Peggle 2 review: more balls

Game Info
Box Art N/A
Platform xbox one, 360
Publisher PopCap Games
Developer PopCap Games
Release Date 2013-12-09

Peggle 2 is the example of the PopCap that used to be.

We're in an era of free-to-play, microtransaction-driven, mobile-focused PopCap — see this summer's release of Plants vs. Zombies 2. But announced at E3 this year practically out of nowhere, Peggle 2 is the unlikeliest of fall releases: a casual-friendly puzzle action game on a next-gen console.

Peggle 2 isn't free-to-play. It's not peppered with free-to-play design ideas or downloadable content (yet). It's not a bold collection of new ideas, or a drastic departure. It's "just" more Peggle. And it's one of the best pick-up-and-play downloadable titles of the year.

Peggle 2's mechanics start simple. Each "level" is actually a new game board. Each board has a unique arrangement of blue pegs and a smaller number of orange pegs. You begin with 10 balls that you aim and fire into the board. As a ball collides with pegs (and later, bricks), the pegs lights up and eventually clear from the board. Each board is completed by clearing the orange pegs. It's a simple combination of pinball and pachinko. At first, anyway.


But this is only part of the point. Peggle 2 flourishes as new quirks are added. Purple pegs increase your score multiplier for that shot. As you clear orange pegs, another multiplier accrues. As you clear the board, you get more and more points, and completing trick shots is worth even more. There's a constant sense of escalation for score and for the shots you have to make, and this follows through to the special abilities.

Boards also feature green pegs, which activate one of five special abilities — one for each Peggle master. Berg the snowman freezes the level, and any peg the ball hits spreads pegs like hockey pucks. Luna turns blue pegs transparent. And the Peggle masters are where Peggle 2's charm offensive takes shape.

Peggle has always been defined by Beethoven's "Ode To Joy," triggered when the final orange peg on a board was cleared, but that's all changed now: Every Peggle 2 master has their own theme. I don't want to spoil anything, because the reveal for each is part of the stick of joy Peggle 2 is determined to beat you with at every opportunity.

This isn't limited to each level's bursting climax — every sound, every level border, incidental music, reactions, they're all specific to each Peggle master. Combined with the four new Peggle masters' unique abilities, it adds a greater sense of personality to a series that, honestly, never felt short on that to begin with. There's an almost overwhelming amount of production value. Example: Peggle 2 has the most aggressive surround mix of any next-gen game I've played.

Yes. We're still talking about Peggle.

Multiplayer

Unfortunately, we were not able to test Peggle 2's multiplayer component in time for this review. Options seem in keeping with PopCap's release of Peggle on the Xbox 360, with the competitive Peg party at the top of the list. We'll be sure to update this review if our time with multiplayer substantively affects our opinion of the game.

Of course, there's also a game there. Peggle 2 remains as relentlessly playable as it always has been, combining the best elements of pinball, pachinko and score-chase arcade action games. At first, Peggle masters guide you through their 10 stages, teaching you to use their abilities, and each stage has three challenges. Once a set is completed, you can play a board with any unlocked master, or play that set's trials. These range from neat to deviously impossible. There's a lot to get lost in.

A bit of random roughness does pop up here and there — ball physics on some boards seem screwy in a bad way, and sometimes it felt like menus weren't responding to my input the first time. It's bizarre to see glitches in a game that seems so polished in every other regard. And I would have loved to see more Peggle masters. It's not that there's a shortage of content. I just wanted more.

Wrap Up:

Peggle 2 is a burst of joy in a sea of brown and grey

None of those bits are enough to derail Peggle 2. And on next-gen consoles that lean most heavily toward more serious fare, it couldn't be more welcome. It's a ridiculous, excessive, joyful game that will devour all of the time you're willing to give it.

Peggle 2 was reviewed using a pre-release retail downloadable copy provided by Popcap. you can find additional information about Polygon's ethics policy here.

About Polygon's Reviews
8.0 xbox one
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