By Marc Saltzman
Gannett News Service
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You might not understand the appeal when you first launch "Peggle," a computer game from PopCap Games, but give it 20 minutes and you won't be able to put your mouse down.
The idea behind the downloadable "Peggle" is a simple one: Fire a silver ball at the top of the screen in a given direction and watch as it falls toward the bottom.
With only a predetermined number of balls per level, you must hit all the orange pegs spread out among the mainly blue ones. The ball bounces from one peg to another, like a pinball hitting a bumper.
Catch the ball in a moving bucket that glides back and forth horizontally at the bottom of the screen and you'll be awarded with a free ball.
The goal is to clear all the orange pegs before you run out of balls.
The strategy lies in shooting the ball so that it hits the desired pegs and bounces to hit other orange pegs -- or blue pegs you need to clear to make a path to more orange ones. Pegs are laid out in specific shapes, such as a car, person's face or aquarium.
The pegs are often animated, such as rotating wheels on a bicycle in front of an attractive 2-D backdrop.
The "wow" factor kicks in just as you finish the level. As the silver ball moves toward the final peg, the "camera" zooms in for a slow-motion close-up and a drumroll climaxes into Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" from Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Opus 125.
Then, the silver ball falls into one of five bonus prize values, ranging from 10,000 points to 100,000 points, followed by fireworks and a rainbow. Now this is how to reward a gamer for a job well done.
Click the Instant Replay button to capture a slick move, which you can share with a friend.
Levels are segregated into themes -- such as Space, Halloween or Nature --featuring a unique character at the top of the screen and a power-up that is activated when a green peg is hit.
In the underwater level, for example, hitting a green peg causes pinball flippers to appear (in the shape of lobster claws) on each side of the screen to help keep the ball afloat.
Along with the main Adventure mode and its 55 increasingly challenging levels, the game also offers a Quick Play mode (play any previously completed level); a Duel mode for you to compete in head-to-head "Peggle" matches (against a friend on the same PC or against the computer); and the Challenge mode with 75 additional puzzles to tackle.
"Peggle," which you can play for 60 minutes before being asked to pay $19.95, is one of those rare games that gets everything right. It offers addictive, family-friendly game play, multiple game modes, beautiful graphics and enjoyable audio.
Welcome extras include funny characters, an instant replay option and the climactic end to each level.
Do yourself a favor and give "Peggle" a chance -- it may might not grab you by the lapels at first, but give it a few minutes and you won't be able to pry yourself away from the computer.
Clear all the orange pegs before you run out of balls in PopCap's new PC game "Peggle."
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