Archive for the ‘Games’ Category


July 26, 2009

You realise there is something seriously different with Peggle from the start of the game. Instead of the realistic graphics you would normally find in shoot-em-up games, you encounter carefully designed comic-like characters. And instead of ear-piercing noise, you are welcomed to the soothing sound of Edvard Grieg’sPeer Gynt Morning”, while the sun is rising.

Peggle was inspired by a very famous Japanese slot machine game called Pachinko. Like Patchinko, where you try to control the flow of balls that continuously fall from the top of the machine, in Peggle you are armed with a cannon at the top middle of your screen and you control the firing of a ball. The ball bounces obstacles and pegs at each level until it gets to the bottom, where is it either saved by the ball catcher, which moves back and forth in typical arcanoid fashion, or is lost. The pegs touched by the ball are lit, and when the shot is completed, or when the ball gets stuck, those pegs disappear. The object of the game is to eliminate the 25 orange pegs, which are randomly dispersed in the blue pegs at the start of each level. As you progress though the levels you will need to use strategy to remove blue pegs to target the orange ones, while paying attention to your remaining balls. There are some special pegs to help you: a purple peg awards you bonus points and a green peg activates the “magic power”.

One of the Peggle levels. In this snapshot, the ball has just been lost and all the lit pegs disappear from the level

One of the Peggle levels. In this snapshot, the ball has just been lost and all the lit pegs disappear from the level

Each of those special magic powers is named after an animal or plant character and gives special characteristics to your ball for a limited number of ball attempts. Bjorn, an avidly named unicorn, shows which way your ball will bounce after your initial firing. Kat Tut attaches a pyramid at the ball catcher at the bottom of the level, making it more difficult to lose a ball and helping you target bottom placed pegs. The imaginative french named Claude, a crab, attaches crab like flippers at the lower sides of the level and transform Peggle into a pinball experience. Tula, a smiling anthropomorphic daisy, will automatically light up the 20% remaining orange pegs for you, whereas Splork, an alien-like creature will similarly light up all nearby pegs with super advanced alien technology. Jimmy Lightning, a playful beaver, will clone your ball, whereas Warren will give you a choice of magic powers. Lord Cinderbottom, a phantasy inspired dragon, will transform your cannon into a destructive fireball, that will vaporize all pegs encountered in its path. Renfield, a Halloween pumpkin, will make your ball spookingly appear once at the top of the level exactly where it dropped to the bottom. Finally, the master of all the magic powers, Master Hu, a wise owl, will attempt to give the maximum zen to your ball and guide it to light up most orange pegs or to collect a high score.

Compared to other computer games, what Peggle lacks in complexity, it makes up with its creative, playful character. When you have completed a set of levels, you get awarded the certificate of the Peggle Master and unlock an exciting collection of new, and – sometimes almost impossible – levels. To successfully complete those you may for example need to eliminate all the pegs in the level, achieve a special high score, beat the computer as an opponent in dual gaming or complete several challenges one after the other. But the most exhilarating experience of playing the game is when you are about to hit the final orange peg to finish the level. When the ball approaches the peg, the area is magnified and tension builds up. If you are successful and hit your final peg, sparkles erupt from your ball and “Ode for Joy” accompanies you to the celebrations of finishing the level till your special bonus is counted.


P.S.: Peggle is made by Pop Cap games and is available for PC, Mac, iPhone, Nintendo DS and X-Box.

(all pictures are screenshots of the game © Pop Cap)


World of Goo

January 18, 2009
Making a tower in one of the levels of the World of Goo Making a tower in one of the levels of the World of Goo

Roughly speaking, there are two types of computer games for me: those that you need to be good at the gamepads and those that you need to be good at strategy. Most of the new computer games belong to the former category, whereas I am mostly intrigued by games in the latter category. Every now and there comes a computer game that does not only entertain me but aims to sharpen my mind.

World of Goo certainly belongs in this category. I was fortunate enough to be introduced to this game recently by my friend. If you expect 3D graphics, killing, kicking or blazing speeds, then you can skip the rest of the post. If you are still here, then you will learn how a simple game with inspiring sounds – Danny Elfman meets Ennio Morricone – and strategically designed levels will win you at first glance.

The object of this 2D platform game is reminiscent of an older, but yet classic game, Lemmings. Like that game, in which you had to collect as many Lemmings as possible, in the World of Goo, you need to collect a specific number of Goo balls at the pipe that represents the exit. To reach the pipe, you have to make intricate Goo structures by connecting some of the balls together. The remaining balls just hover around the structure until it reaches the pipe and sucks them. There is, however one minor detail that makes the big difference: the connections of the structure are not rigid but elastic. This gives a whole new purpose to the physics skills that you acquired – hopefully not in vain – during your high school years and makes you think twice before you make every move. As you progress the levels, you will guide your Goo balls through obstacles like hills, unusual terrains, water, away from nasty shredders and spikes, and you will also be armed with special balls, balloons and other aids.

Level completed!

Level completed!

The game is divided into 5 different chapters, all of which contain different levels. There are 47 different levels in the World of Goo and a special one called “World of Goo Corporation”. This is just a repository of all the extra Goo balls that you have saved while playing all other levels. The aim is to make the tallest Goo structure and to compare it to the ones of all the other players in the world.


World of Goo is the fruit of labour of just two game designers, Ron Carmel and Kyle Gabler, that together formed the independent gaming company 2D Boy. And to top it all up? You need not splash a fortune to buy a new game console. For a mere $20 (£ 13.4 last time I checked) you will get both the PC and the Mac version (and the Linux one when is available). Give it a free trial: download the demo, play the entire first chapter and become an instant Goo-fanatic.




(first two images are screenshots of the game. All images © 2D Boy.)