We’ve all heard the old saying, “don’t judge a book by its cover.” While it’s sound advice, I’m as guilty as anyone of not following it. For instance, I put off playing the original BioShock for almost a year because I thought the cover looked dumb (great job, me). Another game that fell victim to the same fate was the original Peggle; I just couldn’t get on board with the unicorn. Having never played the original, I wasn’t sure what awaited me in PopCap’s Peggle 2, but this time I wasn’t about to let a purple unicorn stop me from finding out.
Layouts don’t get much simpler than this. Your basic aiming is done with the left analog stick, and there is also the option to make subtle adjustments by either holding down the triggers (and continuing to use the stick) or utilizing the bumpers/d-pad. Once your shot is lined up you press “A” to fire and then watch the game’s physics do their work. It is also possible to increase the speed of moving pegs and the oscillating bucket, but only before firing.
While Microsoft valued this enough to tab it as a timed Xbox One exclusive, rest assured it had nothing to do with the game’s graphical capabilities. Granted, Peggle 2 looks nice and colorful, and it possesses an endearing charm thanks in no small part to the various “masters” you’ll encounter. It’s just hard to believe the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 couldn’t output something nearly identical.
Sound effects and music are used effectively, and you cannot help but get pumped when the screen slows just before you strike that final peg and the current master’s classical (and instantly recognizable) music blares out triumphantly. Still, from a purely presentational view, there’s nothing exceptional.
Your goal in Peggle 2 is a simple one: hit all the orange pegs. These are interspersed among a number of other colored pegs. You’ve got your blues, the basic ones that are generally situated to make it tough for you to reach your orange targets, your greens, each stage has two that activate your master’s special ability for the upcoming turn(s), and the purples, which change location each turn and provide a score bonus if hit.
At the start of each stage you’re given 10 balls with which to accomplish this, though you can earn extras by scoring 25,000 points in a single turn (additional balls are earned at 75k and 125k, too) or having your ball land in the bucket that’s moving back and forth across the bottom of the screen. It’s not too difficult to finish individual stages, but the game is designed to encourage multiple plays with three objectives to be completed for each stage that aren’t so easily accomplished.
Invariably, the first objective is to clear all the pegs, which is tougher than it sounds. The second involves reaching some score threshold, and the final one varies. Sometimes it wants you to pull off a style shot — these are instrumental to piling up points — or finish with a certain number of balls unused, or maybe complete a stage without using your master’s special ability (which means not touching the green pegs at all). Whatever the case may be, they do feel legitimately challenging.
There are 60 stages in Peggle 2, separated into six levels of 10. Each level features a Peggle Master with a unique ability — for example, the unicorn allows you to aim shots with added precision by displaying the path of the deflection, while a gnome electrifies the ball so that each time it touches a peg two adjacent ones are tagged as well. Completing these stages unlocks 10 additional trials. Some of these are like full blown stages but many are quick one- or two-shot challenges.
Given how quickly you can clear many of these there isn’t a ton of available content. That means the replay value is rooted in how much you enjoy the core gameplay, and how often you see yourself revisiting stages to chase objectives and try to post high scores. There is an online multiplayer that allows you to compete against up to three others, but it’s just a redressing of the solo game as you’re battling it out to see who can post the highest score on identical maps.
It’s also worth noting that the Xbox One loses its mind with the Game DVR here, recording shot after shot (after shot). So unless you relish going back and manually deleting clips I suggest you disable the DVR before playing the game.
Although I was a little underwhelmed initially, I quickly found myself losing track of time while playing and relishing a particularly inspired (or lucky) shot. Peggle 2 is a fun game, and it can be quite addictive as long as you’re on board with the concept. As noted, however, it’s not packed with content, which means individual mileage may vary considerably.