The ultimate in mindless entertainment
If you are a Giantbomb reader and you are reading this review, then chances are, you aren't what could be termed a "casual gamer". You know the "casual gamers" -- they are the housewives playing Tetris and the frat boys who occasionally play Madden with their buddies. If you do not fall into one of these categories, however, you still may enjoy Peggle. It is the ultimate in casual, mindless entertainment. It is very easy to pick up and play, requires little attention or thought while you are playing it, can be enjoyed by playing for just a few minutes, and includes plenty of rewards in the form of eye candy and cool noises. If you would like a break from your Half-Lifes and Grand Theft Autos, then Peggle is a good buy at a budget price.
Peggle is a game that is about 80% luck, and 20% skill. The gameplay is very simple. You just shoot a ball out of a launcher, and the ball bounces around, taking out pegs in the meantime. A catcher at the bottom moves back and forth and catches your ball, if you are lucky. If you clear out all of the orange pegs before your balls run out, then that means you have finished the level. The game then rewards you with the sounds of fireworks and Beethoven's "Ode to Joy". You accumulate points by pulling off tricks and combos such as the "long shot", which is where the ball hits one orange peg and then bounces and hits another orange peg across the screen. There are also two green pegs on each level, and these represent power-ups. When you knock them out, you temporarily unlock some special abilities, like a wider ball catcher or a big fireball that shoots through pegs instead of unlocking them.
There isn't a lot of skill to Peggle, because it is almost impossible to figure out where the ball will bounce once it hits the first or second peg. Stringing together long sequences and big points scores is more a matter of luck than anything. However, there is a little bit of skill and strategy. You can choose when you want to target green pegs for optimal effect, and you can shoot the ball into an area where a lucky sequence is most likely to occur. For the most part though, it has less skill to it than pinball. This isn't a problem, if that is what you are looking for. For me, Peggle is a good game that I can play while also socializing with my family, and my wife loves it (My wife is the ultimate casual gamer. She is a big fan of flash games on Facebook and other games like Bejeweled).
When it comes to its presentation, Peggle is like junk food for the eyes and ears. It has all sorts of bright colors and special effects when you pull off special tricks or unlock a power-up. These little touches are surprisingly enticing and satisfying. They help give the game its lasting value, since each little triumph like clearing a bunch of orange pegs in a row or earning a free ball always has a reward.
There are fifty levels in "Adventure" mode, and in those fifty levels there are ten different types of green pegs. The levels provide a lot of replayable, simplistic fun. There are some bonus levels after that, where you can use any power-up that you want. I'm not much of a casual gamer, and I hope that the industry doesn't move any more towards casual games, but I am pleasantly surprised by Peggle. If you approach the game with an open mind and you can acknowledge it for the mindless fun that it is, then you will probably enjoy it.