Review: Plants vs. Zombies

Hello, readers! I come to you, amazingly, with something not Final Fantasy related, nor indeed even Japanese! No, today I come bearing a review of PopCap’s Plants vs. Zombies. Released for PC, Mac, iOS, Xbox Live Arcade, Nintendo DS, Playstation Network, DSiWare, Android, and Windows Phone 7, Plants vs. Zombies is certainly not a difficult game to find. For some reason, despite being a game made by PopCap, a developer known for its casual titles, Plants vs. Zombies has enjoyed favorable reception from the hardcore gaming crowd. Why is it that a goofy tower defense game has managed to be so popular? Read on and see why Plants vs. Zombies is surprisingly fun! A brief note, though: this review deals with the PC (and more specifically, Steam) release of Plants vs. Zombies.

These zombies are too adorable to be annoying.
Another entry into the oversaturated zombie-game market?

Plants vs. Zombies is, on the surface, a simple tower defense game. Indeed, the game is very easy to learn. Zombies approach from the right side of the screen, seeking entry into the player’s house on the left. The player’s goal is, as the game’s title suggests, to plant various plants on the lawn to repel the zombies. As the player advances, more plants are unlocked, and newer, tougher varieties of zombies emerge. Additionally, the map changes every ten levels in the main adventure mode, for a total of five different maps with different obstacles to deal with in addition to the incoming zombie invasion. The resource used to build the plants, naturally, is sunlight, and players need to plant sunflowers in order to generate it. What makes the gameplay of Plants vs. Zombies so successful and addictive is its simplicity. The forty-nine plants the player can eventually unlock add a fair bit of complexity and strategy to the game without over-complicating things. Levels are usually short but often very hectic as the player rushes to build a strong lawn defense. Unfortunately, though, Plants vs. Zombies can get a bit repetitive, as most casual-targeted games do. Still, Plants vs. Zombies has enough variety in it to create an experience that is simple and enjoyable.

The large plant in the middle is a Cob Cannon, and they are insane.

On a technical level, Plants vs. Zombies offers up what one reasonably would expect from a casual game. The game’s art style is extremely vibrant and colorful; never before have zombies looked so fun. The music, while not groundbreaking, is catchy, and greatly adds to the colorful atmosphere of the Plants vs. Zombies experience. Plants vs. Zombies also ends in a voiced-over song, and that song is adorable. While keeping it simple, the technical aspects of Plants vs. Zombies still work to create a fun game. The controls, at least on the PC, are fairly good; the game is almost entirely played using only the mouse. Dragging and dropping plants where the player wishes them to go is easy, though admittedly it is possible to misplace a plant and ruin a setup if the player is rushing. It seems that the technical aspects of Plants vs. Zombies, like the gameplay, are meant to create an experience that is both simple and fun. In this, PopCap Games has been extremely successful.

Not the setup I would have used, but still effective.
Survival mode gets very hectic as zombies pour into the screen.

In addition to “Adventure”, the primary gameplay mode, Plants vs. Zombies also offers several other types of gameplay. Mini-games, such as a zombie version of PopCap’s Bejeweled or a variant of the main game where portals shift plants’ projectiles and zombies around the map add variety to the game’s simple mechanics. “Vasebreaker,” a puzzle game, has players breaking vases to uncover both plants and zombies, and attempting to form a defense based around the plants and zombies that are exposed. The other puzzle game, “I, Zombie”, puts the player in the other role by having the player spend sun to send zombies after an existing lawn defense. And, like any good tower defense game, Plants vs. Zombies has survival modes; there are two survival levels for each map type as well as an “Endless Survival” mode. The mini-games, puzzles, and survival levels are significantly tougher than the main adventure mode. The endless games are particularly challenging, as the difficulties spike rapidly as the player advances. Honestly, the other gameplay modes are even more fun than “Adventure”. While some of the mini-games are boring, and “Vasebreaker” as a puzzle mini-game is not particularly exciting, these other modes of play turn Plants vs. Zombies into a game worth experiencing.

For ten U.S. dollars on Steam or twenty for a retail copy, there are certainly worse purchases a gamer could make than Plants vs. Zombies. There is also a free, features-limited web version available on PopCap’s website, but I would honestly just recommend purchasing the game. For someone seeking a casual, simple, and above all fun experience, Plants vs. Zombies is an easy choice. Heck, I hate tower defense games and I liked it! What of you, Lusi-sprites? Have you played Plants vs. Zombies? If so, what were your experiences with the game?

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