• Take a dash of strange Japanese ball-dropping game Pachinko, add a dash of pinball, tap Sir Isaac Newton on the shoulder for a bit of gravity, and dress the resultant heady addictive cocktail up in bright garish rainbow-coloured tones, and you’ll be a step closer to describing Peggle. In a week when massive Xbox 360 hits like Resident Evil 5 have arrived on the scene, it might seem a little strange to look at your friends list and see people playing this XBLA game instead. Want to know why? Well then, read on.

    Popcap Games are already well established as a Flash / PC game developer with a variety of neat little puzzlers and casual games under their belt. But this 2007 hit became such a worldwide smash that its 360 arrival has been hotly anticipated and long overdue.

    For those of you unfortunate enough not to have encountered Peggle on the various platforms it’s currently available for, the 360 version takes what has gone before and brings various achievements and bonus play modes to the mix. Peggle involves taking a ball projector at the top of the screen, and using it to aim carefully so that all the orange pegs and bricks on the play field are hit and destroyed. It sounds simple enough but there are blue pegs to get in the way, and various bonus pegs that can help you to achieve your goal.

    Peggle

    Adventure Mode is the main single player game, allowing you to steadily work under the guidance of the Peggle Masters, mythical beasts who are imbued with special powers that they pass on to you. Each master’s special ability can be unleashed by hitting a green peg with your ball. Powers vary from a super-accurate angle indicator to allow you to finely place a ball and see its resultant ricochet a lot clearer, to a crabby set of pinball-like flippers that can keep a ball in play a little longer.

    Each round gives you a limited set of balls to use, and if you use them all up before destroying all the orange pegs, it’s game over and you’ll have to start the round again. However there’s a neat little moving ball trap at the bottom of the screen. Land the ball in that and you’ll get another ball added to your total, effectively giving you a free “go”.

    Slowly but surely you’ll begin to appreciate the simple genius in Peggle’s design. You can pretty much just fire balls at random into the playing field just to see what happens, or you can use a keen snooker player’s eye to try and work out exactly how the bounce, angle and gravity will affect a ball’s trajectory, hopefully eventually taking out as many pegs as possible in each round.

    Peggle can be played by gamers of all ages, and although the rather colourful and child-like presentation might put a few people off, it’s absolutely perfect for this type of game – and it turns Peggle into something that virtually anyone in the entire family can enjoy (I can personally attest to this. My other half is a complete Peggle addict and my daughter enjoys the over-the-top end of game celebrations that kick off when you nail that final orange peg or brick in slow motion, accompanied by Beethoven’s An Die Freude for a rousing finale.

    In common with other Popcap releases, Peggle’s wonderfully polished, runs very smoothly on the 360 and is instantly pick-up-and-playable with plenty of tutorials and hints offered by the game’s masters. The only minus point is that it’s so horribly addictive, that you could wake up in the middle of the night, swearing that you can hear the distant sound of the ball pinging against the pegs.

    Quite simply put, this is probably the best way to spend 800 points on the Marketplace so far this year, and a game that offers a great deal of simple harmless gameplay with an addictive bite that’ll see you neglecting other more deep and meaningful gaming experiences for a bit of guilty casual gaming pleasure.

    Add ons for Peggle are planned in the near future, but for the time being there’s more than enough to get your teeth into with 50 levels of the main adventure quest, master VS modes, and lots of instant local multiplayer fun too (should you be feeling gregarious enough to want to pass the pad to someone else for their go!)

    There’s not really much more to say other than “get it now”. Well don’t just sit there, hop to it!

    Score: 9/10

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