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Review: Plants vs Zombies

(6) June 15th, 2010

I’m not an insanely busy person, but I do have my fingers in a few pies here and there. I do find myself having to schedule in gaming time, which makes it all the more of a rarity that a game can still grab me by the scruff of the neck and force me to play it, not just to finish it, but to finish in every mode, unlock everything I could, and get all the achievements. This is one such game. Plants vs Zombies for iPhone has cracked my head open, eaten my brains, and left me begging for more.

Plants vs Zombies is a PopCap Games creation, designed by George Fan. After 3 years of development it was released for PC in May 2009, and made its way to the Apple App Store in February 2010 selling 300,000 copies in its first nine days, making it PopCap’s fastest selling game. A version for XBox Live Arcade is currently under development. Plants vs Zombies has been nominated for two Interactive Achievement Awards, “Casual Game of the Year” and “Outstanding Achievement in Game Design”, along with nominations for “Best Game Design”, “Innovation”, and “Best Downloaded Game” from the Game Developer’s Choice Awards in the USA.

It’s a quirky, light hearted tower-defense game with oodles of personality. I’m not kidding when I say oodles. PopCap seem to have made the conscious decision to personality the crap out of every nook, corner and cranny of this game. You the player have to protect your household (and the brains held within) from an army of approaching hungry zombies. You guard your home with various defensive and offensive plants in 3 main settings, your front yard, your back yard (with pool), and your roof, both during the day and the night. Unlike some other tower defense games, instead of having paths and mazes for building your towers you have a grid, with zombies staying on their one lane unless instructed otherwise by you. After the first few levels I found myself thinking there’s not much to this game, but it continues to impress by picking up its difficulty level with hardier zombies, and injecting charm and humour where ever possible. Just as I started to get an inkling that the novelty might just possibly be wearing off, something would make me giggle and I’d be in love all over again.

The ‘tower’ variety is deliciously interesting, with 48 plants with which to attack and defend. The plants include peashooters (that… well… shoot peas), kernal-pults flinging butter and corn to slow down enemies, potato mines that go boom, spike shooting cactuses, and mushrooms that spout deadly fumes capable of penetrating screen doors and other barricades. All this information is kept in your ‘Suburban Almanac’ for handy reference, detailing the characteristics of each plant and zombie, so you can make your plant choices appropriately. The Almanac lists each plant’s damage, recharge rate, and cost, along with a description of their personality, usually coupled with a cute quote. The Almanac also has a section for the details on the zombies, rating their toughness, speed, weaknesses, and any special tricks they’re capable of. Special zombies include bobsledding zombies, a zombie yeti, Michael Jackson ‘Thriller’ zombies (complete with backup dancers), and gargantuan zombies that throw midget zombies at you (I KNOW RIGHT!). The variety is strong, and while it seems like a slightly less impressive number of 26 when compared to the 48 plants, they definitely make up for it by bringing the funny.

Once you have finished Adventure Mode (which takes you through each level available) you unlock Quick Play, giving you access to each level individually. Bonus levels are featured at the end of each chapter in Adventure Mode and are thankfully accessible from Quick Play. They involve fun mini-game-esque spins on original levels, like smashing vases that contain either plants or zombies, a conveyor belt supplying you with plants you can’t choose, and walnut bowling. From the main menu you have access to Adventure Mode, Quick Play, Achievements, and the Shop. The Shop is where your neighbour “Crazy Dave” can sell you plants and other assorted goodies to help you on your zombie thrashing journey, with in game money earned by butchering the undead. There are 13 Achievements all up, some easier than others, and just to prove PopCap have been injecting personality into anything that sits still in this game, scroll down past the bottom of the Achievements list and have a look. Keep scrolling. Keeeeeeep scrolling. See what they did thar? Oh PopCap!

In summary, I’ve been absolutely captivated by this simple yet so perfectly executed game. It’s one I’ll never delete and I eagerly await any updates that PopCap might offer, here’s hoping they’ll throw a few new plants or zombies at us hungry dogs. It’s also worth mentioning the iPad version is in full HD, that’s a good enough reason for me to buy one, right? For the bargain price of AUD$3.99 on the iPhone, I think it’s a no-brainer (hurr) compared to the US$9.99 you’d pay on Steam for the PC version. If you’re that cheap that you still want to try before you buy a $4 game, there are free demos available on Steam, and plantsvszombies.com. Thank me later!

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6 Responses to “Review: Plants vs Zombies”

  1. Hawky says:

    I love the review, i bought the game because of this :P

    Well done, many best wishes for the site :D

  2. elroy says:

    I too bought this game based purely on the review I just finished reading. I have played the game many times and have told many friends to buy the game too. They all enjoyed it and have told all of their friends to buy it as well. Many of those people were people who I had already told, so they’d already bought the game, but bought it again based on the second friend telling them.

    Between me and my friends we’ve all bought Plants Vs Zombies about 2300 times. All because of the review posted above.

    True story.

  3. xyf says:

    Played this originally on the Steam but it was practically made for touch devices. Lost many hours to it’s addictive impulse – <3 it though! It's what games should be, cheap, entertaining, small, and engaging (now that I don't have 5hrs a day to game).

  4. I will have to invest in this next time I have some spare cash! kept hearing about it but never really looked at it. great review, love the writing style.

  5. Nirvesta says:

    Nice review! Will definitely have to grab this game. Keep up the good work, look forward to reading future reviews.

  6. […] you’ve read my Plants vs Zombies review you’d know how much I adored the original game, and the prospect of a sequel has me candidly […]

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