Not content with reigning supreme over peg-popping and gem-swapping, PopCap Games brings us a “lawn defense” zombie romp that will make you call in sick for the next week. Plants vs. Zombies is the latest game from the crazed developers behind Peggle and Bejeweled, henceforth referred to as digital crack.
Just like my co-host in crime, I am not exactly a tower defense game nut, and at first was very skeptical that Plants vs. Zombies could hold my attention like the puzzle games PopCap peddles these days. After all, what is there to do once your tower has been defended by insert-bad-guy-here? Fear not young Peashooter, this game packs much more play and variety than any of the current crop in the genre.
You start off small of course, defending against only one or two type of zombie, but then you switch from day to night and the strategy changes completely. Sun, being the resource that makes plants grow, is required to mount a strong resistance against the slow-moving horde. Pick the best spot to plant, or you will not be able to hold off every wave, and when night falls you must rely on mushrooms. Each new stage throws a wrench into the mix; which of course keeps you thinking of new strategies.
Other stages introduce water, fog, and a grand finale on your roof; just don’t let the zombies eat your flower pots (or your brains, of course). You don’t play too long before switching gears, and that is one of the hooks this game has. Also be prepared for over-the-top character designs such as Dancing Zombie, in a red outfit, doing the Moonwalk. The PopCap humor is oozing out of every part of this game; they obviously had fun making it.
Adventure mode spans 50 levels, and keeps you planting seeds for about six to eight hours, depending on your style of play. Some will breeze through the game, but even if you do, this one is worth it for the laughs and the infectious charm.
However, if there is one flaw, and it kills the game: You can plant two or more rows of Sunflowers and the game has no dynamic to even out the odds – thus making for a very boring game. PopCap is known for appealing to the masses, but this fact alone could keep a segment from really getting the most of this one.
If you go through Adventure mode again, you will find your crazy neighbor has chosen a few seeds for you, so this does change your strategy a bit, and adds more replay to a full game. You will unlock mini-games such as Beghouled Twist and Zombiquarium, 20 in all; 18 puzzle levels – I, Zombie is my favorite – and 10 more stages in Survival mode. That is a lot of zombies for $20!
Progression through the game brings with it a steady flow of unlocks, though you will have to play pretty far until you can try your hand at gardening with the Zen Garden; this being your stress relief of course.
In your Zen Garden, you grow plants that can help you out in the game proper. You occasionally need to buy fertilizer or bug spray, but your hard work will pay off. I personally would have liked to see this mode unlocked sooner, as some will want to spend as much time in their garden as they do on their lawn.
Plants vs. Zombies has a colorful palette and crisp animation style, and it's delightful watching your plant army dismember the ever-encroaching threat. You are also always busy doing things with the mouse; be it collecting sun, money, or playing whack-a-zombie. The game keeps things lighthearted though; this is not Resident Evil.
Plants vs. Zombies has a catchy, dynamic soundtrack and does not get old. You may have a tune or two stuck in your heard after a while. Once your lawn starts to fill up, the music fills in accordingly. The effect is subtle and you may not notice, but everything is mixed together well.
The “it” factor that brings you back for more is the huge assortment of plants to chose from, such as the Split Pea, Blover and Cabbage-pult; close to 50 total. Add to that two dozen zombie types and five game modes, and you have a highly recommended game – even for those not inclined to play every tower defense variant on the block.
Plants vs. Zombies requires an Intel-based Mac, and is also available on Windows. The game is not rated by the ESRB but is family friendly.Powered by Sidelines