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Joystiq Review: Peggle Dual Shot


PopCap's Peggle has earned a reputation as The Casual Game It's Okay For Game Journalists To Enjoy. It's almost the perfect casual game, or even the perfect arcade game -- its mechanics can be explained in seconds, and it is possible to have a satisfying play session only a few minutes long, though repea t play is necessary to train in the skills required to succeed in the higher levels and excel in the main game.

Really, the only thing that could make Peggle any better is if you could play it anywhere, during any spare time you find. Peggle Dual Shot on the DS, then, needed only to be a competent port of the original to be worth pretty much everyone's time. I'm happy to report that Peggle DS is Peggle, on the DS.

Here's a quick explanation of Peggle for that one guy who still hasn't played it: it's a pachinko-esque game in which you aim and drop little balls from the top of the screen into stages full of pegs, hoping to hit the few orange ones strewn about the site without exhausting your supply of ten balls. When you hit a green peg, you get one of ten special abilities like multiball or a guide that points out the path of your shots. If the ball falls in a moving bucket at the bottom of the screen, you get an extra ball.

This simple game seems random at first -- you can aim the ball, but it bounces all over the place anyway -- but after playing enough, you can start to predict the route of the ball, and bounce shots just the right way to hit multiple orange pegs. Even if you don't really get that good, it's still fun, and the game constantly rewards you for everything that happens, from hitting two orange pegs that are distant from one another ("Long Shot!") to missing entirely.

Peggle has made the transition to DS so well that it is now hard to imagine it as anything else. It would be weird to play Peggle on a PC now! It's as if it was designed as a DS game; even the cute mascots who used to occupy a tiny circular window make more sense dancing around on the DS's top screen. The control scheme involves aiming the ball by either dragging or pointing to anywhere on the bottom screen with the stylus, and then tapping the top of the 'cannon' to fire the ball. Alternately, you can use the shoulder buttons or the D-pad to rotate the cannon and the A button to fire. The stylus/A button combination is pretty comfortable for me. A zoom function now kicks in when you hold the stylus in place for a second or so, allowing you to line up your shot more carefully while looking at a zoomed-in window on the upper screen.

Peggle DS contains all the levels from Peggle and Peggle Nights along with a series of "challenge" levels that put specific requirements or limits on your play. It also has ten exclusive unlockable levels created by developer Q? Entertainment. Q's influence is apparent in only one other aspect of Peggle DS: the new "Underground."

Now, if you hit five purple score multiplier pegs, a yellow peg will appear. Hit it, and you will open up the "Underground" area, a weird maze-like level full of gems and touch-screen-activated bumpers. This area is different in every level, and adds both a new strategy and a new obsession to Peggle: collecting gems adds extra balls to your stock back in the main level, meaning that if you're running out, you may be able to open up the Underground and try to replenish. The game now adds a statistic to the end-of-level display that counts the number of gems you picked up from that Underground's finite supply -- which means that every level in the game has a new level within it to master.

The game isn't the perfect Peggle: multiplayer is a turn-taking endeavor rather than online or simultaneous, and the ability to save replays of your insane bounces is missed. But the heart of Peggle is shooting stuff at pegs and making it bounce around, which is as good as ever.

The new content alone may not be enough to warrant a separate purchase for Peggle maniacs, though the simple addition of portability makes it so much more playable in the kind of short sessions for which it is meant. For new Peggle owners, this is a much easier sell: it features all the levels from two Peggle games at roughly the same price as the PC version, in a format that feels absolutely like home.

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