Peggle: The incredibly addictive iPod game
Spin magazine recently reviewed iPod games. While the magazine's timing was right, it made an eggregious omission: Peggle, the device's first five-star game.
I recently upgraded from an iPod mini to an iPod classic. Impressed with the fidelity of the screen, I of course downloaded a bunch of music videos I watched once, then swiftly moved into the more interesting waters of iPod games.
There is not much to recommend here, I'm afraid. Previous to my discovery of Peggle, the only game that got more than a few plays on my iPod was Phase, which is by Harmonix, the maker of the popular Guitar Hero series as well as the new Rock Band. Phase offers a much more limited input--rather than a fullblown plastic guitar, you're crippled with a clickwheel, which you use to cycle between three circles (left, center, right) in time with the beat. But what it lacked in control mechanics it made up for in customization: You create "Phase Playlists" of your favorite music which are converted into levels to play in the game.
This, to me, is the Killer App of iPod games: You should be able to choose your own music to listen to. That is the advantage that iPod owns over Nintendo DS and Sony PSP, and if it is to be a player in the already saturated market of handheld gaming, it will have to exploit it for all its worth.
Peggle passes the first test in spades: The game plays any of your playlists in the background. Not only that, but the game occasionally augments the music by cutting to an aria during the tensest moment (EXTREME FEVER!). It's hard to explain, but it works to great effect and never detracts from the experience of listening to your custom mixtape.
The gameplay of Peggle was best described by my colleague (and future national VVM videogame blogger) Nate Patrin, as "Arkanoid meets pachinko" You fire a ball at an angle into a block of pegs, then the ball bounces down at crazy angles until it reaches the bottom. At the end of the round, the pegs that the ball hits disappear. The goal is to eliminate all of the orange pegs in ever increasingly difficult formations.
That's the simple description, anyway. There's also a moving hole at the bottom that can save your ball. Oh, and super powers that you get from boss battles.
It is incredibly addictive. Not only did I play through the game--a feat that took several hours a day for about a week--but I then became obsessed with the "Challenges" which include eliminating EVERY peg, scoring ridiculously high, beating the computer in two-player battles, and marathon sessions of several boards in a row. I can honestly say I played it more often than several Wii and PSP games I own.