Just like when Jared wrote about it for Game of the Week, I was in two minds about reviewing Red Nexus Games’ pachinko roguelike Peglin (Free). On PC, Peglin is available as an early access game, which means it will keep getting new content or fixes as it heads to its full release. On PC, that happens quite a bit with indies, in fact even Baldur’s Gate 3 which I’ve been obsessed with for over a week, was an early access launch in 2020 before it hit 1.0 recently. Peglin is in early access on mobile and it has already seen a few notable updates bringing in new characters and more. I was planning on waiting for Peglin to hit 1.0 on PC and mobile before reviewing it, but I’ve been playing it daily again, so why not write about how it is in its current state? This Peglin early access review will be updated when the game hits 1.0.
Peglin is a “pachinko roguelike” and it involves a lot of elements from both kinds of games. There are a lot of balls, pegs, luck, charming designs, catchy music, and more as you try to aim to get as much damage by hitting pegs as one of many orbs while trying to survive. These orbs and pegs have their own interactions, and there’s a lot of RNG or luck involved depending on how you aim and what’s on the board. This affects your attack to damage enemies. Your aim is to progress to the end of the area you’re in. Even selecting the next path on your map is done by launching yourself as an orb into one of many paths on the bottom of the screen.
These paths range from events to treasure chests and even mini bosses in addition to general battles. In addition to your starting orbs, you collect loads throughout your run while also gaining relics and more. Everything changes up how you will approach the next encounter because you could have something damaging enemies further away, something that gives you more critical attacks, or something that heals you. The first many runs will be a learning experience as you try and find your bearings in Peglin. This is another reason I recommend finishing the opening area which is free to try on mobile. That will tell you everything you need to know about whether Peglin is for you or not.
Peglin could do with more variety in its unlocks, but said variety isn’t as accessible early on. These kinds of games benefit from throwing unlocks at you to keep you invested, and Peglin’s structure and difficulty don’t help. Neither does the reliance on luck, but that isn’t something I knock it for. Peglin 1.0 would be a lot more accessible with some quality of life improvements and accessibility options for newcomers. In a lot of ways, Peglin reminds me of the early game of The Binding of Isaac where you see tons of weapons or modifiers, but struggle to make much progress making you feel like you are wasting your time. The difference is that the gameplay in Peglin hasn’t even remotely stopped being fun while I did tire of Isaac before its DLC at one point.
Having played Peglin on my iPhone (with touch and a Razer Kishi V2), iPad (with a controller and with touch), and Steam Deck, Peglin right now is great on all of them, but I’d try it out on every platform if I were you before investing time into them since there is no cross platform syncing. If you do play on Steam, you can play at a higher frame rate as well and sync to your Steam Deck if you have one through Steam Cloud. The Steam Deck version even supports 120fps while docked over DisplayPort, which is how I’ve been playing it when at home.
In its current state, Peglin on iOS has almost every feature I want. The major miss is the lack of iCloud save support. As with all my reviews mentioning iCloud save support missing, I need to specify that sometimes the developer does implement it, but iCloud itself isn’t too reliable. The only times it has worked flawlessly for me are with Apple Arcade games or Feral Interactive releases. Cross platform syncing seems to be out of the question though. Barring that, a feature I’d like, but one that isn’t essential, is the ability to play in portrait mode on iPhone. Peglin is the perfect portrait game, but I understand that it would require a lot of work for the interface and to make things readable.
On modern iOS devices, Peglin is a 16:9 game so there will be black bars depending on your device. It runs very smoothly on my iPhone 11 and iPad Pro (2020). You can enable a battery saver option if you’d prefer to conserve power while running at a lower frame rate. Barring that, Peglin does have controller support on iOS. I used my Razer Kishi V2 on iPhone and DualSense controller on iPad without any issues. The button prompts changed immediately depending on my input.
Peglin has a few quality of life features like being able to speed up movement and gameplay, but I hope we eventually get one that lets you skip the animations and do things even quicker. The speed up option also wasn’t implemented fully at launch on iOS, but now it offers the same 3x option as the PC version.
One of the advantages to Peglin on mobile, is that it has a very generous free trial available. Peglin is a free to start game with a one time unlock in app purchase. If you aren’t sold on it, I urge you to try the game and see how you feel in the first area. If you do like it, the unlock price is about half of what the PC version costs making the mobile version an even better option with how the pick up and play nature of the game suits portable play. It also helps that the iOS version is superb, and only really is missing iCloud save syncing.
Having never played Peggle before, Peglin has been a ton of fun even with all the luck and RNG involved. It may not be for everyone, but even in its current state, I recommend trying Peglin on iOS. The free to start model means you can try it out for yourself and see how you like it. I was sold after a few runs, and have not grown tired of it even months after launch. I’ve even started playing it on Steam Deck as a break from other games like I do with Vampire Survivors there. I can’t wait to see where Peglin goes when it hits 1.0.