Peggle on the DS comes close on the heels of the release of Peggle on Xbox Live Arcade, which for me, came not all that long after my initial discovery of the game on the PC. Soon after I downloaded the title on Steam, it spread like some multicolored super virus through my household and close circle of friends. People who hardly ever played video games were now sitting in wrapt concentration in front of their monitors, hands glued to their mice, while the familiar Peggle sights and sounds enveloped them in a strange combination of tension and soothing comfort. It was reminiscent of that Star Trek: TNG episode where nearly the entire ship fell victim to an insidious mind-altering game, except Peggle seems to have a more beneficial effect on one's psyche.
But then again, maybe I'm too far in and I can't judge right and wrong anymore. Maybe I should put down the DS for a minute, eh?
Put me in a field of blue and orange pegs and throw in some bread and water twice a day and my basic needs are met.
For those that still have possession of their souls, here's a rundown of what you're missing: Peggle is a celebration of skill and luck, cutesy and devilish, casual and hardcore all rolled into one. It is perhaps the perfect embodiment of the dialectic (espoused most vocally by Nintendo) that games need to be easy to pick up and play even if they do hold deeper rewards. And the current version, Peggle Dual Shot, fits in your pocket, so you can shut up your game-bashing friends and your puzzle-hating friends wherever you go. I mean, who needs them anyway, right? Put me in a field of blue and orange pegs and throw in some bread and water twice a day and my basic needs are met.
The goal is to clear all the orange pegs off each screen. To do this, you start with ten balls, each of which you shoot from a top-mounted cannon and then watch bounce around until it eventually falls off the bottom edge of the screen or into a bucket that patrols that area. Get into the bucket or pull off an impressive enough combo and you get a free ball. As the levels progress, it's less an electronic version of Plinko than an exercise in calculating ricochet angles and gravitational pull. You also unlock different "Peggle masters" as you go along, giving you a variety of special powers. Eliminating the last orange peg elicits a stirring and ego-boosting chorus of Beethoven's Ode to Joy. Ah, life is so grand!
Peggle Dual Shot adds bonus stages that actually interrupt the round when you earn them. These play more like a game of pinball and can earn you an extra ball or two, but I didn't care all that much for their design or intrusiveness. They're not a big deal either way, and they benefit from the fact that you technically can avoid them altogether, at the sacrifice of a great many points. The bonus stages just seemed tacked on and gimmicky to me, but your mileage may vary.
Once you are done with the main mode, you unlock an alternate "Nights" version and you should also be well on your way to having unlocked most of the challenge stages. This keeps you playing and playing and playing, but you will probably be doing almost all of your playing alone, since the only multiplayer mode in the DS is one where you have to hand off the device back-and-forth between rounds.
I wouldn't say Peggle Dual Shot is an essential DS title or even a must-have version of the game itself. It's far better playing on the PC - though the stylus control here is preferable to the Xbox 360 control - and the changes aren't that great. But it's definitely lodged on that second tier, below the legendary DS carts. But by all means, if you don't have another version and/or you like to game on the go, you almost definitely will not regret enrolling in the Peggle Institute.