Sunday, October 18, 2009

Peggle: 750,000?

I know, this post is two years late. Peggle is hardly today's news. But that's how long it's taken me to finally complete the last challenge in the game, the granddaddy of them all: 750,000? (It even comes with a question mark to show just how improbable it is to complete this challenge.)

For those of you who aren't familiar with the casual gaming event of the decade, Peggle is one of the simplest yet most addicting games ever to be released. The basic premise is that you fire balls at pegs, trying to hit as many of them as you can... and that's about it. Think Pachinko meets Breakout, with a dash of Bust-a-Move thrown in for good measure.

The game starts out innocently enough, with fifty-five levels that you only need to complete. That ends the "undergraduate" course at the Peggle Institute; next up is the much harder gauntlet of challenges. These range from "score a lot of points" to "beat the computer in a duel" to "finish a level under a set of crazy conditions." And they get harder as you go along, eventually culminating in the utterly ridiculous 750,000 point challenge.

Again, for the Peggle uninitiated, 750,000 is an absurd number of point to accumulate in a single level. A usual single-level score is in the neighborhood of 200,000 with some wide variation; say plus or minus 50,000. If you break 300,000 consistently, you're doing a great job. 500,000 is about the highest score you're likely to achieve purely by accident. This challenge demands 1.5 times that.

Most of the challenges can be completed with a little perseverance, possibly with the addition of a touch of strategy or a bit of luck. 750,000? is not among those challenges. You need a solid gameplan before you can even think about broaching this one. My first inclination was to go for a Spookyball- or Multiball-flavored strategy, trying to time and place the last few shots exactly correctly to take advantage of multiple shots at the 100,000 level-ending bonus. I think in theory that's a viable approach, but in practice there were so many variables--and each attempt took such a long time--that I decided to take a new approach.

Swallowing some pride, I turned to my old buddy the internet. And I wasn't the only one who'd done it. There are forum discussions, YouTube Videos, and even hints on the actual Peggle website. Some advised going for a simple, orderly level with predictable shots to maximize style points. Some had bizarre, fancy strategies for "trapping" the ball on complex levels with moving pegs. The problem with all of these is that they require you to be really good at Peggle. So the strategy I ended up going with represented the "brute force/pure luck" approach: Warren on Pearl Clam.

"Wait!" all you Peggle aficionados are protesting. "You always play Claude on Pearl Clam!" And it's true; Peggle conventional wisdom does call for our crabby friend on that level. The level might as well be designed to showcase how the flippers are effective. The thing about Warren is that--with enough luck--he can effectively be Claude, plus he has a few tricks of his own.

The key to this strategy is getting Warren's wheel to land on Triple Score from one of the green pegs and Flippers on the other--within one turn of each other. This is not easy. If you miss a green on the first shot, that's a restart. Hit a green but get Magic Hat or Extra Ball, restart. Hit Triple Score one turn but miss a green next turn, restart. Hit a Triple Score, but then get anything but Flippers, restart. Statistically, it's a 1/72 chance, assuming you make contact with both.

But if you make it work out, this strategy works like a gem. The turn you have Triple Score and Flippers both active, flipper the crap out of the ball until you screw up and lose it. Ideally, you'll accumulate upwards of 175,000 points (though it's feasible to get many more, like the above video shows). That will triple to 525,000. You'll probably get the Orange Attack and Flipper Maniac bonuses for an extra 75,000, bringing your first- or second-ball total to 600,000. Then it's relatively easy to get an additional 150,000, especially if you pick off all the stragglers and get the guaranteed 100,000 at the end.

Now that that's complete, do I stop playing Peggle for a while? Hardly. 100% ribbons on every level, here I come.

Currently listening: "La Virgen de la Macarena", Arturo Sandoval, from Trumpet Evolution

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