Caelum attempts to add a fresh spin to Peggle, but fails to achieve the addictiveness of its inspiration.
PopCap’s Peggle was a rather slow-burner when it first released, which in retrospect is hardly surprising given its content – I mean, who would have guessed that launching a ball into a bunch of brightly-coloured pegs would have been so addictive? Of course, with every huge hit comes a variety of clones looking to ride in its coattails, and ApGames are looking to do just that with Caelum, a space-based variant on the formula. While Caelum features a few unique ideas, the action is far too slow and bland to capture that addictive quality its inspiration oozed.
A robot has been sent out into the wilderness of space to collect precious gems – aka pegs – for his human creators. This involves firing a ball out of a cannon at the top of the screen, which then falls through the pegs and leaves via the bottom of the screen. The object of each level is to destroy all the red pegs before you run out of balls.
The catch, however, is that once a ball is fired, you have barely any input over where it bounces. Hence the key is to choose a suitable initial shot to maximize the number of red pegs the ball hits on the way down. Anyone who has played Peggle, however, will tell you that most of the time it’s completely random. Of course, this is all part of the addictive nature of the concept – each game is different, and watching that ball drop down can be nail-biting stuff.
Caelum adds a few of its own ideas to the mix. Whereas in Peggle the constantly moving bucket at the bottom could catch and save a ball, in Caelum the paddle at the bottom will cause the ball to change direction, acting as if gravity has been flipped. It will fall upwards until it reaches the top of the screen, before going back to its usual antics.
Then there are special pegs which, rather than staying stationary, will slide for a second or two and may activate other pegs. The game also has its own set of special abilities, activated by bumping green pegs. There are three abilities to choose from, although they aren’t exactly impressive – in fact, two of the three are taken straight from PopCap’s game.
Finally, left and right clicking while the ball is active allows the player to nudge the pegs slightly. While it sounds useful, in execution it proves otherwise – there just isn’t enough time to plan a useful nudge and in many cases I found myself accidentally nudging the pegs out of the way of the ball! It’s a rather pointless feature that you most likely won’t use all that often.
Unfortunately, Caelum fails to achieve brilliance due to its incredibly slow-paced action. The ball is clearly in no rush as it bounces around, and levels soon become rather boring. There’s a distinct lack of personality, too – other than the robot rambling between levels, everything looks incredibly generic, and levels eventually begin to merge, as they all look so similar.
There are 50 levels to play through, a challenge mode to unlock and trophies to achieve, but unless you’re a Pachinko fanatic you’ll most likely lose interest early on. Caelum puts a space-themed spin on the popular concept but falls short in too many areas to wholeheartedly recommend. If you’re still interested in giving it a go, there’s a demo available to download.