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In many ways Peggle 2 is inferior to its first installment. There’s only five characters to the first game’s 11. The multiplayer that made the first Peggle on Xbox Live a success is now almost unplayable due to bugs and crashes. There’s no penalty for quitting multiplayer matches, and, worst of all, there’s no duel mode. In spite of all of its problems, Peggle 2 — when it works — is still superior to the first game, if just barely.
What Peggle 2 did improve was the base gameplay. Though simple at first glance, Peggle has always offered surprising depth in a game ruled by one button and one objective. Your goal is simple: clear the map’s orange plinko-style pegs and reach the level’s end known as an Extreme Fever. How you get there is up to you and is what determines the amount of points you’ll get. You can target the green pegs early to activate your character’s unique powers to get a quick lead; or save them towards the end once your points multiplier is high to get maximum points. While all of this is still intact from the first game, expect more strategy with the new characters.
In the first entry, only three of the 11 characters were useful for collecting points. In the upgrade, Popcap has given each of the five characters a use, even if it’s as simple as designated levels. Though, like the triple-scoring rabbit from the first installment, one character, Luna, claims point supremacy with her Ghost Touch power. This allows her to bypass the low-scoring blue pegs on the map and hit the oranges without objection. Using this power early on in a level is almost useless, but if you save it after clearing enough orange pegs and raise your multiplier, expect to at least double your opponents’ score. The only thing keeping her balanced is that you’ll have nothing to help you clear pegs while you save her powers until the end, which often results in missing the potent Extreme Fever.
Expect more consistency and less strategy from the other four characters, whose powers range from a marble-guiding arc to a peg-crushing boulder. They may not score as many points as Luna, but you’ll need to switch between them on their character-specific levels if you expect to win often. Plus, it gives you a chance to show off each of your characters’ costumes that you earned from trudging through the game’s trial mode.
With its one-button gameplay, Peggle 2 embodies the expression, “Easy to learn. Difficult to master” in a medium notorious for not being user-friendly. It may not always live up to the first game’s technical excellence, but the base gameplay improvements provided by the new characters makes it worth wading through until a major update hits.