Review: Peggle Nights

Peggle_Nights_Minibox_Cover.jpg Puzzle games are an interesting genre. Hardcore gamers have historically eschewed them as being ‘too casual’ until recently, but even before excellent puzzle games started hitting the Nintendo DS, gamers who have used non-PC devices such as PDA’s have found them to be great quick-play diversions. There are pretty much two types of puzzle games: complex brain-twisters that force you to think for a long time, and simple games that have some sort of hook that keep you playing. There are also story-based games such as Puzzle Quest, but those are still just simple puzzle games wrapped up in a story of some sort. Peggle Nights represents yet another hybrid – at its’ core it is a simple puzzle game, but it is interspersed with characters and some minor story-like elements that give it an added dimension.

Honestly, they didn’t need to worry about adding too much in this sequel – the original Peggle was a complete blast and quite addictive, and they’ve enhanced it enough to make the budget price a no-brainer. Fortunately what they did add works very nicely without being a distraction. The between-level banter is quick and gets you going from one scene to the next, and the characters actually add something concrete to the experience. But I’m getting ahead of myself…

Peggle was released for the PC in early 2007, and moved to the iPod (not iPhone) later that year. At the same time, it was becoming more and more popular, topping many ‘most addictive games’ lists, and got a special limited release as part of the Orange Box in late 2007. Peggle Nights was released for PC in late 2008 before coming to the Mac, and a new Peggle game has recently come to the Nintendo DS just as the original is released on XBOX Live Arcade. So why is this game so addictive? I’ll tell you after just … one … more … level …

OK, I’m back. The concept of Peggle is simple: you control a marble launcher at the middle of the top of the screen, and you need to hit all of the orange pegs to clear them off the board before you run out of marbles.

That’s it … the rest is just extra stuff!

Of course it is that extra stuff that transforms the game from a cute idea into a completely addictive time-sink. For starters, even on the first board you will want to utilize some basic physics to bounce the marble around and clear out as many orange pegs as possible in a single turn. Pretty soon it will be a necessity – the orange pegs are scattered in a field with useless blue pegs and other pegs with special purposes that get revealed gradually.

Fortunately, physics is fully at play here – balls take a trajectory that makes sense and bounce with a realistic speed and angle. This makes it possible to work to chain together a series of hits from a single ball. Gravity can be your friend or your enemy, and no matter what you do you will always end up feeling either blessed or cursed by fortune. One new gameplay addition is that you can use the walls for bank shots now, adding another bit of strategy to your arsenal.

Aside from the orange and blue pegs, there are purple pegs that give some sort of bonus, and green pegs that unleash a ‘magic power’ based on whatever character is active at the time. These range from showing you the trajectory of your shots to adding another ball to shooting a ball of fire through all pegs and so on. These power combine with the bonuses to very often save you as you dwindle to your last ball with way too many orange pegs remaining. Then there is the bucket – the bucket moves back and forth along the bottom the screen the whole time, and since you know that eventually your ball will reach the bottom, you hope it lands in the bucket. Getting a ball in the bucket gives a free ball – once again this will save you many times over the course of the game.

Technically the game is not very impressive – but that is to be expected for a budget priced casual game. The boards are done at a fairly low detail level and the music is sparse and repetitive. But it is all varied enough to never get annoying, and the main areas of focus – the pegs and balls and special effects – are all well done. Even more so, the special sound effects add a lot to the fun – each ‘magic power’ has its’ own musical theme, and the bombast when you clear a level never gets old!

Peggle Nights has an adventure mode with 60 levels, 60 challenges, and a two-player Duel mode. This can go by fairly quickly if you sit down for extended gaming sessions, but the game is meant to be played a bit at a time – it is a casual game after all! There are several hours of new gameplay here and loads of replayability.

It would be fair to say that Peggle Nights is not a huge update to the original … but then if you are looking for it to suddenly have 1080p graphics and a fully licensed soundtrack you have arrived at the wrong game. Peggle Nights takes a wonderful concept, gives it a few tweaks, changes things up a little bit – and completely refreshes the content. I cannot imagine a more welcome sequel from this sort of game. Normally I would say “there is a demo, try that”, but in this case I recommend any fan of puzzle games to just go buy it for their respective platform (PC, Mac, DS or XBOX360) NOW!

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Pros:
+ Simple and addictive gameplay
+ Plenty of replayability

Cons:
– Uninspired graphics
– Music gets tiresome
– Ends too soon!

Game Info:
Platform: Reviewed on Mac, also available for PC
Publisher: PopCap Games
Developer: PopCap Games
Release Date: 02/25/09
Genre: Puzzle
ESRB Rating: Everyone
Players: 1-2

About the Author

I have loved technology for as long as I can remember - and have been a computer gamer since the PDP-10! Mobile Technology has played a major role in my life - I have used an electronic companion since the HP95LX more than 20 years ago, and have been a 'Laptop First' person since my Compaq LTE Lite 3/20 and Powerbook 170 back in 1991! As an avid gamer and gadget-junkie I was constantly asked for my opinions on new technology, which led to writing small blurbs ... and eventually becoming a reviewer many years ago. My family is my biggest priority in life, and they alternate between loving and tolerating my gaming and gadget hobbies ... but ultimately benefits from the addition of technology to our lives!