February 23, 2009 - PopCap is a master of the casual game, but there's nothing casual about most gamers' obsession with Peggle. Once you get a taste of Extreme Fever you'll be fiending for your next fix of "Ode to Joy." Peggle is one of the most addictive games of the last few years. If you've avoided it so far on PC and iPod, this is a great package to get started with. Peggle DS includes the original game, the Peggle Nights expansion, and original levels developed by Q Entertainment (Lumines, Meteos). For the uninitiated, Peggle can be described as a cross between pachinko and pinball. Players are presented with a field of blue and orange pegs, and the orange need to be cleared in order to pass a level. You fire tiny balls from the top of the screen and watch them bounce their way to the bottom, clearing any pegs they come into contact with on their way. The challenge is that, once you've fired, things are pretty much out of your hands and physics will take its course. You also have a limited amount of shots to work with. You'd be forgiven if you thought Peggle sounded too simplistic to be fun. But it only takes a few moments with the game to be completely swept away. There is something hypnotic about watching your balls make their way through the maze of pegs, listening to the plunky sound effects, and maybe landing in the free ball bucket. Haters might claim too much is left to chance, but there are plenty of opportunities for making skill shots. Lending the game personality are the Peggle Masters, a group of animals you unlock as you play. Each Master has a unique power-up ability. Bjorn Unicorn, for instance, can display a "guide" for your ball, revealing how it will bounce after you launch. To initiate each animal's power-up you simply need to hit the green pegs on screen. There will also be one purple peg that moves locations after every shot. Nailing these will give you a big point boost, but here in Dual Shot they have added functionality. If you hit five purple pegs in one round you'll enter a bonus zone where you bounce your ball around a room collecting gems. Collect enough and you'll earn an extra ball to use back in your current level. Here on the DS most of your aiming is handled with the stylus. You can use the D-pad for slight movements left and right, and if you hold the stylus on a position for a moment a zoomed-in view will be displayed on the top screen for precise aiming. This all works well, but to launch a ball normally you have to remove your stylus and make your way over to the A button. Sure, it's only a couple inches, but allowing us to launch with the L or R buttons might have made for a more fluid experience. You can launch with L or R while zoomed in so that your stylus can keep aim. One other issu:, when zoomed in, if you're near the top of the playing field the edge of the DS screen can prevent you from aiming in one or more directions. It's not a problem in most situations – only when zooming in near the edge of the screen. The Nights expansion that is included here offers the same gameplay over a load of new levels, only they're set at night (there's also an additional Master to be found). Add in the extra Q Entertainment levels that are exclusive to Dual Shot and you've got 125 levels of Peggle goodness here. After earning your diploma from the Peggle Institute there are fun challenge stages that require you to earn a certain amount of points. Grab a friend and you can take them on in Duel mode. This is a competitive mode using one DS where players take turns firing balls and try to get the highest score. Closing Comments Peggle is a harmonious combination of simple, addictive gameplay and engaging sights and sounds. The design has been mostly successfully ported to the DS, although the interface isn't quite as smooth as it could be. That "certain something" is definitely still here, though, and if you haven't yet been introduced to Peggle you should set aside some time. A lot of time. 8.6/10 (Great!) --------------------------------------- So who else is looking forward to this? I know I can't be the only one. Who has played other iterations of Peggle? I have it for my iPod classic and have beat the adventure mode and am working on the challenge mode. I've also beat Peggle Nights on PC. I can't wait to beat the DS version.