Plants vs. Zombies took the world by storm not too long ago with this magical little music video. It didn’t tell you anything about the content of the game, but it showed you its quirky, stylized characters.
Despite its charming viral campaign, does the world need another tower defense? Read on to find out.
In true Popcap fashion, the menus are sleek and delightful, and the art-style is both hilariously unique and smooth. The game’s humor will immediately become apparent when clicking the help section, only to find out that the zombies have eaten it, and planted a note that tells you to “not plant anything, and let the zombies walk past you”. When you first start up the game, your only option is to start “adventure mode”, but you’ll see “mini-games”, “puzzle”, and “survival” locked at the moment.
If you’ve never played a tower defense game before, the concept is simple: you place autonomously functioning towers down in a strategic fashion to fend off encroaching enemies. If an enemy makes it through your line of defense, it’s game over.
But Plants vs. Zombies is not just a typical tower defense game, and that’s what makes it above and beyond the curve. To tower defense veterans, Plants vs. Zombies is known as a “line TD”, which means that you’re going to be doing all of your combat on a horizontal plane. There is very little downtime when you’re not making towers, as you’ll have to always be on the lookout for falling “Sun”, (which is the game’s currency, and will be referred to as sun-money from here on in), and Zombies can actually destroy your plants! Some zombies can pole vault over your towers, or dig under them, so placement is crucial.
A large part of what makes a tower defense game great is found in the diversity of the towers. Sun Flower Towers add a lot of depth to the gameplay, allowing you to self-produce sun-money. In addition to tower structures, there are also stop-gap powerups like the instant “cherry bomb” explosion. All in all, there are 42 different plants in your cache, and you can choose to bring 6 of them along with you initially. Nearly every level you complete nets you a new tower, and as you progress through the game you’ll start earning real money, which allows you to buy more cache slots, and upgrades.
The actual gameplay is incredibly deep and engaging. With the exception of the first few levels, you’ll always feel the necessity to build more and more. Eventually you’ll earn a whole slew of mushroom towers, which are only awake when it’s night-time: but be careful not to become to dependent on them! As soon as it turns back to day-time in a later stage, your mushrooms will want to take a nap, rendering them useless. I initially thought going into the game that there would only be a few types of zombies: but I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Every type of zombie, from zombie-dolphin riders (even the actual dolphins are undead!) to bungee zombies are covered. Most of the enemies have funny names, like the aptly titled “Zomboni”, who rides an Ice Resurfacer vehicle onto your lawn. I don’t want to spoil too much, but the Michael Jackson zombies who summon 80s groupie zombies are downright knee-slappingly funny. Nearly every other level will introduce you to a new type of zombie, forcing you to adapt with new tactics frequently.
If you’re worried that you’ll get bored constantly making towers over and over, don’t fret! Your neighbor, “Crazy Dave”, helps break up the action every so often with fun mini-games. My personal favorite is Wall-nut Bowling, which plays just like those old “stop the crocodiles before they get to your side” carnival games. You’ll play these games during the course of the main story, and when you’re finally finished with it, you can select them at any time from the main menu. All-in-all, there are a myriad of mini-games, puzzles, and survival challenges to tackle.
You’ll also get a “Zen Garden” later in the game that essentially functions as a no stress, continuous money-making mini-game, which you can access from the main menu whenever you’d like. Popcap has hidden a few surprises to unlock in the mini-games section that pay homage to their previous games, such as Insane Aquarium. There’s even two Bejeweled-esque games called “Beghouled” and “Beghouled Twist” that are sure to delight fans of the popular series, and a mode where you can play as the Zombies themselves. Popcap really took the opportunity to answer the call of their fans in this one.
But the game doesn’t stop there. In what is probably my favorite design choice to increase the longevity of a title, you earn money in every single facet of Plants vs. Zombies, with one collective wallet. No matter what you do: repeated playthroughs of the main story, puzzle games, survival mode attempts, or zen garden tending, you always are rewarded for your efforts. After you save up an astronomical amount of cash, you can purchase super-gardens and the “tree of wisdom”, which will periodically give you tips and tricks. I’ve been playing this game daily for almost a week and there’s no end in sight.
The only problem with Plants vs. Zombies is that there’s no multiplayer to be found. While it would be impossible to host true local play in this type of game, an online mode where one player could have chosen certain zombies to send out in various lanes, and the other could defend, would have been a nice addition. Of course, this isn’t needed due to the extreme amount of content jammed into one $20 game.
Overall, at $20, Plants vs. Zombies provides more content and stylized fun than most full retail purchases out there. I urge everyone with a PC to go download this game right away; you won’t be disappointed.
The graphics are crisp, colorful, and consist of a very unique style. The zombie’s mannerisms and character models will delight you.
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It’s as simple as they come: plan a strategy, plant towers, they shoot the zombies for you. Everything works perfectly.
Most zombies have a different hilarious sound effect, and the few songs on the soundtrack deserve their own CD.
No multiplayer, but there are puzzle games, unique mini-games, a challenging survivial mode, and heaps of content to acquire.
Plants Vs. Zombies makes all the right moves, and is a steal at $20. It should be in every gamer’s library.