Playing Peggle 2 is a bit like listening to modern Maroon 5. Early Maroon 5 is something no one should be ashamed to admit they like. It’s great music. The same goes for the original Peggle, a humble little game with just the right amount of everything it’s possible to have too much of. It was just the right balance of challenging and relaxing, its humor didn’t come off as shitty video game humor and was instead merely charming, and it didn’t feel like a million dollars was poured into it.
Clearing levels in Peggle 2, however, is the equivalent of hearing Adam Levine’s vocals whine over Maroon 5’s latest electropop turd – it’s catchy, it works, but it leaves me wondering “Where’s the funk?”.
What Peggle 2 does that’s so off-putting is that it tries too much. There was a coolness to Peggle that’s hard to describe. It wasn’t trying to wow you with much of anything but a pleasant time, and was content with that. It was a quiet, unassuming game. Peggle 2, on the other hand, is abrasive, saturated, and dare I say, overexposed. The original Peggle was whimsical to be sure, but it wasn’t overly so. Peggle 2, on the other hand, is a maelstrom of rainbows and starbursts and as ignorant as this may sound, it makes me wonder if I’m playing something outside of my demographic.
The beautiful and eye-catching, but static and 2D, level backdrops from the original game have been replaced with soulless, bland 3D landscapes that don’t do much of anything but prevent the backdrop from simply being white. The music is no longer the cheesy, low production value synth funk that really completed that elusive Peggle feel, and has been substituted with… sound. It’s just uninspired movie soundtrack-esque stock music that fits the theme of the level. It doesn’t move, groove, or generate any interest whatsoever.
It’s hard to have as nice a time in Peggle 2, when the iconic Bjorn the Unicorn looks like a total fucking burnout, headbangs and flips his bangs around, and the rest of the Peggle crew are gone and replaced with forgettable surrogates. It’s hard to have as nice a time when some levels are introduced with a deliberately quirky faux-digital camera video, with Bjorn’s animated hands trying to hold a sign in front of the camera. You know what Peggle 2 is going for, it isn’t working, and it’s not fun.
Peggle didn’t get in the way. Peggle 2 overtly tries to make you smile, laugh, and generally look like a stock photo – not only is this not what Peggle is about, and not what Peggle should be about, but it just can’t pull it off. When I’m not skipping them altogether, pre-level dialogue is not charming and not even ironically funny, it’s just fucking bad. One character in particular introduces every level with random quotes from The Big Lebowski, completely without context and uncoincidentally, without humor.
The core gameplay remains happily intact, and when in the zone, Peggle 2 can still provide that fun you remember from the original. For listening to podcasts, audiobooks, watching a show, etc, Peggle 2 can ease the restlessness. However, that something has to be relegated to your subconscious in order to be entertaining when it previously had it so right is sad.