The true test of a game's potency comes when players close their eyes. Peggle Nights, like Tetris and countless other obsession-worthy puzzlers, will remain seared on the back of your lids. The game's bouncing arcs take over a small part of the brain, insinuating themselves into the subconscious like a catchy song. Peggle Nights is a follow-up to last year's best casual game, Peggle. Besides a barely perceptible nocturnal theme, not much has changed. Players aim and fire pinballs, attempting to nail all the orange pegs before running out of ammo. At first glance, the game seems to rely more on dumb luck then skill, but as things progress, strategy and precision become more and more vital. As before, the game's presentation goes a long way toward keeping players hooked. Peggle Nights is crammed with eye and ear candy, all cleverly calculated to reward. From the victory music (which practically praises success with hallelujahs) to the explosions of color that accompany nearly every point earned, the game is all about stimulation. If evil scientists were locked in a laboratory and tasked with creating the ultimate weapon of mass distraction—something capable of addicting populations, destroying productivity, and preventing sleep—they'd never deliver the goods. They, too, would be sidetracked by the glorious distraction of Peggle Nights.

Beyond the game: Peggle completists should try out Peggle Extreme, which came free with The Orange Box last year. The 10 levels depict characters and creatures from Half-Life, Portal, and Team Fortress interacting with—and frequently maiming—Peggle's cuddly mascots.

Worth playing for: The game's look, a gaudy mélange of rainbows, unicorns, candy, and kittens, elevates the cartoon kitsch of penny slot machines to a giddy art.


Frustration sets in when: One ball left. The last target, a single orange peg, is buried beneath a nettle of obstacles. A Hail Mary shot banks off the left wall. This could be it. The camera zooms in as the projectile nears its target. A dramatic drum roll suggests victory may be at hand. Then the ball whiffs. The studio audience moans disappointment. It's game over, but this frustration is by design and crafted to compel.

Final judgment: Another reason to welcome our new casual-gaming overlords.