Publisher: EA | Developer: Popcap Games
Oftentimes, a sequel will come in for criticism for failing to offer any substantial innovations over its predecessor. That’s a criticism that could be levelled at Peggle 2, were it not for the fact that the promise of ‘more of the same’ is such tantalising prospect for any Peggle veteran. Peggle 2 retains the core features that made the first game such a joy, from its innocent humour and endearing sense of fun, through to its endorphin-inducing score tallying crescendos and oddly compelling balance between skill and luck. As such, Peggle 2 is an absolute pleasure to play and a game that will often have you deciding to have ‘one more go’.
The appeal of Peggle is hard to quantify for someone not familiar with the series and, indeed, it probably doesn’t sound as enthralling on paper as it is in practice. You’ll be presented with a screen populated with blue and orange pegs and you’ve got a finite number of balls to fire from the top of the screen to take out the pegs as it cascades down. Clear out all the orange pegs and you’ve completed the stage. That’s Peggle. If you’ve not played the first iteration of Peggle and that sounds a bit boring, you’ll have to trust us when we say it’s quite the opposite.
That’s in no small part down Peggle 2’s wonderful sound design and visual flair. The escalating pitch of plinks and plonks as your ball gradually tumbles to the bottom of the screen; the zap that accompanies a successful skill shot; the beatific choral call that signals that you’ve earned a free ball – these are the moments that lend Peggle 2 its unique character and that create the constant sense of reward and satisfaction that makes you want to keep playing. If you can finish a level of Peggle 2, be subjected to the visual and aural onslaught that accompanies the totting up of your score – including a headbanging unicorn, fireworks, rainbows, stars and a triumphant rendition of Ode To Joy – and not raise the faintest of smiles, not feel the tiniest spark of elation, then we’re sad to report that you’ve got a cold, cold heart, because the problem certainly doesn’t lie with the eminently charming Peggle 2.
One of the things that made the original Peggle so great was the way that the game catered to both casual and more hardcore players, and in that respect, Peggle 2 is no different. Part of the reason the game is able to do this is to be found in Peggle’s DNA – the basic aim of clearing the orange pegs from a level is something that almost any player can deal with, but once Peggle gets its hooks in, meeting that simple objective is no longer enough. Indeed, once you’ve been through Peggle 2’s Adventure mode, it almost becomes a different game. Now the game’s not just about clearing out the orange pegs – it’s about clearing out all the pegs. You’ll find yourself restarting levels after pulling off a shot that doesn’t meet your lofty standards. You’ll start experimenting with the various special shot abilities on offer to work out how they can be best exploited to rack up maximum points. That Peggle 2 can offer genuine challenge and reward for those who want it, while still being accessible to more casual players, is a wonderful thing.
Peggle 2’s trial stages means that the game may even be better in bridging that skill gap than its predecessor. Each trial tasks the player with meeting a very specific objective, some of which are very tricky indeed. Not only do these trials offer an additional challenge for players looking to have their skills tested, they’re also very deliberately structured to teach newer players how to become Peggle experts. Some tasks, for example, will show Peggle newbies how to get style points, but they also make clear the importance of doing so when you’re chasing high scores. The same goes for using the special abilities of the various Peggle masters you unlock throughout the game – trial stages demonstrates how best to make use of these special shots and in what situations they are most effective. For that reason, trial stages are not only a welcome addition to the main game, but an excellent way of enhancing your understanding and ability to play it.
Peggle 2 is an expertly crafted puzzle game. Whether you’re a newcomer or a grizzled veteran, Peggle 2 is designed in such a way that it has plenty to offer for all players. The only glaring omission from Peggle 2 is a local multiplayer mode, though PopCap has said that this will be coming via free DLC. Peggle 2 doesn’t make any effort to overhaul the formula established in the original game, but that doesn’t mean it’s not loveable, challenging and intensely rewarding.