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Review: Peggle (iPhone)

May 11, 2009

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The most dangerous thing about Peggle addiction? It’s that you don’t even see it coming.

Sure, you might’ve played a couple rounds here and there of Peggle, PopCap‘s fun little peg-shooting puzzler, but it’s easy to shrug it off and get back to being a productive member of society.

But sooner or later, it’s inevitable: You’ve got some free time! You glance around, shrug your shoulders, and decide to pay the Peggle Institute another visit. “What’s the harm in a few more levels?” you ask yourself.

What’s the harm, indeed.

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The symptoms appear swiftly and without mercy. Whenever you close your eyes, you see balls launched with beautiful angles and perfect trajectory, knocking out those few remaining orange pegs and winning the round. You make up voices for the ridiculous menagerie that comprises the Peggle Institute, from Bjorn the unicorn to Jimmy Lightning, the obese, skateboarding beaver. And Beethoven’s Ode to Joy echoes in your head on loop, forever and ever, sunrise to sunset.

Sound terrible? Think again. Peggle addiction is one of the greatest joys that can be experienced in one’s life — or, at the very least, it’s the most fun you’ll probably ever have for under five bucks.

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Colorful pegs come in all shapes and sizes. Green ones activate a Peggle Master's powers, while purple pegs act as score multipliers.

Like all great casual games, Peggle’s got a simple premise. Your mission is to clear each peg-filled screen of all its orange pegs. You’re given ten balls, a launcher, and a few tricks up your sleeve in the form of each Peggle Master’s magic powers. These range from the practical — more precise aiming, multiple balls — to the truly bizarre — pinball flippers and a “spooky ball” that comes back from the dead to drop down the screen a second time.

The game’s adventure mode introduces you to each of the ten Peggle Masters and lets you take their individual powers for a whirl. But the final five levels are a true challenge, requiring you to choose the master’s power you feel is best suited to the puzzle at hand. It’s a prelude to the game’s Challenge mode, which is unlocked after finishing the main adventure. Packed with all sorts of tricky levels and demanding requirements, it’ll test the prowess (and patience) of even the most seasoned Peggle player.

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PopCap has an admirable reputation for making accessibility a top priority, and Peggle delivers with options to assist lefties and the colorblind.

Fortunately, the iPhone version features a few welcome tweaks to the original formula. You can aim anywhere on the screen by tapping, and fine-tuning is easy thanks to the new wheel located on the side of the screen. And although the iPhone’s 480×320 resolution is much smaller than that of the original PC version of Peggle, double-tapping anywhere on the screen zooms in to display a segment of the board in crisp detail — perfect for fine-tuning those particularly ludicrous shots.

This version of Peggle also features a pass-the-phone Duel mode and a trophy room that visualizes your accomplishments. There’s also the option to save a replay of any game, so you can immortalize your best and brightest moments (and brag to your friends.)

The only thing lacking is the original game’s in-level music, but frankly, you won’t miss it. It was highly repetitive (a common problem among PopCap games) and besides: You’re playing Peggle on an iPod! Surely you’ve got some music of your own that will better fit your needs until you hit that last peg and blast into a Beethoven-fueled Extreme Fever.

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Give it a little while. You'll be lusting after those Extreme Fevers and humming Beethoven's Ninth in no time.

For $4.99, this is the least expensive version of Peggle available on any platform. Although it would have been nice for PopCap to include the Peggle Nights features, the next major iPhone firmware update will enable in-game downloadable content. Whether you’re a newcomer or a seasoned veteran of the Peggle Institute, this latest rendition of the modern classic is easy to recommend.

Peggle is currently available for iPhone and iPod Touch for $4.99 through the App Store. Windows, Mac OS X, Fifth-generation iPod (with video), mobile phone, Xbox Live Arcade, and Nintendo DS versions of the game are also available. Peggle is legion; resistance is futile.

Recommended for:

  • Casual and hardcore puzzle gamers alike: It’s blissfully easy to pick up, but diabolical to master
  • Peggle fans looking for a faithful, complete version of the original game while on the go

Not Recommended for:

  • Puzzle fanatics with poor impulse control (for example: I played through Peggle and wrote this review just a few hours after it was released on the App Store)
  • Peggle fans expecting a comprehensive Peggle package; for now, it’s just the original game, but new content is a distinct possibility down the road

Read our policy on reviews here.

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Yep. Even the loading screen's progress bar is charming.

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