STAFF REVIEW of Peggle 2 (Xbox One)

Monday, December 9, 2013.
by Adam Dileva

Peggle 2 Box art You know a game has done something right when it associates itself with a song so well that when you hear it, you think of the game itself. When I hear “Ode to Joy”, I instantly think of Peggle and all the hours I put into that game over the years, as it was the victory song for when you successfully finished a level. It’s been five years since the original release of Peggle, and now we finally have the much anticipated sequel. In all honesty, I probably would have simply been happy with a ‘map pack’ with new boards to play on, so I wasn’t sure what to expect with Peggle 2, but I was hoping they would go above and beyond for the long time coming sequel.

A highly addictive game, Peggle was one of the few games that my wife actually asked me to turn on the Xbox for her so she could play it. At one point my friends and I actually had a few gatherings where the game of choice was Peggle. Game mascot Bjorn returns in Peggle 2, but he brought with him some new friends (Masters) for you to play with and learn their new skills and master the new boards and very difficult challenges. You wouldn’t expect something like Peggle 2 to be in the new console’s launch window (as it’s exclusive to Xbox One for the time being) when you can get all of the other hardcore games, but it’s here, and I’m glad it is. If you’re a puzzle game addict or was a super fan of the original Peggle, it’s time to get an Xbox One for Peggle 2.
For those that have never played Peggle before, it’s a game that’s inspired by pachinko mixed with Plinko from The Price Is Right fame. You have a ball launcher at the top of the screen which you aim to clear all of the orange pegs off the screen with your limited ball count. Once all of the orange pegs are destroyed you can move on to the next level (though there’s a lot of reasons to play the boards again). As you launch your ball you give way to gravity and how the ball will bounce from peg to peg, clearing any it hits along the way to the bottom of the screen. There’s a ball catcher, a net of sorts, that if your ball lands in the automatically scrolling net, you gain a free ball; miss and you lose a ball.

While the orange pegs are your main goal to pass the standard levels, you’ll also encounter blue pegs that give points, purple which gives a massive amount of points, and the limited green pegs that when hit activate your Master’s special ability. A big part of the strategy is to figure out how the ball might bounce from peg to peg for the maximum amount of points (and path clearing) while also hoping to time it right so that your balls lands in the moving basket at the bottom for the always welcome extra ball. When you hit that last orange peg (which does a zoomed in close-up in slow motion for added drama) there’s a celebration of fireworks and victory music (with more than just Ode to Joy this time) that always puts a smile on your face.

If this all sounds familiar to you, you’ll be happy to know that the core game is unchanged and you can simply jump right in. There are 5 Masters (4 new as Bjorn is the only returning character), each of which has 10 levels that increase in difficulty, but not only in the amount of orange pegs you need to clear to progress. Now each level has 3 optional objectives, to keep you coming back and playing, that are quite challenging and fun to attempt. Most of the times they are simple “Clear all the pegs” or “Score X amount of points”, but sometimes there’s some unique ones that are going to test your patience and mixes things up a bit. After the 10 main stages are complete, each master also has 10 trial levels which are much more specific and unique in their requirements. Sometimes it’s clear 40+ orange pegs, other times it will entail you clearing a stage with a set amount of balls or needing to make a certain amount of unique shot bonuses to win. Some even won’t give you the aiming marker, truly testing your skill and patience. These trials are quite fun, but you will hit brick walls in difficulty with some of the trials which can be frustrating (though amazing once you finally clear it).

Masters, boards, and trials aren’t the only new features to Peggle 2 though. There are now two new obstacles you’ll face on some of the boards (the later stages). There is now armored pegs which require two hits to destroy (one to break the armor and the second to clear it like normal) and also bumpers that react like they would on a pinball table. I would have liked to see a little more use of these new pegs but you generally only see them in the latter half of the game and trials. The biggest feature that is new though is easily the new Masters, each of which have their own new special power, and in my opinion, is much more balanced that the first game since everyone generally used the Owl or Rabbit in the first game.

All of the Masters will react to your shots in a much more animated way (which looks much better and smoother), plus it’s also nice getting a thumbs up for an awesome shot you made. The only returning Master is Bjorn and he brings with him his standard special power (once you shoot a green peg) that allows you to see where his first bounce is going to land (and adjust accordingly).

Luna is a cute undead girl who has a very unique power skill called Nightshade. This power makes all the blue pegs go ‘invisible’ in a way so that your ball can travel through them unimpeded to hit those hard to get orange pegs near the bottom of the screen. When your power-up skill is gone, any blue pegs you hit remain gone, making it a great way to either clear a path to those tucked away orange pegs if needed.

Jeffrey is a big troll that is sitting on a hill, chilling out, watching you play the board. His power-up is a very useful one that turns your ball into a ‘bowlder’ that will clear a path in its arc, destroying any pegs in its way, even the armored pegs. Jeffrey’s power is a great way to clear a path (which is much wider than the standard ball as well) to open some playing field to aim your next shot, or to simply hit every peg in its way for some massive points (which reward you with free balls).

Berg is a cute Yeti that also has a very useful and unique power when you shoot that green peg down. Once activated, he freezes the playing field in ice, allowing for pegs to move and push others beside it. Basically his power turns the game board into curling, where any peg you hit will slide on the ‘ice’, bumping into other pegs, lighting and destroying them, and possibly making them bump into even more pegs as well. One thing I found out the hard way though, is that Berg’s powers only works on the actual circle pegs, not the square-ish brick style of pegs, so keep that in mind when choosing a master for your levels strategy.

The last Master is my favorite out of all the new characters. Gnorman is a gnome that sits in a larger gnome robot suit whose skill uses electricity to zap any adjacent pegs with the Ubervolt power. Shooting the Ubervolt power-up into a massive area of pegs will not only clear out any in the area (and any subsequent pegs nearby), but the amount of points you can gain on a good shoot is massive. Gnorman is my go-to Master unless I need a strategy that would specifically suit one of the other characters better for that specific stage.

Once you clear all the main stages of the Masters, a new Celestial Realm will open (that allows you to choose any Master you want to use) that holds the games hardest and most challenging levels. While the base levels aren’t too difficult to complete themselves, it’s the three challenges in each level and then the trials that will have you attempting them again and again.

Peggle 2 does include a competitive multiplayer mode for up to four players, but because of this review being done before the actual release, I was unable to find anyone to play with every time I played. I even let Smart Match sit there and attempt to find me a game for quite a long time and I was unable to find a single match. Obviously this won’t be the case, as by the time you’re reading this the game has been released, hopefully with others to play with online, so I can’t weigh in the positives or negatives in this review unfortunately.

Just like the original Peggle, every peg you hit garners a whimsical chime note, each peg making the chime climb in scale. While the listing of only 5 Masters might seem small, as the original Peggle had more technically, I look at the original Peggle only having two that people actually used for the most part (Zen Owl and the Rabbit) because their powers were overpowered. I’ve used each of the Masters in Peggle 2 for specific levels and while I have my favorite, Gnorman, it doesn’t make levels impossible if you choose to side with Berg, Luna, Jeffrey, or even Bjorn. Overall it feels much more balanced and the difficulty scales up steadily.

The animation for the Masters seems to be much improved, as are their new reactions to your shots. Seeing Bjorn head bang to the victory music is hilarious to watch, as is seeing Bergs bare behind (pixelated to keep things proper for kids of course) shaking to the music. There’s so much here that will simply put a smile on your face and if you enjoyed the first Peggle, you’re going to enjoy this one as well.

While I would have liked to have some sort of leaderboards so that I could compare myself to my friend’s abilities and scores, or even download their ghost of their shots, it’s not a deal breaker, simply disappointing. You’re going to put hours upon hours into Peggle 2, not with just the standard levels but with all of the included challenges and trials. Peggle 2 may feel a little short if you’re only trying to pass the standard stages themselves, but put the time into all of the extras, not even including multiplayer, and you’ll be shooting pegs for quite some time, even if it is with only 5 Masters this time.

Online leaderboards/ghost downloads would have been the icing on the cake.

Overall: 8.5 / 10
Gameplay: 8.5 / 10
Visuals: 8.5 / 10
Sound: 8.5 / 10


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