Peggle easily stands as one of PopCap Games' most addictive efforts. First introduced for the PC several years ago, the game gained even more popularity when it was released for consoles through Xbox Live Arcade and the PlayStation Network. The game is built around a simple premise – drop balls through a cannon and try to hit all the orange pegs surrounded on a stage before you run out – but becomes incredibly addictive with each new stage, as you have to overcome challenges and use power-ups to gain any advantage you can get.
It shouldn't be a surprise that PopCap has a sequel coming our way later this year. Peggle 2 sticks mostly with what made the original game work so well, but has managed to throw in a few new power-ups, as well as graphics that really take advantage of the Xbox One platform, with higher-resolution visuals and bigger maps to play around in.
The concept still remains the same. In each stage, you're given approximately 10 balls to drop through each peg-filled area. You gain points by hitting each peg on the field, but the orange ones really add up, as do the purple score multipliers. The bigger a point value you gain on each turn, the bigger chance you have to earn an extra ball. For good measure, a floating bucket on the bottom also provides another opportunity for another turn, which you'll earn by landing the ball inside.
The gameplay is still built around eliminating the orange pegs. At first, the task seems somewhat easy with the introductory stages. As you move on, though, stage design gets much more difficult, with objects getting in the way and inconveniently placed blue pegs forcing you to improvise, bouncing balls off of walls to hit the orange peg that lies underneath.
Thankfully, you're not alone on this journey. Animal and other "cute" characters join you on each stage, providing you with a helpful power-up with each turn. Bjorn the Unicorn, a favorite from the original game, is back with his "path extender." Once you activate this power-up, you have a better idea of where a ball will go coming off of a peg.
During our time with the game, we were also introduced to Luna, a mysterious cat who dwells in the "nights" section of Peggle 2. She introduces a terrific booster, one that blacks out all the blue pegs on the playfield so you can focus on the orange ones – as well as any purple or green ones lurking about. This makes clearing the stage a little bit easier, though you've only got three turns with each power-up. After that, you'll have to contend with the blue pegs once more.
Other characters will be introduced in the months ahead, but you can catch a glimpse of them in the debut trailer below. You've got a yeti who isn't afraid to blow a few pegs into a frozen state for you, making it easier for your ball to go through them, as well as an electrically charged robot who gives you a lightning boost. This allows you to hit groups of pegs at once, including those hard-to-reach orange ones.
At the end of each round, if you manage to get all the orange pegs before you run out of balls, you activate a bonus "FEVER" round. Once this begins, the bottom of the stage turns into point pits, ranging from 10,000 to 100,000. This adds to your end-of-round score, and adds some random excitement for all the effort you put into a stage.
Score plays a huge part in Peggle 2. The more pegs you get – and the more your multiplayer builds from hitting the purple pegs – the higher a point count you get. Like the original, the game will be built around competitive play, where you can boast about your best rounds and see if your friends can possibly top you. There are some real Peggle masters out there, though, and you can bet that the sequel will have more than its fair share. Better work on those rebounding skills.
One other thing worth noting is character reaction. As you play through each stage, the characters no longer blankly stare at your progress – they react. For instance, when you make progress on Luna's stage, she shows a genuine amount of excitement – only to drop her jaw at the end of the round, just like a good cartoon character should. Bjorn also gets into the act, looking dazed – and amazed – as you achieve long bank shots from peg to peg for an additional point bonus. It's nice to see PopCap make some progress with the visual side of things, while keeping gameplay primarily in focus.
If you loved the original game, Peggle 2 is a must-play. If you didn't, well, there's no better time to get an introduction to the series. Do it for Bjorn!
Peggle 2 releases later this year for Xbox One.