Featured Games: Peggle, it's a love hate thing
[Edit: Andrew is Tuna's Creative Director and, amongst other things, the genius behind our animal-friendly project Call of the Wild]
Peggle ? the pachinko-inspired, ball-bearing-bouncing, hit game from PopCap ? is definitely one of those games that divides opinion; you either love it or hate it. For the record ? I love it.
Detractors howl about the perceived ?lack of skill?, and the ?randomness of the action?. Well, in reality, every action in the game is a consequence of what the player does ? in much the same way as a golf ball randomly bounces, or a snooker ball disrupts a group of other balls. Yes, the results can?t always be pinpointed and precisely predicted, but the player can make educated guesses and is ultimately responsible for all that goes on in their game.
I?m a terrible chess player, but I?m aware of the need to look ahead, and make presumptions about actions and reactions. Peggle is not that different; it?s not a case of firing your ball at a single peg and then letting fate decide the rest, it?s about trying to direct the ball into a series of events that benefit you. So, when I play Peggle I?m at the very least trying to figure out where my ball is going to end up after the second collision, both in terms of direction and timing (timing is way more important in Peggle than the detractors probably realise).
Besides, randomness is part of life. We each only have partial control of what influences us, but that?s not to say we can?t take measures to the direction of our lives.
Maybe that?s part of the problem for those that don?t like Peggle? Maybe they don?t like the feeling that they?re not in control (when in fact, they?re 100% in control ? games with AI elements/enemies on the other hand are much more likely to introduce random, unpredictable elements).
For many people, a game is not something to be played, but something to be conquered; they buy guidebooks, look for help online, and save their progress at microscopic intervals ? to me, that doesn?t sound like fun. Levels in Peggle need to be tamed by the player; they can?t resort to some of the safety nets that other games unwittingly provide. It?s not uncommon to have games that let you save at any point, meaning that if you mess up, you never need to lose more than a few seconds of your ?effort?. In Peggle, they can?t take a single good bounce, then save their game, then affect the next bounce; only ever saving their good bounces? Similarly, a guidebook, or a walkthrough isn?t going to help.
To fully complete Peggle you?re going to need to invest time, develop skills and formulate strategies. Although Peggle has been a hit with the ?casual? market, it can definitely be classed as a ?hardcore? game.
Having played both the original and Peggle Nights, I?ve got to say that both are highly polished experiences. The difficulty curves are perfectly balanced, and the challenge mode is definitely an ?up yours? to those that think there isn?t any skill required to play Peggle. That?s not to say it?s a perfect game; its art style is ?twee? and the peg layouts are often contrived to fit with them (though strangely end up being well balanced despite this).
Another important aspect of Peggle is that it even exists in the first place. Hats off to PopCap (the developer and publisher) for having the vision to contemplate and deliver a game as innovative as this. I can?t imagine any mainstream games publisher giving Peggle a green light; it just doesn?t fit in to any of their obvious, done-to-death, and seemingly ?safe? pigeon holes. You just need to look around to see that being a ?me too? kind of publisher is a dangerous proposition at the moment, yet few companies are willing to try something different.
TunaSnax offers a wide range of games, but Peggle is pretty much in a genre of its own, and sadly, many people just don?t get it. I find it odd, and a depressing statement on games culture, that hardcore gamers don?t see the challenge in Peggle, especially at a time when seemingly hardcore games are becoming less and less challenging.
At the end of the day, everybody has their own tastes to satisfy, and it might just be that Peggle isn?t your cup of tea. But to deny that it?s a finely-crafted, daring and innovative game is the kind of myopic poppycock that leads to a world full of (yet more?) racing games, 3rd person adventures and FPSs
Do you agree? Try Peggle or Peggle Nights and let us know what you think in the forum or by writing your own game review.
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