Monday, March 23, 2009

Peggle (Live Arcade)

I first played Peggle on the PC, when Valve inexplicably shipped a demo with the Steam release of The Orange Box. At the time I found it strangely addictive; playing it again today, on XBox Live Arcade, very little has changed.

Like most games by developer PopCap, Peggle's premise is simple. Part Breakout, part pachinko, Peggle sees you firing balls from the top of the screen into a field which is densely packed with coloured pegs. You're aiming to hit as many pegs as possible through a clever series of bounces before the inevitable tug of gravity pulls the ball off the bottom of the screen.

As with good games, the simple premise is easy to understand, hard to master. Your task is complicated by the peg colours. Blue pegs rack up points, but bring you no closer to finishing the level. Red pegs are the key to victory - clear them all to finish the level - and the more red pegs you hit, the higher your score multiplier builds, giving you an incentive to clear red clusters early rather than late. A single purple peg roves randomly around the field; hitting it results in a big point boost. And green pegs unleash special abilities ranging from the chaotic Multiball through to the awesome Zen Shot (wherein the computer subtly adjusts your chosen trajectory to maximise your points).

The Live Arcade version of Peggle is much the same as the PC version. The core experience is a direct port from the PC, identical level layouts and all. On the one hand, aiming your shots with the controller is slower and less precise than using a mouse. To compensate, the Live Arcade edition includes additional Challenge Levels, plus a lame multiplayer mode where players take turns firing balls into the same field. On average it seems exactly as fun as the original.

If you haven't played Peggle yet, you really should. Live Arcade makes downloading the free demo a breeze, so check it out and see whether you're one of the many people for whom Peggle is a horrible addictive drug.

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