Hands-on with Candy Crush Saga dev's iOS ball bouncer Papa Pear Saga

Pegged out

Hands-on with Candy Crush Saga dev's iOS ball bouncer Papa Pear Saga
| Papa Pear Saga

The upcoming iOS game Papa Pear Saga is the latest cute and colourful money trap from Candy Crush Saga creator King.

It's also a clone of a PopCap game.

I know, right? Alert the authorities, call in the news crew, clear the front page.

Sweets for my sweet

The developer making almost half a million quid a day from 'Bejeweled with sweets' has borrowed another idea from PopCap.

This time around, it's Peggle's turn. In Papa Pear Saga, then, you fire balls (pears) out of a cannon in the hope of bouncing off loads of pegs (acorns) and eventually dropping into a bucket at the bottom.

The rules in Papa Pear Saga are a little different from Peggle's, mind. There are five buckets instead of one in King's game, for one. Oh, and your goal is (usually) to drop a ball in each bucket, rather than clear the screen of a certain colour of peg.

But while the Papa Pear Saga idea is largely the same as the Peggle one, King obviously didn't study the source material closely enough. This one rockets straight past what makes Peggle so brilliant like a ball bearing soaring pixels above that final, sodding orange peg.

Papa Pear Saga

You see, everything about Peggle's presentation is tuned to maximise your feeling of satisfaction and reward. It's so important to the game's design that PopCap spent an entire year putting in all the extra bells and whistles.

Remember how every time you strike a peg, the "ding!" rises up one notch on the chromatic scale until you hit the jackpot and the Ball-O-Matic belches out a free ball?

Or the way the camera zooms in and the game goes into slow motion to perfectly frame that all-important money shot when your ball bearing slams into the final peg. Or sails, agonizingly close, past it.

And all that BEFORE the explosively triumphant and completely over-the-top end-of-level spectacle. In this absurd celebration - dubbed "Extreme Fever" - PopCap merges fireworks and rainbows and a high score in the hundreds of thousands, while Beethoven's 'Ode to Joy' erupts out of your speakers.

By comparison, Papa Pear Saga's end-of-level histrionics - called "Papa Fiesta" - feels like a rained-out wake. It never comes close to eliciting Peggle's fist-pumping, jaw-dropping, everything-is-brilliant sense of joy.

Papa Pear Saga

Peggle is simply an excellent example of a studio utilising every audio and visual cue in its arsenal to make the player feel utterly amazing. It feels like it comes from the same school of design that brought us the insane bells and whistles of a winning slot machine.

Unlike with a one-armed bandit, however, there's nothing cynical about the way PopCap weaves its art and audio to keep you rapt, slack-jawed, and pawing at your iPad until three in the morning.

It's a premium game, after all, without any in-app purchases. PopCap wants to make you feel good and get you addicted because, I dunno, games used to be fun or something. (Saying that, we don't know if Peggle 2 will also be free of in-app purchases).

The maker of Papa Pear Saga isn't quite so nice as PopCap, though. Every time you fail, you can either pay £1.49 for three more balls or get stung by one of those hateful energy systems. And it's got boosters, like a score multiplier, multi-ball, fire ball, and enormo-ball. But once you use up your three free ones, you'll need to spend to get them again.

Papa Pear Saga

Papa Pear Saga isn't immediately horrible. But like Candy Crush, it doesn't 'reveal' its true colours until you've finished the first batch of levels. At level 20 or so, Papa Pear Saga's levels become frustratingly difficult to finish without paying for boosts and extra balls.

Elsewhere, Papa Pear Saga has some rather odd character designs (the hero is a dancing pear with a crash helmet and a scruffy grey hobo beard) and repetitive music. It does, however, have loads of levels, immediate (Facebook-powered) leaderboards, and a few twists on the basic rules.

Ultimately, I'm sure the game will make King insanely rich. And that's a pretty good antidote to the bitter tears of angry games journalists who demand things like originality and polish and fun, I've heard.

Note: This hands-on preview is based on a game in 'soft launch' mode, so any prices and mechanics are subject to change before the game's worldwide release date.
Mark Brown
Mark Brown
Mark Brown spent several years slaving away at the Steel Media furnace, finally serving as editor at large of Pocket Gamer before moving on to doing some sort of youtube thing.