Following its release in February of 2007, Peggle Deluxe for the PC was not a game that a self-respecting hardcore gamer wanted to be caught playing. The game is colorful, it’s made by PopCap (the guys who make those jewel games that your sister plays), and it has cute anthropomorphic animals that you don’t even get to kill. Although Peggle rose in popularity throughout the year, it wouldn’t pique the interest of the hardcore crowd until just before the release of Valve’s Orange Box in October of 2007. At this time, someone with the business acumen of, at the very least, Warren Buffett’s tie, decided that taking a special version of Peggle — a game where you shoot a ball at pegs and then watch stars and rainbows happen — should have Valve game characters tacked on to it and be released on Steam for free under the name Peggle Extreme. This move paid off for PopCap in spades: sales of Peggle Deluxe skyrocketed, and PopCap went on to port it to the iPod classic, iPhone, World of Warcraft, and Xbox Live Arcade. In 2008, a full sequel titled Peggle Nights was released for the PC; this sequel would later be bundled with Peggle Deluxe and ported to the Nintendo DS. The version I prefer to play, and will recommend here, is Peggle Nights for the PC.
Peggle’s key to success and mass appeal (once PopCap had everyone’s attention) lies in its simplicity and the constant stream of feedback and rewards given to players. Each level is a board with blue and orange pegs on it. Shooting a ball at any peg results in points, flashing lights, and positively reinforcing sounds, but the victory condition in Adventure mode is to clear, at the very least, all of the orange pegs. Green gems exist on the board as well; these are power-ups whose effect depends on which of the eleven characters is being played. The real action begins once Adventure mode is completed and Challenge mode unlocks. Any character can be chosen in this mode as the victory conditions vary from stage to stage. No matter the game mode, Ode To Joy plays over top a fireworks display upon every victory.
It was difficult for me to reconcile writing about Peggle; it’s such a successful and popular game that covering it felt redundant. I make an effort to cover uncelebrated games foremost, but I decided that Peggle is too important to PC gaming (and video game culture in general) to ignore it. Although each games’ levels are unique to them and Peggle Deluxe is still worth playing, I recommend Nights over it because it has smoother graphics, an extra character, and PopCap releases free seasonal level packs for it. Nights and Deluxe are available on Steam separately for $9.99 each, or as a bundle for $14.99. Peggle Extreme is, as always, free on Steam.