Review: Peggle Dual Shot (Nintendo DS)

Peggle Dual Shot
Genre: Puzzle
Developer: Q Entertainment
Publisher: PopCap Games
Release Date: 02/27/09


PopCap games has, in their relatively short existence, established themselves as the game developer who will most likely bring about the decline of society, thanks to their insanely addictive flash-based online games. While it might not be fair to make such an observation, understand that no disrespect is meant there. Between Bejeweled, Zuma, Chuzzle and Peggle, PopCap has made some of the most addictive and enjoyable puzzle games EVER. Peggle Dual Shot is basically PopCap’s attempt at monopolizing your free time on the go with both Peggle and Peggle Nights crammed into one cartridge. With two full PC versions of the game crammed into one product as well as some improved gameplay functionality thanks to the DS touch screen, Peggle Dual Shot seems like a sure winner, but is it? Let’s find out.

The story aspects of the game are minimalist at best, so let’s talk game modes. Peggle Dual Shot features four main play modes, each of which can access content from both Peggle and Peggle Nights. Adventure Mode introduces you to the Peggle Masters, and is the mode of play most players will spend their time with. Quick Play lets you just jump into a stage and get down to business. Duel Mode allows you to play against a friend or the CPU in one-on-one play to see who can perform the best. Challenge Mode presents additional challenges for experienced players to tear into. There’s also the option to review your scores, and the option to send a demo of the game to a friend to hook them on the game as well, in case you need friends to play against. For a handheld puzzle game, these are generally acceptable options to have, and while there’s nothing surprising, what’s here works and is well implemented.

Visually, Peggle Dual Shot looks like a visually dumbed-down version of the PC games. The pegs and environments are bright and colorful, the special effects are vibrant and fit the theme nicely. In an interesting touch, there’s a colorblind option that changes the appearance of some of the pegs to make play easier for those who have such an issue. That said, the visuals aren’t great, and the Peggle Masters are mostly just floating sprites that look… weird, frankly. Aurally, the game is mostly some cute MIDI tunes and a bunch of arcade-sounding sound effects, which do the job nicely and are suited to the game. One interesting aural thing I’d like to mention, however, is that the game plays, “Ode to Joy” when you complete a puzzle. Aside from being pretty neat, this is also incredibly fitting on a conceptual level, so bravo to whoever came up with that, as it goes a long way toward making the experience what it is.

Peggle Dual Shot, can best be described as a cross between Bust A Move, pachinko and pinball, though that doesn’t quite do the experience justice. You are given a ball launcher which is stuck to the top of the screen. You then use said ball launcher to launch balls at pegs and blocks of different colors. Any time your ball touches one of the pegs, that peg is eliminated from the field of play, and when you launch your ball into play, it will bounce off of every peg it touches until it reaches the bottom of the field or falls into the ball bucket, which earns you a free ball. The pegs and bricks come in five colors, each with different effects. Blue pegs are just normal pegs and only add points to your score, orange pegs are the “goal” pegs and all of these pegs must be eliminated to move on to the next round of play, green pegs use “Peggle Master Powers” that add special effects to the board or the ball, purple pegs are bonus pegs that give you more points, and gold pegs show up when you hit five purple pegs and will send you to the Bonus Underground when you hit them. As noted, the object is to eliminate all of the orange pegs and blocks on the play field, ideally while earning the most points possible at the time. While this is as simple as firing your ball into the world and hoping it hits something, you’ll also want to consider the angle of your shot and where it will fly, which can get very complicated as you play further into the game.

The game offers you a few neat tricks to help you in your quest to be a Peggle Master. For one, there are the “Peggle Master Powers” mentioned above. There are several different Peggle Masters in the game, and each has their own different ability that aids you in your quest to knock out all of the orange pegs. By hitting a green peg, you will enable this ability, which can be anything from an enhanced guide for your shot to an explosion that lights up lots of pegs to a fireball that simply rips through pegs like they weren’t even there. Some abilities kick in instantly, while others don’t kick in until your next shot. This means you’ll have to plot both what the effect is going to do and when it’s going to take place into your plans, shooting-wise, making the game a bit more involved than one might first think. There’s also the Bonus Underground, which is, as you might expect, an underground location where bonus items (in this case, gems) are located. When you’ve sent your ball down here, the objective is to collect as many gems as possible while in the zone. This helps to add additional points to your score once you complete the level. Both of these things are mighty helpful as the game progresses, largely because the game doesn’t take it easy on you. While early stages consist mostly of stationary pegs and simple layouts, later stages involve teleporters, moving pegs, obstacles of all shapes and sizes, and other “fun” things that make every bonus you get well worth exploiting as often as possible.

Peggle Dual Shot is quite easy to play on the DS, as you can either play with the D-Pad and buttons or the stylus, depending on your personal preferences. The D-Pad/button combination tends to be better for lining up tricky shots and nailing precise angles, but the stylus controls are often easier to work with, meaning that you’ll find yourself switching between them as needed. Completing Adventure Mode, which is where a good bit of your time will be spent, will take about ten hours between Peggle and Peggle Nights. Once you’ve done that, you’ll have plenty more content to plow through. Challenge Mode sets up challenges to complete which in turn unlock trophies to show off your Peggle skills. Duel Mode will allow you to play the game with a friend on one DS or with the computer to figure out who the best Peggle player is. Adventure Mode also saves when you complete a level. Between this and the Quick Play option that lets you simply jump in and play a stage however you want, you can play Peggle in brief spurts to pass the time, which is always a good feature for any handheld game.

Peggle Dual Shot doesn’t really have any terribly glaring flaws, though there are a few things that aren’t quite right with the product. The biggest issue comes from the fact that the game is a luck-based puzzle game more than a skill-based puzzle game. This can become incredibly annoying later in the game when you’re repeating a stage for the fiftieth time. Now, if you’re capable of figuring out exact angles in your head on the fly, then you could more than likely plot a course for your ball in your head and figure out exactly where it will be sailing from point to point. Most players though, will lose the ball after two hits and will have no idea where their shot will be going. This means shots, more often than not, turn out to be “random” in the sense that the player will have a rough idea of what they want done. After that, who knows what will happen? This is also problematic when one considers that while the stage layouts never change, the patterns of the pegs are, essentially, random, which is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it’s great that you can play the same stage multiple times and always have a challenge, but on the other, it’s really annoying that you can’t effectively plot out a strategy for a particularly challenging stage because you’ll never know if a challenging peg will even MATTER during your next attempt. Players who like randomized gaming won’t mind this one bit, but for players who prefer using skill over prayer, this might be annoying.

It also bears noting that the game gets a little repetitive after you’ve completed the first set of adventure missions, since Peggle Nights, aside from adding a new Peggle Master, doesn’t change up enough to be “different” in any significant sense of the word. Speaking of the Peggle Masters, not all of their abilities are as particularly useful as the game seems to want you to think. Now, obviously, the usefulness of an ability is going to be relative to the stage layout (Flippers on the sides of the game board, for instance, won’t be useful if the pegs in the world are mostly located in the center of the board.), but given the choice between an expanded ball bucket, pinball flippers, or attaching a glowing hat to my ball that hits a few extra pegs while TOTALLY messing up the ball physics, the choice is often clear. Finally, it bears noting that while there are a fair amount of gameplay modes, none of them are significantly different in any way, and while, yeah, the game is obviously about playing Peggle, some more “outside the box” thinking might have created modes (Peggle Mini-Golf! Peggle Arkanoid!) that would have made the game a bit more exciting, especially for players who already own the PC versions of these games.

Overall, however, Peggle Dual Shot is a pretty fine product if you’re a fan of puzzle games. It’s lots of fun to play, both alone and with friends. It looks and sounds great, and offers enough content to keep it interesting for a good while, features same-system multiplayer. The game is mostly based on luck unless you’re amazing at calculating trajectory, the Adventure Mode can become repetitive after a while, and there’s not really any new content here for players who own the game on another platform, which might put off certain people. Most folks, however, will enjoy the simple pick-up-and-play design of the game, and the fact of the matter is that whether you’re a dedicated puzzle master or a more casual gamer, Peggle Dual Shot will give you plenty to have fun with.

The Scores:
Game Modes: ABOVE AVERAGE
Graphics: GOOD
Sound: GOOD
Control/Gameplay: CLASSIC
Replayability: GOOD
Balance: GREAT
Originality: GOOD
Addictiveness: GOOD
Appeal: GOOD
Miscellaneous: GREAT
Final Score: VERY GOOD Game

Short Attention Span Summary:
Peggle Dual Shot is a fun and addictive puzzle game that combines the best parts of Bust a Move, pachinko and pinball into one highly enjoyable product, and anyone with a hankering for some handheld puzzle fun would be well served by picking this up. It’s visually and aurally solid, lots of fun to play, comes crammed with a lot of content, and offers up same system multiplayer so that you and your friends can get into the action with one DS. The game is more based on luck than skill for those of us who aren’t good at figuring out trajectory angles, it’s a bit repetitive and one-dimensional at times, and the game is essentially going to be identical to the PC games, certainly, but these are generally minor complaints in most respects. Whether you’re looking for a serious challenge or just some simple and addictive handheld fun, Peggle Dual Shot offers both for a reasonable price, and anyone who loves time-killing puzzle fun should check it out.

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