Plants vs. Zombies Review
Plants vs. Zombies box art
System: Xbox 360, PC, MAC, DS Review Rating Legend
Dev: PopCap Games 1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid 4.0 - 4.4 = Great
Pub: PopCap Games 2.0 - 2.4 = Poor 4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
Release: Sept. 08, 2010 2.5 - 2.9 = Average 5.0 = The Best
Players: 1-2 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+ 3.5 - 3.9 = Good
A No-Brainer
by Adam Brown

It’s hard not to admire a developer like PopCap Games. In a time when most games continue to strive for realism, they consistently make cartoony games that are both fun to play and exude charm from just about every aspect imaginable. Their last title, Peggle, is a good example of what to expect from them. It combined humorous, over-the-top characters with an enjoyable and challenging modified version of pachinko. Thankfully, Plants vs. Zombies continues in this same vein, providing players with both a solid tower defense variant while also entertaining through its design, writing, and aesthetic.

Plants vs. Zombies screenshot

In Plants vs. Zombies your goal is simple, to keep the advancing zombie hordes from coming inside your house and eating your brain. However, rather than just breaking out a gun and going for headshots, players will need to rely on a different kind of green thumbs. As waves of zombies continue to approach your home, looking for an afternoon (or late night) snack, the only thing standing in their way is a yard full of weaponized plants, as long as everything is going according to plan.

The first thing you’ll notice is just how cute everything is in this game. Everything from the humanized looking plants (read plants with faces) to even the zombies will bring a smile to your face, even if you are unaware of it. However, while this title comes off as being so sweet that it seems like it has been dipped in chocolate and then in sugar in the visuals department, don’t let that fool you. Although this game could likely be played by anyone, as it is easy to understand and get into, it hides an incredibly serious, deep, and difficult game beneath its diabetes inducing exterior.

Plants vs. Zombies is clearly based on the tower defense genre, however, there are some important differences that make it more unique. In most tower defense games, you are tasked with placing towers in strategic locations, optimizing their position in order to land more blows on enemies as they waltz through labyrinthine levels where they’ll essentially walk two miles to get to a destination no more than twenty feet away. However, in this title, you’ll be placed in rectangular environments and need to make use of the available squares (positioned in lengthy horizontal rows with up to six rows vertically) between your door on the left and where the zombies are streaming from on the right.

Plants vs. Zombies screenshot

This helps to take out much of the ambiguity inherent in other tower defense games. You won’t ever have to worry about which direction the enemies will be coming from or if they’ll wander differently, allowing them to sidestep your defenses. Instead, zombies will come out of bushes on the right (usually, there aren’t bushes in some of the later stages) and continue to shamble forward along the horizontal path in which they started. Not only does this make the game feel less about needing to fail once in order to learn where foes will be coming from, it also creates a more claustrophobic intensity that continues to ramp up as more and more zombies stream towards your home.

Besides a zombie chopping lawnmower (or other devices later on) as your last ditch line of defense, you’ll need to plant a slew of seeds in order to stop the zombie onslaught. You’ll start the game with a limited number of plants, unlocking more as you beat levels or purchase them from Crazy Dave’s car trunk, which doubles as a shop, with coins you’ll earn during play. As these are plants and not towers, you’ll need to use sun power in order to plant more seeds (read deadly, zombie-killing plants). You’ll get this from both the sky (during the day) and various plants that produce it, running over the gobs of bright yellow with your reticule when they appear to collect them, and then use it as currency to plant all manner of offensive and defensive vegetation.

Plants vs. Zombies screenshot

However, you won’t always have unlimited access to every plant you’ve unlocked, as you will be limited by the number of slots in your seed pouch (which can also be extended by Crazy Dave for a price). So instead of just being able to plant whichever seeds you’d like, you’ll need to pay attention to the different types of enemies and the environment before starting your level, making sure to take the plants that give you the best chance at victory. This is another aspect of Plants vs. Zombies that helps it to feel unique amongst other entries in the tower defense genre. Because of the way it is set up and the limitations that are applied, you tend to create a build order, much like you would in an RTS game. For instance, I would typically fill the last two rows with sun flowers or sun producing mushrooms, then put a row of frozen pea shooters next to help damage and slow the incoming zombies, and then fill in the front lines with cheaper and more expendable plants.

Screenshots / Images
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