Peggle Nights is so addictive, it could be considered mainline gaming at its purest. It’s a game you can replay endlessly to squeeze out a good 20-30 hours of content— not bad for a “budget” title. Even though my preferred method of playing the game is to idly focus on the dozens of challenges while watching TV or listening to music, that doesn’t mean Peggle Nights qualifies as just half a game. It simply means I can’t stop playing it long enough to do anything else.
For the uninitiated, Peggle is a hybrid of Pachinko and Pinball. Wild yet completely accurate ball physics are the crux of the gameplay—after shooting out a bouncy metal ball from the top of the screen, you have to ricochet off of as many pegs as possible on the way down. Like in pinball, the pegs you hit act like bumpers to give you a high score and bonuses, and there’s even a powerup that gives you flippers at the bottom of the screen.
You’ll also find a moving bucket at the bottom of the screen for collecting your errant balls. While at first you’ll only make some lucky catches, later on you can actually time your shots to perfectly land in the bucket. This is just one way that Peggle rewards experience the longer you play—more balls means more chances to clear all the pegs, and you’ll earn a sweet bonus to boot.
This absurdly original gameplay mechanic would be a hit even if it were just in black and white, but Peggle Nights explodes with color. Like in the original Peggle, each level has a theme based on the charming animal creatures who lend you their special powers—Tula the Flower bursts multiple orange (level-clearing) pegs, while Renfield the Jack-O-Lantern gives you a spooky ball that passes through the bottom of the stage and reappears at the top.
You’ll have to play through the adventure mode to unlock all the characters and their powers (which are the same as the original Peggle), but there’s one new character and power at the very end. Her ability is very useful, but I’d love to see even more new cast members and powerups next time around.
Although the fact that there’s only one new character is a bit of a letdown, Peggle Nights takes you further into the minds of the existing characters than you might have cared to go. Each stage portrays a character’s dream state—Tula the Flower, for example, wants to be a world traveler instead of being rooted to the ground, so her stages take you to Peggle versions of the Great Wall of China and Mount Rushmore.
This charm is contagious. You can’t help but feel happy to play and replay these colorful, detailed, and imaginative stages. It certainly doesn’t hurt that you will feel a compelling urge to win a trophy for fulfilling every minor objective. Peggle Nights adds new “ace score” ribbons for earning a certain number of points, which nicely complements the 100% completion awards that stretched out the length of the first game.
Which brings me back to my initial point. I play Peggle Nights constantly now. Since half of the game is spent watching the points roll in while your “balls drop”, Peggle feels casual enough to be put on as background while I partake in other passive forms of entertainment. At the same time, I know that Peggle actually complex beyond reasoning. The first Peggle was nearly perfect, and this sequel just tucks in a little bit more of what was brilliant about it.