Peggle: Dual Shot Hands-On

The addictive pachinko-like game can now be played with a friend--or three.

PopCap games is bringing the successful PC game Peggle to the Xbox Live Arcade in hopes of getting more gamers addicted to this part-pachinko, part-pinball casual game. PopCap came by to give us a sneak peek at what to expect in early 2009, which is when Peggle: Dual Shot is set to be released. PopCap doesn't believe in straight ports, so on top of the levels that you've seen on the PC version, the Xbox 360 version will have new content that is tailored specifically for that platform. The XBLA version of Peggle will have online multiplayer, as well as two-player offline, so you can put your Peggle skills to the test. Leaderboards and achievements are also available for those who want bragging rights. There will be downloadable content as well, so you will always have new Peggle levels to conquer.

Play with up to three friends over Xbox Live to see who is the Peggle champion.

In our demo, it seems that Peggle migrated very well over to the Xbox 360 because its bright, whimsical visuals-- complete with rainbows and unicorns--were maintained. There are 10 masters in the game that you can unlock as you play through the Adventure mode. Each magical character has its own unique special ability that will help you out as you progress through the levels. With a total of 55 levels to go through, each level consists of an assortment of different colored pegs. All you have control over is the direction of where you want to fire your ball from the top of the screen. Using the analog stick, you can move your cannon back and forth, but the real-time physics make it really hard to determine where your ball is going to end up. The goal of Peggle is to knock out all the orange pegs to activate extreme fever, which sets off an explosion of colorful fireworks accompanied by Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" in a grandiose finish. Most of the screen is littered with blue pegs for measly points, and as the levels get progressively harder, you'll have rotating pegs, as well as other obstacles, that get in your way. Green pegs will activate the special ability of the master. For example, Bjorn the unicorn has the guide ability that allows you to see where your ball is going to bounce after you fire. Other masters can grant extra balls or tell you where to aim for the best shot. Purple pegs are for bonus points, which will help if you want to get your name up on those leaderboards. There is a bucket at the bottom of the screen that is constantly sliding back and forth, but if your ball manages to land in it, you'll get a free ball.

If the main game isn't enough, there is a Challenge mode that has 75 different objectives for you complete, which will earn you in-game medals. Xbox achievements are separate, and there are 12 of them to obtain. But in Challenge mode, you will need to meet requirements, such as getting 35 pegs in a level, earning 300,000 points, or achieving extreme fever three times in a row. Quickplay mode allows you to replay all the levels you've unlocked in Adventure mode.

The multiplayer portion will offer three different ways to play. You can play with a friend offline where you take turns aiming. Your fever meter on the right-hand side of the screen goes up each time you hit an orange peg and is shared. As your meter fills, you'll get point multipliers, so you'll want to watch it carefully to ensure you're not setting it up so that the next person gets all the points. You can't avoid hitting an orange peg either; there is a 25 percent point deduction if you don't end up hitting any on your turn. This same mode is offered online with a friend, so the option is there if you don't have anyone to play with on the couch. The final option is an online four-player Party mode where up to four players play simultaneously in a timed, 10-round match. Whoever is hosting can set the time, and each player has a limited amount of time to take his or her shot. After each round, the points are tallied, and the difference here is that you see your opponents' fever meter on the left side of the screen. You can also switch views to see what your friends are doing on their screens. You just have to remember that the clock is ticking, so if you're going to be nosy, you better still be paying attention to the timer.

Play through various themed levels and enlist the help of a Peggle master.

The game's vibrant, fairy tale-like visuals and music from the classical era make it a game that is well suited for anyone at any age. It's addictive because it's so simple, and even though the pachinko element seems to be fairly random, as well as based a lot upon luck, you do have some control. Dual Shot is going to be well worth the 800 Microsoft Points ($10), considering the original PC game sold for $19.99. The ability to play online or with a friend changes the Peggle experience, and the downloadable content will keep players hooked. Peggle: Dual Shot will be released sometime in March 2009 for XBLA, and if you're looking for something to play on the go, Dual Shot will also be released on the DS around the same time.

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