by Goran Damnjanovic, Gaming Columnist
Published in Gaming on 21st January, 2020
The king of casual games is still as popular as it was at the start of the last decade. Read on to learn a ton of interesting stuff about Peggle, a casual game that's more addictive than all MMORPGs combined.
The first Peggle game came out in 2007 and took the world by storm. Considered as just another casual PopCap title made to entertain people for a couple of hours the game simply exploded in popularity shortly after its release.
After all, the company had a knack for turning casual titles into global phenomena. Before striking a diamond vein with Peggle, PopCap gave us brilliant time-wasters in the form of Bejeweled, Zuma, and Plants vs Zombies.
The secret sauce found in Peggle is the effective combination of simplistic gameplay and near-endless replayability. The goal of each level is hitting as many pegs as you can in a single turn and once you hit them all the level is finished.
This bare-bones design is actually extremely inviting for almost everyone. But the game also offers lots of depth, allowing hardcore gamers to hone their skills each time they start a new game.
On top of all, Peggle enriches the formula with subtle variations that prevent it from getting stale. And finally, there's the variable time investment and "just one more turn" quality of the game.
Each level can be finished in just a couple of minutes. Perfect as a pastime between long sessions of Skyrim, or The Witcher. On the other hand, you can play Peggle for hours if you desire; the fun factor is present at the same level no matter whether you play a few levels during the lunch break on work or waste an entire Sunday beating the whole game, yet again.
With four main games in the series and dozens of millions of downloads, Peggle is still a super successful franchise. There are tons of cool facts to know about it, and lots of interesting tips for everyone who wants to try it out for the first time or play it again after a long break. Read on to discover a ton of new stuff about Peggle games.
Pachinko machines are a huge industry in Asia, especially in Japan. Hell, Capcom announced the company will move away from developing core games so they can focus on their Pachinko business.
These gambling machines are extremely addictive. Based on luck, with lots of shiny parts and with steel balls that create those sweet addictive sounds of metal hitting metal, Pachinko machines are a great way to lose some money.
Pachinko machines interested PopCap's studio director, Sukhbir Sidhu. He thought about creating a game based on pachinko but he didn't like the luck-based mechanics every pachinko machine is based on.
They are made for gambling after all. And once he saw the new game engine which was developed at PopCap, he knew that he can finally create the game of his dreams.
Sidhu joined forces with a few developers at PopCap to make his dream game a reality. They had to change and tweak many different parts of the game in order to make it fun to play and predictable enough for it to be based on skill, not just on luck.
Finally, by combining the best parts of Pachinko and Breakout, the team at PopCap created the first Peggle game, which would become a global phenomenon just a few months after its release.
Back before they were bought by EA, PopCap Games independently developed Peggle as well as lots of other successful casual titles.
They honed their game-making skills for years and came up with a few tricks to make their games more addictive. Mind that these weren't complex gameplay mechanics and features developed by behavioral psychologists, based on years of research. These were simple tricks developers at PopCap learned from crafting casual titles for many years.
The most important thing is to avoid making puzzles too complex. Puzzles that are overly brainy and tough to solve lose their replay appeal. Once you solve them you won't die to return back. But with "casual" puzzles that can be solved in a variety of ways, like in Peggle, players will try to find new, more efficient ways to beat them and to set a new high score.
Next, sound cues of increasing pitch that are played while performing combos are also important to have. They probably work by creating an association between the rising pitch of the sound effects and the positive experience of achieving higher and higher combos.
Ultimately your brain is programmed to release small amounts of dopamine each time you hear the good old sound effect with an increased pitch when scoring a combo, making you play the game more in order to get more happiness chemicals.
Finally, points are always awarded in increments higher than 10. This is probably tied to the fact that we humans like our rewards in bundles. Ten M&Ms are much better than one for a job well done, and this probably works for points awarded for combos and for hitting pegs in Peggle titles.
Peggle was one of the rare casual titles that found a strong hardcore gamer following. In fact, a bunch of developers at Valve loved the game and often sent emails to PopCap about it, praising the game and asking for tips in order to beat the hardest levels.
The people at PopCap thought about combining Half-Life with Peggle, pitched the idea to Valve, and Valve loved it.
The two companies cooperated in developing Peggle Extreme, a sort of a long demo for the game that featured artwork from Half-Life, Portal, and Team Fortress 2 combined with Peggle universe in wacky ways, as a way to reach core gamers who didn't like the idea of playing a game filled with rainbows and unicorns.
Peggle Extreme was a huge hit on Steam, leading to a massive sales boost for Peggle. You can still download Peggle Extreme from Steam.
Peggle Extreme wasn't the first cross-brand Peggle title. Before it, PopCap created Peggle: World of Warcraft Edition. PopCap first brought their other major hit, Bejeweled to WoW as an add-on. Then, back in 2008, the company created Peggle: WoW Edition in cooperation with Activision Blizzard and allowed WoW players to play in while in-game.
The WoW Edition of the game was completely free. It contained 12 stages with cool WoW artwork along with duel mode to compete with other WoW players. The game even had a quick shoot mode for players to settle their loot-related quarrels. Today, Peggle: WoW Edition cannot be played in-game but you can download the game from this link. Just wait a bit for the download to start.
Peggle 2 was developed for the Xbox One, which was still in development at the time. PopCap started development in 2011, long before Microsoft released its current-gen console. It was cooking for a long time. Like every other game in development, Peggle 2 was given a codename by Microsoft, which company does for every game made for their consoles, first-party or not.
Since music is so important for the whole Peggle experience, Microsoft decided to codename Peggle 2 as "Symphony." The name wasn't random. Microsoft knew just how much the soundtrack and the music were important for the game so they wanted to acknowledge this by assigning it the suitable codename.
Each level in Peggle starts as a blank space, devoid of any object. And then, level designers just start adding pegs.
There's no science in it, no special formula that has to be followed. It all starts with a random pattern of pegs and then the level is tested to see what happens when the ball is released. From then on, it's all about refining the level.
Adding more pegs, or removing those who break the flow. Combining patterns from multiple test levels in order to get one level that works like a charm. The only "rule" that is followed is the one saying that a level shouldn't allow the ball to just bounce a couple of times and then just drain to the floor.
These levels cannot be fun in any way. So, the only rule is to allow the ball to jump off pegs as much as possible. Everything else is permitted and free to implement. And finally, each level is play tested to infinity until developers are satisfied with it.
Peggle is all about accessibility on one side and depth at the other. Each game from the series is a casual title made for a wide audience. Everyone can, and should, play Peggle. But the games also feature surprising depth to them for those who want to perfect their Peggle craft.
Sure, you can beat all levels, have great fun, and be done with it. But, you can also dive into the perpetual activity of beating your own high score on each level. And that requires a bit of skill.
And skill is developed by repetition. This is where Peggle really shines. Each level seems like a simple arrangement of pegs that cannot be mastered since the ball always takes random paths towards the bottom. But the reality is different.
With enough practice, you can create amazing combos that carry an insane amount of points. But in order to achieve those combos, you have to practice each level, a lot. So, if you want to become Peggle master get ready for tons of repetition. The prize - a high score that is impossible to beat by any of your friends.
As you probably know, each level in Peggle contains a limited amount of balls (usually ten) you have at your disposal to clear out all orange pegs. The main way of getting free balls is by hitting the bucket that moves left and right at the bottom of each level. Everyone knows that.
But the better way (at least for us) to get a free ball is to achieve a 25,000 point combo. Yes, this seems hard at start when you just want to hit at least one orange peg with your ball but it's definitely worth practicing scoring combos just for free balls.
Once you get the skills, each level will become much easier to beat. Instead of calculating time and movement of the bucket and then launching balls to hit it while trying to hit a couple of orange balls, you will just create combos, which is way more efficient.
This is especially true for the first couple of balls when levels are filled with orange pegs. You can use a couple of first shots to rack up huge combos and get lots of free balls, scoring high and making levels easier. Later on, you will not only have a huge high score but also more balls at your disposal for those hard to reach pegs at the end of each level.
Peggle games are perfect casual titles so it's only expected for them to be playable on PC and every console available at the time of release. But the games broke new grounds by being released on 13 gaming platforms in total to date.
You have your PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 version of the first two games, which were the main gaming platforms a decade ago.
Then you have the Nintendo DS, the biggest portable gaming machine in 2007 when the first game came out. Further, we have Xbox One and PlayStation 4, two platforms Peggle 2 was launched on as a launch title. Finally, we have Mac OS and two major mobile platforms, Android and iOS.
But, interestingly, Peggle titles were released on some platforms that aren't known for being video games friendly. For instance, the game was available on Windows Mobile, an operating system for PDAs (look on Google for the term) that wasn't video-game friendly.
Further, we had Peggle mobile, a Java-based game for feature phones (not smartphones) that was surprisingly well made for a mobile game.
Peggle was also released for a device known as Zeebo. Zeebo was a sort of a video game console for Brazilian and Mexican markets that played video games that could've been downloaded over the Internet. And finally, the first game was ported to BREW, a Qualcomm-developed platform that brought advanced apps and games to feature phones.
Back in 2008, psychologists from East Carolina University conducted a study to find out about potential therapeutic effects of video games on people. The three games that were a part of the study, Peggle, Bejeweled 2, and Bookworm Adventures, all had some positive effects on participants.
Games were responsible for decreasing tension among participants of the study, with Peggle leading the way with a 66 percent decrease of tension. Peggle also decreased fatigue among those who played it. Finally, both Peggle and Bejeweled 2 noticeably decreased levels of anger.
The first one decreased it by 63 percent and the second game decreased by 65 percent. In other words, playing casual games such as Peggle has lots of positive sides.
Peggle 2 was released at the far end of 2013 and Peggle Blast landed in 2014. Since then we didn't receive a new Peggle game. It's a bit sad since there's definitely an interest in the series with games from the series still being played by millions of people. There are no rumors or news about a new Peggle game so we can say that there isn't any in development at the moment.
On the other side, Peggle 2 is still a blast to play and the first two games can be bought on Steam. The three games combined offer hundreds of hours of superb fun. Oh, and if you want to get Peggle Blast to play on your mobile phone, just don't. The game is filled with microtransactions, ads, and levels that cannot be finished without shelling out cash.
For the end, we prepared a collection of tips for playing Peggle games. Since all games from the series are quite similar, these tips work for each one.
The most important tip is to remember that you can bounce balls off walls. This is extremely important and one of the most efficient ways of clearing orange pegs. One well-placed shot that bounces off the wall can clear multiple hard to reach pegs.
Always focus on orange pegs that are placed high on the playing field. It doesn't matter if you fail a level, just learn how to knock those off efficiently. Once you get good at popping pegs that are higher, knocking off lower pegs will become much easier.
As we already said, repetition is the key. This not only works for those who want to always beat their high scores but also for those who just want to clear levels.
During tougher levels, it will seem impossible to break all orange pegs with just 10 balls. But by repeating the same level for a couple of times, you will get to know it well enough to be able to finish it, even with a couple of unused balls.
Try to predict bounces of the ball. The physics engine in Peggle is really good and after a while, you will be able to predict at least two or three future bounces the ball will make. Use this to your advantage. Try creating a route for the ball that will knock off a couple of orange pegs, and try creating a route with lots of bounces. Remember, the more ball bounces, the better are chances to knock off more orange pegs.
Finally, try clearing a level without any fancy score for the first time. You can always return to it and try completing it with lots of combos, style points, and a huge high score later.