I thought I was out, but they keep pulling me back in.
I’d given them a review and an article, and I thought I was done. So the missive that heralded the arrival of PopCap’s latest game cast a chill upon my heart, not because PopCap games are anything to dread, but because I’d been hoping to get something done this week. Any chance for productivity was summarily destroyed when I clicked on the link and installed the game. I know I have a problem. I just can’t do anything about it. Peggle – PopCap’s latest productivity-destroyer – is an addictively fun game, on par with their best efforts, combining Breakout with The Price is Right‘s classic game Plinko, then adding the usual PopCap polish to assure that today would be The Day No Work Would Be Done.
“Are you playing Space Pinball?” asked the coworker seated to my right.
“That’s one way to describe it.” I answered.
It’s as good a way to describe it as any: Shoot the small metal ball into a massive field of blue and orange pegs. Light up the orange pegs before you run out of balls, and score points for fantastic shots, amazing effort and good luck. Like any classic casual game, it starts slowly, and you’re serenely making bank shots off the wall and racking up points. Feels pretty good, doesn’t it? And then, a switch flips somewhere in the bowels of the game code, and there are powerups to contend with, pegs that move, magical powers and all sorts of other hindrances to the Zen-like business at hand.
Fortunately, the payoff is worth it. Clearing a level starts the fireworks. As your ball streaks towards the last orange peg, Peggle slows down to bullet-time. The end of every level becomes A Moment. Miss the shot, and you swear like a sailor and curse the gods for your ill luck. Hit the peg, and the fireworks begin. Triumphant choral music plays while lights flash and stars and rainbows shoot across the screen, all while your score shoots up. I wanted to bounce up and down and clap every time I beat a level, and I came very close to doing so. I have to say, I don’t think I’ve had such a rewarding sensory experience since the Addams Family pinball machine in my childhood mall, especially since the funky electronic soundtrack was giving me flashbacks to Shadowrun on the SNES.
Peggle sports four game modes. Adventure is the classic progressive mode, with a series of increasingly difficult levels with different themes and challenges. Quick Play allows access to already-completed levels, when you’re not in the mood for a Peggle odyssey. Duel mode lets you challenge a friend or computer player, and when all those possibilities are exhausted, the Challenges mode remains, full of difficult challenges (obviously) that require expert Peggle skills. More importantly, for full slacking-at-work friendliness, Peggle automatic saves whenever you quit, meaning you can be halfway through an Adventure level, quit when the boss walks by, and jump back in to find everything precisely as you left it.
If there’s a downside, it’s that Peggle is full of unicorns and rainbows and cute animals. Insecure gentlemen may be put off when the screen flashes rainbows and the unicorn host tells them they’ve beaten a level, but I found a charming level of dementedness beneath the cute animals that kept me secure in my masculinity. Plus, PopCap’s pop cultural references were fast approaching a Blizzard-class game, as I noticed when I stumbled across Renfield Pupkin and his associate, Eyegor. For the rest of the day, I insisted on being addressed as Draken-shteen. Even with the slightly embarrassing cuteness, I’ve had more fun with Peggle than with anything else that’s come out recently – save Wii Tennis – and that alone makes it worth the unicorns and rainbows.