2010
04.07

Who: Developed and Published by PopCap Games

What: Strategy, Action, Tower Defense with a twist

Where: Tomorrow in your backyard, so get your ass to the market!

When: Available now in the app Store for $2.99; Windows & Mac for $19.95

Why: Because zombies must die and plants are very affective. Though I don’t recall plants being a recommended method for zombie extermination according to The Zombie Survival Guide, which by the way can also be read while doing the pooping.

I first heard about Plants vs Zombies through Steam. Even though it has zombies, and the intrigue of killing them with plants, I waited. I was hoping for it to be on the weekend specials list or something even more amazing. This is until I was cruising the top paid apps on my phone a couple weeks ago and saw this game at five stars, over one thousand reviews, and at $2.99. I couldn’t pass it up.

My first experience with PopCap Games is with the Team Fortress 2 skinned Peggle. This game offered an addictive quality and level of production that impressed the crap out of me, which is usually invited, but I was at my computer. Plants vs Zombies is even better. Peggle’s gameplay depended largely on luck (after about the second or third bounce) for a successful outcome. PvZ is very deep in strategy; derived from Magic: The Gathering or something. Hence there are many effective strategies for obliterating zombies in each level type, and it’s great fun testing them all,and  risking more unorthodox methods.

The Achievement system helps to promote these tougher methods of playing. Recent Achievement systems seem to reward the player for doing an obscene quantity of some trivial task. I love an Achievement that proposes a way of playing that you wouldn’t normally think of. This makes those extra Gamerscore points, or the moral boosting message “Achievement Unlocked”, more enticing. They add new depth to the game instead of locking that special feeling of completion behind a monotonous wall of time sinks.

PvZ Daytime Battle

Plants vs Zombies at a glance plays like a tower defense game. You build some stuff that must kill some other stuff , which gets you stuff, before it reaches a goal; probably comprised of stuff. The title of the game should help you figure some of that “stuff” out. You build plants that must kill zombies. Killing zombies gives you coins, and unlocks plants and tools. These will help you stop the zombies from getting to their goal; Your brain! Or possibly Brian. In previous tower defense games that I’ve played, the path to the goal is predetermined on a grid, or created by the placement of your towers. In PvZ the zombies work from right to left in six distinct rows. This puts you in a much more defensive position. You get a better sense of protecting yourself opposed to taking enemies down as they pass without any fear of losing your defenses.

The great inventory of foliage in PvZ is complimented perfectly by the ranks of zombies they must abolish. You will be faced with your everyday zombie, well armored zombie, nimble zombie (they aren’t ninjas or anything… though they should be), and super offensive zombies that if they aren’t disposed of quickly, you are fucked. Micheal Jackson even makes an appearance! I knew the past few months have just been an elaborate setup for the greatest performance of Thriller EVER!  There is one zombie that I haven’t found yet, the Yeti Zombie, and he just sounds epic. My guess is I have to buy some stuff from Crazy Dave, or maybe play a level a certain way?

PvZ Battle Preparation

Hmm... what to choose.

The adventure mode introduces you to all your plant friends slowly, as it ramps up the number, and difficulty of the hungry undead. You begin with peashooters, literally. These are Snork looking things fueled by sunlight gathered by (for some reason) sunflowers. Sunlight must be powerful because these peashooters fire ammo that defies gravity. No trajectory whatsoever. Though the bank won’t hang on to sunlight so there is no interest system in this game. When the sun goes down you get an interesting array of mushrooms, which I think are the most unique group of allies. They have their own special sunlight generating shroom, but the sunflower will also help out but at a reduced rate. The final group is the roof group. Due to the grade of the roof you must use catapults otherwise you end up hitting the shingles a couple rows up. This group’s high point is the corn cob catapult that shoots bits of corn and globs of butter that stick to your attacker’s head, stopping them in their tracks. The game ends in a great climax, but I will not spoil it for you. This is followed by a sweet Portal like credits music video titled “Zombie on your lawn”.

Finishing adventure mode unlocks quick play, which allows you to play any of the levels you passed in adventure mode, but with all the plants you have aquired. I just now realized this! Starting an Adventure campaign after the first play through will ramp up the difficulty by allowing Crazy Dave to select some of your plants. The level must be completed using these, and whichever you choose for yourself. This game just keeps giving. I wonder what happens when I do this a few times. Maybe I get the Yeti Zombie! I’m going to keep playing.

PvZ Battle for the roof

He catapults basketballs and has butter on his head. Teehee

Quantitative review:

  • Gameplay: 9.4 – PopCap has taken what you know about tower defense games and has slapped it in the face,  thrown in some zombies, armed you with plants, and provided modes and levels to satisfy your deepest zombie brutalizing needs. With all the action on the screen I was surprised how infrequently I misplaced or selected the wrong weapon due to the touch interface. While placing flora, a press will highlight the gridded square and a release will plant it. I didn’t play the PC version, but I’ve read some of the features and this one is a bit inferior in content. The big brother includes a garden mode where you grow stuff and get money or something? I don’t care, I’m sick of growing virtual stuff.  The game modes that are included, and are likely not named as follows are:
  1. Zombie Nut Ball Bowling
  2. Horde Defense Kill Time Fun
  3. Whack-a-Zombie Dead Some More
  4. Mini-Zombie Explosion Fest
  5. Risky Treasure Hunt… Jar Things

PvZ mode selection

  • Visual: 9.6 – The artwork is superb. There is a terrific level of detail built into this small screen, and it manages to maintain a very clean and user friendly experience. Everything feels alive with fluid idle animations. When the action begins, the peas squash, the watermelons explode, and zombies loose limbs and heads as you would expect. I did notice some slow down when several zombies, dozens of projectiles, explosions, and fire filled nearly every pixel of the screen, but it didn’t affect interaction. I blame the 3GS.
  • Sounds: 9.5 – From music to sfx this game delivers. Everything from terrified nuts being devoured to moaning and decapitations are well represented. All to a fantastic musical score.
  • Presentation: 10.0 – PopCap does it again. I honestly cannot think of a negative thing to say and must go against my “nothing is perfect” mentality. Plus I can type whatever number I damn well please!!!
  • Zombieism: 9.7 – The style and diversity of zombies inhabiting this world is terrific. They come at you in every way you can imagine, as well as ways you should have to save your brain. Again you should probably read The Zombie Survival Guide. It kicks my last reviewed game‘s Zombieism score in the teeth. Zombie scuba divers, dolphin jockeys, miners, and mecha zombies = AWESOME!
  • Overall: 9.6 – Plants vs Zombies is filled with loads of zombie dominating fun and I highly recommend it. If you have already played it on PC then you aren’t missing anything besides the portability. Imagine sitting on the bus, your friend’s lap, or in my case often the toilet. At your disposal, a plethora of deadly flora and very deserving zombies.

How do I know they are deserving? If you really have to ask me why zombies are deserving of peas and cabbage in their face until point of death, and then probably a few more just to make sure, “Double Tap”, then you are likely a zombie yourself. A zombie that has evolved beyond the confines of single thought brain temptation and decided to browse the internets, find my site, and realize the threat that is upon you. Upon completion of this sentence you will likely go on a plant murdering rampage, but instead take this chance to browse more of my blog, leave some comments, and maybe tell your friends about it. I like zombies!

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