As of this writing, the famous Electronic Entertainment Expo – E3 for short – has come and gone. Lots of companies announcing hot new games slated to come out later this year or the next, people pushing polygons to the limit, and your favorite franchises coming back for a new installment, often yearly.
Electronic Arts, being the rebellious type, decided to skip E3 this year for a catch-all “EA Play” event sometime in July. I fully expect them to show more of their notable franchises such as Madden NFL 22 and FIFA 22 and Battlefield 2042. And I expect them to once again ignore one of their notable franchises from when they acquired Popcap Games in 2011. One that has a notoriety due to its announcement at a past E3. The one of memes everywhere.
I’m talking about Peggle, the simple bouncing ball and peg game loosely inspired by pachinko. Originally released in 2007, the game became a big hit for Popcap Games, primarily due to its simple yet challenging nature and cutesy design. Oh, and the smart use of using “Ode to Joy” when you successfully completed a level.
Admittedly my experience with Peggle is the original game and no further. The game’s followups have not been reliably available on PC, with the infamous Peggle 2 being locked away to the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, consoles I don’t own; and Peggle Blast, which is only on mobile phones. But there are other Peggle games, of which I’ve actually played.
Likely as good cross-promotion, Popcap Games decided to make two Peggle spinoff games, crossing over with two major video game companies around 2007-09. While ostensibly similar to the original game, they have their own little quirks.
The first is Peggle Extreme, released in 2007 and available on Steam. 2007 would be a lucrative year for Valve as they released the critically acclaimed The Orange Box, which featured the second expansion in the Half-Life 2 saga, the long-awaited Team Fortress 2, and a quirky little puzzle game called Portal. As promotion, Popcap’s Peggle Extreme would be released alongside it, free to owners of The Orange Box. Nowadays if you have a Steam account, you can play it for free regardless of whether you own any of the Orange Box games.
If you’re not familiar with Peggle, I do recommend playing Extreme to get a good handle on the game’s mechanics. The basic goal is to eliminate all the orange-colored pegs around the arena. You shoot a ball to have it bounce around the various pegs and score for points. The more orange pegs you hit, the more points you get. In addition there’s purple pegs which give huge points, and green pegs that do special abilities depending on the playable character you choose. Finish off all the orange pegs before running out of balls and you get an Extreme Fever, where you score big points on any extra blue pegs you hit before dropping it down a hole for a huge bonus. It’s a really simple game that anyone can play, and it’s pretty fun.
For Extreme, they gave us Bjorn the unicorn, basically the main mascot of Peggle. His Super Guide is the easiest green peg ability, great for newbies: it draws a trajectory to where the ball will go. Using the mouse or keyboard, you can use it to really control where the ball will go, which can make good for tricky bank shots or good bounces. It does come in handy on the later stages.
All the art features the cast of Peggle interacting with Valve’s various characters in their games, usually in amusing ways. The first set of levels are all based on concept art and designs from Half-Life 2: Episode Two, with a vortigaunt scaring off Kat Tut, a menacing Hunter from Episode Two, and finally the business end of a headcrab. In addition, there’s a few soundbytes from the Half-Life games that play upon success or failure of a level.
The next set of levels are Team Fortress 2 themed, with a Pyro flaming poor Jimmy, Bjorn tag-teaming with Heavy, and a nice close-up of an Engineer’s sentry. More sounds from Team Fortress 2 play during the outcomes of a match. In a sense, these hearken back to simpler times when Team Fortress 2 was just a cartoony sequel to a game long-thought to be abandonware and not the hat-filled ridiculousness the game itself would become in the years following.
Surprisingly, there is one level based off of de_dust2 from Counter-Strike: Source, and that’s the only level mentioning this game. Presumably since Counter-Strike is a game involving guns and violence, they really couldn’t add more levels to a game that’s rated mostly E for Everyone, so this just seems like an odd inclusion. Amusingly, this version of Peggle is rated T for Teen by the ESRB, whereas all other Peggle games are rated E, likely due to some of the violent elements of this game.
The final set of levels involve that puzzle game involving lying cakes, Portal. Naturally since the game involves teleporting from one place to another, the level gimmicks involve portals that you can shoot the ball into. Soundbytes of GlaDOS play upon completion of a level, which fit here more than the other clips thus far.
And that’s it. After ten levels, you get a Certificate of Excellence. There’s a few challenges of existing levels, but that’s all Peggle Extreme gives. It’s a game that can easily be finished in less than an hour. For being a cross-promotion game, it’s surprisingly fun, and not only shows care to Valve’s games, but also is a great trial for the original Peggle Deluxe.
Popcap wasn’t done, though. Two years later, they’d do this once again, this time with the other, bigger media franchise: World of Warcraft. Peggle: World of Warcraft Edition came out in 2009, again as a free download online. This time, the Peggle gang move from the various worlds of Valve’s franchises to the famous world of Azeroth.
It’s mostly the same game, though this time based on the followup expansion, Peggle Nights. The expansion added new characters and levels, but is mostly the same game as the original Peggle Deluxe, just a bit more refined.
I will admit that World of Warcraft is one of those game series that completely passed me by because I don’t dabble all that often in MMORPGs. I’ve played some of the notable ones like Guild Wars 2, to more deeper cuts like Priston Tale and Neverwinter; but the original WoW was something I’ve never tried, and honestly don’t see a need to in 2021. Mostly because medieval stuff doesn’t really do a whole lot for me. So I apologize in advance for my lack of knowledge on Warcraft lore.
As opposed to Peggle Extreme, Peggle: WoW Edition does give us more to work with. In addition to Bjorn and his Super Guide, we now can play with Splork, a special character whose green pegs will explode and mark the surrounding pegs, which can make good progress if luck is on your side.
Like before, each stage has the Peggle gang interacting with the various NPCs of the World of Warcraft universe, eventually ending with the final stage attacking the Lich King, the villain of the then-recent expansion Wrath of the Lich King. Like before, completing it gives you a Certificate of Excellence, and there’s challenges based on the previous stages. Not much else to add.
This would end up being the final cross-over Popcap would do. Not long after, EA would buy the company and get them to work on milking all their franchises for their worth. By then Popcap found a new money-maker in Plants vs. Zombies, a series I never really played that much, thus it took us a few years before a new Peggle game would be released.
Regardless, these crossover games are mild fun and worth messing around with for an hour even if you’re not familiar with the source material. They’re great demos for Peggle proper, and are both free to download. Peggle Extreme is on Steam, but Peggle: World of Warcraft Edition is a bit harder to find. For me, I found it on download.com, and it’s likely available on the Internet Archive and other various websites.
While I don’t think they’ll ever do it again, I wouldn’t mind a new Peggle crossover game. With EA having a diverse library of games, I think it’d be funny to have a level where you’re trying to help Commander Shepard from Mass Effect clear the Normandy, or remove pegs off a caricature of John Madden. Either way, I think we’re long overdue for a new Peggle game, and here’s hoping they announce one in the near future. But only if they can get a guy to go “Peggle 3!” and triumphantly jump in excitement.
This was available to Patreon subscribers one week early. If you want to be the first to see this before everyone else, bounce a ball over to my Patreon. All it takes is $1, only slightly more than the price of these games.