Many Americans will probably recognise Peg Solitaire as a variation on what's more commonly as “that weird little game they have at all the tables at Cracker Barrel," but in Europe, Peg Solitaire is just, well, Solitaire (while that one-player card game we're familiar with is known as Patience). So if you feel like you've been missing out all these years, fear not: there's a new DSiWare game with your name on it.
Peg Solitaire is sort of like suicidal checkers – it's a one-player game where you try and jump your own pieces to clear the board until there's only one peg left, ideally right in the middle of the board. You can only make a move if you jump another piece, and you can only move vertically and horizontally. There are a few variations on board sizes and designs, but that's essentially all there is to the game.
Now, like many board game-based titles on DSiWare, Peg Solitaire includes a couple of odd-ball elements to its interface to differentiate it from, well, the actual board game. This time around, the weirdness springs from the selection of characters. First of all, these add absolutely no weight to the gameplay whatsoever, and secondly, their anime-inspired designs range from kind of cute to vaguely demonic, not to mention their confusing, poorly translated catch phrases. The weirdness stops there, however, and thankfully the game itself is actually quite solid.
The simplicity and immediate accessibility is what makes Peg Solitaire such a cherished game, and the developers have certainly picked up on that here — the touch screen controls are just as intuitive and responsive as one would expect, meaning you'll be able to pick up and play this one in a matter of seconds. Thankfully, there are no gameplay gimmicks thrown in here in some pointless attempt to make the game feel modern or different; instead, the appeal comes from the variety of clever board designs that change with each level.
Unfortunately, while all the levels are well crafted (after all, it's well known for being a thinking-man's game), almost none of them are truly challenging, even for a complete newcomer. It may take you a couple tries to beat some of the levels on the higher difficulties, but that's only if you refuse to utilise the game's forgiving “undo” button, of which you get five per match, even though such a move would generally be considered cheating in the physical board game version of Peg Solitaire. Really, though, even if you don't use them, you can probably beat every stage in the game within an hour.
Just beating every stage, thankfully, is not the end of the package. Not only are there medals to earn for how many pieces remain on the board at the end (bronze for three, gold for one) but there's a constantly ticking clock taunting you as well. Going back and trying to beat the levels as quickly as possible is definitely one of the more fun aspects of the game. It's a shame, then, that there are no online leaderboards.
There is local mutiplayer, though, which is a nice addition. The surprisingly interesting two-player mode is played on a single DSi (no download play required or available), and takes place on a larger-than-normal game board. The object, instead of working together to clear the board as a team, is to make intentionally devious plays so that your opponent can't make a move. It's a good time, even if it's more fun to simply take turns speed-running single player.
It's a shame that the game doesn't offer much of a challenge, because it really is a joy to play while it lasts. Even with multiplayer and some incentive to come back to previously completed levels, for some, 500 points will prove just a little too steep for the limited amount of content this game has to offer.