The next-generation is here and has brought with it…Peggle 2! Not quite what you’d call a typical “next-generation game” that’s going to push the boundaries of the technology, but still an anticipated sequel for many around the world. But, if Peggle 2 isn’t going to test the limits of the Xbox One, what is it going to do differently?
Fans of the series may be pleased to hear that little has changed from the traditional Peggle model. The core gameplay is still the same: fire a pinball at some coloured pegs, clear the orange ones, and rack up as high a score as you possibly can. There are 60 levels in total, which you initially take on using a given Master, along with 60 trials. These trials are designed to test your skills in unique ways, although many of them are set up for you to pass pretty easily.
Bjorn returns to the fray, although with new cosmetic touches, to remind you how to play the game and get you into the swing of things with his Super Guide power. But, especially if you’re a Peggle veteran, these early levels are a bit of a drag as you skip through dialogue reminding you of Peggle intricacies.
And Bjorn is marked as the most ordinary of the Masters very quickly as you meet the boulder wielding Jeffrey, who also makes Big Lebowski references; Berg, who can freeze the screen and send pegs sliding; and Gnorman who electrifies the ball which causes a chain reaction when it hits pegs. Peggle 2 reduces the number of Masters available, but if you are a fan of the series you’ll see some familiar faces crop up over the course of the single player adventure.
From an aesthetic point of view, the experience is more pleasing on the eye. The backdrops are stepped up a notch, while the Masters themselves are animated throughout. They’ll congratulate you on well-worked shots, grimace when you’re coming to the conclusion of the level, and stare on in astonishment after you clear a level. Jeffrey is joined by a goat whose head explodes in a mushroom cloud, Luna’s jaw will literally drop, while Berg gyrates...with some pixels covering his backside!They’re subtle touches, but they make the game feel more alive and packed full of personality.
Those who look to squeeze every last drop of goodness out of Peggle will be glad to hear that levels now come with three additional challenges on top of simply passing a level. Clearing all of the pegs on a level returns once more and is joined by challenges such as hitting a target score, finishing with a certain number of balls remaining, or hitting particular skill shots. There’s plenty of mileage here, but its predecessors Challenge mode was a more strenuous affair.
The single-player element is only one side to Peggle 2, but it is the main offering and attraction. Multiplayer currently only consists of Peg Party, which pits four players against one another on their own boards before they compare scores at the end. Strangely, this is the only time you’ll compare and contrast scores with other players; unlike many games released in recent years, some of which have shoehorned leaderboards into activities, there are no leaderboards for individual levels.
One omission that we cannot forgive is that of local multiplayer. There is no option to play against friends or family members sitting beside you, which is disappointing to see in a game that is perfectly suited for local competition and for family friendly fun. Guess it’s back to playing pass-the-pad on the single player levels… More modes may come, but expect to pay for them from that Shop that’s marked “Coming Soon.”
Peggle 2 is as cute and addictive as ever, but it doesn’t stray far from familiar territory. A few of the new Masters will become instant favourites; some of the levels set themselves up for replayability as they’re fun and allow for plenty of skill shots; and the trials add a unique slant to the game. But where familiarity would be welcome – in local multiplayer and online multiplayer modes – it is conspicuously absent, leaving behind a tangible sense of disappointment.