The most surprising game of the year doesn't have fancy 3-D graphics. It doesn't require a new generation console and it doesn't involve waggling a fancy motion-sensitive controller. It doesn't involve killing anything (not even in the cutesy, Mario-jumps-on-a-Goomba sense of the word "kill") and it doesn't have any gritty, street-smart characters voiced by today's hottest celebrities. None of that is really surprising in its own right – plenty of casual games fit the same criteria. What's really surprising about Peggle is how insanely, addictively fun it is.

Like the best puzzle games, Peggle can be explained in a single sentence: Bounce balls off pegs; destroy all the orange ones to win. The game doesn't require a lengthy tutorial or instruction booklet, just an intuitive grasp of physics and gravity to plan where your ball will bounce. The instant accessibility is aided by excellent graphic and sound design -- pegs burst in explosions of color and sound, culminating in a level-clearing rendition of Beethoven's Ode to Joy that can't help but bring a smile to even the most cynical gamer's face.



Some might argue that this simplicity never gives way to a deeper strategy -- that the game takes a minute to learn but only two or so minutes to master. These people have probably only played the game for those two or so minutes, though, as the imaginative peg arrangement in the later of the game's 100 or so levels require some incredible planning and imaginative use of special powers (not to mention the 60 or so unlockable "challenge" boards, some of which are nigh impossible). While Peggle beginners might only plan one or two bounces ahead, expert Peggle players, much like chess grandmasters, can generally see the shape of a shot through dozens of bounces. After one particular, eight-hour, late-night session with the game, we could swear we had entered a zen-like state where every slight deflection of the ball seemed pre-ordained (of course, the cold medication running through our veins could have also contributed to this feeling).

If you still don't believe Peggle takes any skill, then we humbly challenge you to an editorial-we-on-one Peggle duel. These duels are where Peggle continues to shine long after the single-player game is done, with new strategies enabling a new level of unpredicatability and human fallibity to come into play. Of course, dueling currently works only on a single computer, so duels with random internet doubters will probably be hard to coordinate. Maybe Peggle 2 will include some sort of Internet play option. PopCap ... you listening?



Oh please sir, do you have any coin? ->

This article was originally published on Joystiq.

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