"People still care about the original Peggle," Neuss told me at PAX Prime, so PopCap's first directive for Peggle 2 was "don't screw up the gameplay." At the same time, however, PopCap wanted Peggle 2 to be an evolved experience, taking what was great about the first game and elevating it.
"We wanted to make the gameplay as accessible as possible while making it a little more deep," explains Neuss. "The Master Powers are all very different than Master Powers we've done before. If you go back and play original Peggle after you play Peggle 2, like the flippers and the pyramid, they all seem really simplistic compared to what we're doing now."
I got to play levels with two different Peggle 2 masters, Bjorn the unicorn and Luna the ghost girl, who Neuss describes as "super cute and really weird." Being an early Master, Bjorn's levels are pretty straightforward, easing you into Peggle 2's gameplay, letting you learn crucial skills like banking shots and using the bucket to earn yourself an extra ball. Even in those easy levels, though, it's easy to see how far the game has come since its inception. Bjorn reacts (hilariously) to your actions as you play, headbanging when you finish a level, biting his lip when you're down to your last few shots and have way too many orange pegs left to clear. He also poops out the levels. It's not graphic or anything, but there's definitely some unicorn pooping action happening. Neuss wouldn't comment about that, merely grinning and saying, "Everybody poops."
The second master I encountered, Luna, was a better example of what Neuss meant about crafting deeper gameplay for Peggle 2. Her Master Power, which allows your next two shots to pass through blue pegs, can be used to clear out hard-to-reach orange pegs, but as Neuss explains, "super pros will wait until a little later in the level to activate [it] because you get all the points that you would normally for shooting through the blue pegs, so you can really easily get high scores, extra balls, and make your turn last a really long time."
Peggle 2's objective system also puts the more nuanced aspects of the Master Powers to good use, custom tailoring some challenges to suit a particular Master's Power. Each level has three objectives, many of which will be really hard to complete until you go back and play through the level again with one of the Masters that you've unlocked. Encouraging players to repeat levels they've already finished is just "letting people play how they play Peggle," says Neuss. "You go through, you play through all the levels, and then you go back and you try to do everything that you can."
Once you've honed your ball-bouncing, peg-clearing, ricochet-mastering skills, you'll be able to enter the cutthroat world of Peggle 2 competitive multiplayer, though PopCap isn't saying much about what that will entail. "The 360 version of [Peggle], people still play multiplayer constantly," says Neuss, "so we want to bring a lot of that forward, and we're working on what exactly that will be right now."
Peggle 2 isn't the game you're going to buy an Xbox One for, but once again, it looks like a game you'll play until your thumbs drop off. From the big changes, like the new Powers to smaller tweaks, like struck pegs making unique noises for each master, Peggle 2 feels like a fresh approach to an old favorite, rather than just a slightly prettier update.
Peggle 2 will be a launch window game for Xbox One, moving to "as many other platforms as possible" eventually.