One of the neat things about working in a fairly interconnected creative industry is that everybody knowing everybody else can sometimes result in really neat collaborations.
“Peggle Extreme” is one such example. Mention PopCap Games to most people and they’re going to think of tiny games they could run on a cell phone, like Bejeweled and Zuma, or quirky time-wasters like Plants vs. Zombies. Probably not the first company that would come to mind were you to conjure up a collaborative partner for Valve, the people who gave us headcrabs.
Yet this is a capricious world, and when the folks at PopCap heard that their peg-clearing puzzle game was a regular procrastination tool at Valve, they suggested a version of Peggle tailored for release with the Orange Box. Valve agreed enthusiastically, and we reap the benefits: an addicting little game that’s tame enough to play at work but retains enough of the humor and visuals from Half Life, Portal, and Team Fortress 2 to come across as a wonderfully elaborate in-joke.
Peggle Extreme is a highly condensed version of its namesake; the original has 55 levels, 75 Challenges, 10 “Peggle Masters” to unlock and a duel mode, while Extreme only has 10 levels, 5 challenges, 1 master and duel mode. Even so, for fans of Valve’s work it’s a highly satisfying experience. All of the level designs and loading screens use graphics from Valve’s Orange Box, as well as multiple sound clips (for example, if you fail to clear a level you may hear Team Fortress 2’s Heavy shout, “Oh no!”). Gameplay is synonymous between both titles, but Extreme’s graphics are significantly gorier thanks to the content it derives from Valve’s titles. To illustrate the differences, I’ll leave you with a playthrough of each game, first from the original Peggle and second from Peggle Extreme (which is NSFW, thanks to the player’s creative narration). There’s no need to watch past the first few minutes in either–you’ll see the difference pretty quickly.
The loading screen and one level from the original Peggle, by PopCap games
A narrated playthrough of Peggle Extreme. Crunch crunch.