I don’t know what it is that made me enjoy Peglin this much but I absolutely adore it. For anyone that isn’t in the know or that hasn’t stumbled across this gem yet, Peglin is a Pachinko-based Roguelike where you deal damage in a turn-based manner based on orbs that you through at those pachinko-bumpers and there are relics that create synergies and different mechanics. As you may be able to tell by my use of “pachinko-bumpers”, I have no clue about pachinko… but I know for sure that this is a game that I want to talk about today.
Developer: Red Nexus Games Inc.
Publisher: Red Nexus Games Inc., IndieArk
Genre: Indie, Deckbuilding, Early Access, Pinball, 2D, Roguelike
Release Date: April 25th, 2022
Reviewed on: PC
Available on: PC
Copy was purchased.
So, first up… What is pachinko? Well, pachinko is essentially (according to Wikipedia) a “type of mechanical game originating in Japan” that is a mix of pinball and arcade/slot machines. Gambling for cash is illegal in Japan but due to a legal loophole, Pachinko gained a lot of popularity over there. You essentially have these arcade machines that you load a number of metal balls into which then get shot out via a spring-loaded lever. These metal balls then fall vertically through an array of pins, levers, traps, obstacles, and cups until they eventually reach the payout zone where they can even get more balls out of it which then get traded for “special prize tokens” that you then can trade in for cash… so no gambling here, right?
Anyway, in Peglin, you effectively create a “deck” of “orbs” that you load up and then shoot out. Each turn you then get to shoot out one of these and for every pin that you hit, the damage increases by one – with the pins vanishing in the process. You can’t readjust your strength but you can aim for specific spots and try your best to amass big numbers for big damage. The goal is to defeat enemies that get closer to your little goblin every turn. Some of them attack you from afar. Others have to get close to damage you. You have 100 HP and they don’t deal a lot of damage but with few heal opportunities and lots of enemies to deal with, you don’t want to get hit as much – and you’ll need to focus on what enemy you’re targeting. Once you shoot out your orbs, you need to reload which gives enemies an opportunity to attack without an opportunity for you to retaliate while also encroaching on you in the process.
What’s so fascinating about Peglin are the many numbers of mechanics and synergies. While the core gameplay loop is relatively simple, you essentially traverse a “Slay the Spire”-like map – by means of Pachinko. You fight enemies and aim for crit pins and refreshes for your board – by means of Pachinko. You amass, remove, and upgrade different orbs to shoot at your enemies – by means of Pachinko. And you collect relics that will assist you in your journey through the different areas while also making decisions on whether you fight elites or whether you risk mystery rooms on your path. Every encounter gives you the chance of adding an orb or healing or skipping. The rewards are randomized, it seems, so you may get a chance to get stronger or just survive longer, essentially, so you’ll gamble a little bit here in hopes for good RNG to secure a good run. At the same time, though, you’ll need to wager what build you’re going for, whether you want to have more or fewer orbs in your loadout, and what risks orbs you want to upgrade.
There are a lot of relics that may seem weak at first sights, like a simple stat increase or some occasional healing, but when paired with other relics and specific balls, you can become fairly strong. I had this one run where one of my relics would make it so that all pins are “sturdy”, allowing me to hit them more often before they vanish – which in itself sounds “alright” and it’s not necessarily great all the time. However, at the same time, I also had some other orbs and relics that made use of lots of jumps. One of the orbs gets a flat damage increase for every pin hit by your other orbs… paired with slimy orbs that make pins even sturdier and bouncier – on top of a relic that essentially hits enemies for one damage for every two pins hit and yet another that gives you a boost of kinetic energy on every third pin hit… Yeah, I did a lot of damage! I got some rounds where I did more than 1,000 points worth of damage per round which felt amazing! And there are many orbs in the game and a lot of relics to pair them with… and then you also get interesting events in the game that may reward or punish you depending on what choice you make.
That’s honestly something I love in roguelikes. I find it a bit difficult to enjoy games where you only get stat increases. Rather than that, I’d love to see more synergies and fun builds in games – roguelike or not. Peglin really scratches that itch for me and even if the game doesn’t allow for the most skill-expression as it merely relies on your planning ahead and aiming correctly, it’s incredibly satisfying to play for a few rounds at a time!
And well, the whole idea of it is adorable. You’re a little goblin with a bunch of marbles, essentially, that marches through the world and kind of beats the crap out of enemies. The art style is adorable as heck. The music is chill and mellow. The relic ideas are interesting and unique while the difficulty curve is, in my opinion, just right. I would have loved to be able to see what enemies or debuffs do simply by hovering over it but as the game is in Early Access, I’m sure some of that will be added to the game eventually. Similarly, I’d love it if you could speed up the game a little. If you have some incredibly bouncy combos and a bit of luck, you may end up with balls just continuing for ages which can get a bit tedious at times…
Overall, though, Peglin is an absolute gem among gems that certainly scratches that itch for deckbuilding and unique roguelike ideas. It’s adorable and fun and quite challenging, as well. If you like games like Monster Train and Luck be a Landlord, I can highly recommend this one to you! It’s still in Early Access but honestly, it feels incredibly polished and well-designed so far… There is also a demo available on Steam in case you wanna try it out first before committing to a purchase!