it's simplicity, PopCap continues to pander digital crack in the form of their casual games, and Peggle is no exception. It's out on pretty much everything (game consoles, phones, World of Warcraft, you name it) and due to its simplistic nature runs well on all devices as well. Considering the iOS version is only $2, I'd suggest picking it up on that platform personally, though the Steam version also has a tendency to go on sale.While it's easy to dismiss Peggle as a stupid game, it is actually quite a bit of fun in an addicting, somewhat shallow way. Regardless, it's the packaging and the experience that totally sells it, so if you are ready to take the plunge hold your breath and dive in.

Just remember to come up for air. Literally.

Four out of five stars.

Thanks, hippie.

More at http://nathanvsvideogames.blogspot.com

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