After mesmerizing millions of PC gamers with its simple yet oddly enthralling gameplay, Peggle has arrived on the Nintendo DS. Peggle is a puzzle game that incorporates elements of pinball and the popular Japanese gaming machine Pachinko. You shoot a ball down into a field of pegs, aiming to hit particular pegs to clear the level or gain power-ups. Although the action is very basic, there's something quite engaging about taking careful aim and watching your ball bounce its way to the bottom. Peggle Dual Shot accurately re-creates the fun of the original, and though the price and multiplayer options leave much to be desired, there are enough levels here to satisfy folks looking for some light puzzle fun.
The gameplay is quite simple. Each level presents you with a field of pegs, both circular and rectangular. Using the rotating launcher at the top, you aim your ball and fire it down into the field. Once your ball drops to the bottom of the screen, the pegs that you hit are eliminated and you get to take another shot. You can use the stylus or D pad to adjust the trajectory or zoom in for a more precise shot, but the stylus is the smoothest option, even though there is a small risk of readjusting your aim accidentally when you go to hit the launch button. You have a limited amount of shots, but landing your ball in the moving bucket at the bottom of the screen will grant you a free ball.
Most of the pegs are blue and merely earn you points when you clear them. If you clear all of the orange pegs, you pass the level. The two green pegs activate power-ups that can be immensely useful and offer new strategic considerations. These include multiball (instantly spawns another ball), flippers (pinball-esque paddles appear for a few shots), a fireball (burns through pegs without bouncing), a zen ball (optimizes your shot trajectory), and more. There is also a purple peg that spawns in a new spot every turn. Hitting this will boost your score, and hitting it a bunch of times in one level will send you to a bonus round in which you can earn bigger points and extra balls.
Peggle Dual Shot's fun comes from the satisfaction of clearing a level or making a particularly skillful shot. Great shots are rewarded with specific bonuses triggered by certain conditions, such as making a particularly long ricochet. Earning these is fun, especially because they often come as a surprise. The first few shots of each level rely a lot on luck; given that there are so many pegs, your ball will bounce around quite a lot before dropping out. As you clear away pegs, you'll rely more on precise aiming, and be rewarded with bigger point bonuses. This gradual rebalancing of luck and skill is what makes Peggle so easy to enjoy. You can excel if you hone your skills, but the element of luck means that the game is very forgiving. If your shot doesn't go well, you can dismiss it as unlucky; if you get some lucky bounces, you can feel great about it. Skill-focused players can rack up incredible scores, but more-casual players can still have fun and succeed.
There are a few different modes in Peggle Dual Shot, but none of them vary too much from the core gameplay. The Adventure mode introduces you to 10 characters, each with a unique power-up and five levels for you to beat. This mode includes two campaigns: Peggle and Peggle Nights. With 11 five-level stages in each mode, plus bonus unlockable stages, there is a lot of Peggle to be played. Levels vary in difficulty, but you can reasonably burn through most of them in a matter of hours. Quick Play mode lets you play stages that you've beaten and aim for higher scores, and Duel mode lets you face off against a computer opponent or a friend. The only wireless option is to send your friend a one-level trial of the game, so multiplayer matches require you to pass the DS back and forth repeatedly. Computer opponents can provide a tough challenge, even for skilled players, but it's a shame that there's no way to face off with two DSs or upload scores to online leaderboards.
Peggle Dual Shot is a simple game that captures the addictive fun of its PC predecessor. The $30 price tag is too high for the fairly limited gameplay and weak multiplayer support, even with the bevy of levels on offer. Nevertheless, there is a whole lot of fun to be had here. Watching your ball bounce its way through the level and clear a path for your next shot is pleasing, and nailing a great shot (be it skilled, lucky, or a bit of both) is really satisfying. Peggle: Dual Shot would be easier to recommend if it was more reasonably priced, but it's still a fun puzzle game that is well suited to this portable platform.