It’s another one of those games that you’d have to have spent significant portions of the last few years under a rock to have missed. Popcap’s take on tower defence sees defending your house from a zombie apocalypse through the placement of surprisingly deadly plants. As you’d expect from Popcap, it’s an extremely polished experience: the graphics, the sound – even the trailers for the game have clearly received considerable attention. But, most importantly, so too has the gameplay.
Plants Vs Zombies is unusually focussed for a tower defence game, taking place on a small, 9×5 grid, the zombies always come from the right hand side of the screen, shuffling towards your house on the left. They always walk in a straight line (though they can be redirected with the right plants), munching their way through your plants as they go. There is some variation – levels set at night, levels with a pool in the middle, even levels on your roof – but there are no complicated paths to learn, and the options for redirection are minimal what with the zombies having only five possible lanes to approach from. The challenge comes from working out what plants to use, at what moment to use them, and how best to manage your resources.
Key to this is solar power – your plants cost a certain amount of energy to place, and this energy is generated very slowly, dropping down from the top of the screen and necessitating a quick tap to collect. This would never be enough to construct effective defences on its own, however, and you have to learn to balance the placement of defensive plants, and the placement of power generating plants, namely sunflowers and certain types of mushroom. As each level wears on, you’ll find yourself filling the far end of your garden with these plants, tapping at ever-more-regular intervals on the sunshine being produced in order to fund the creation of ever more plants – adding new forces, and bolstering your defences where plants have been eaten.
Further complicating things are the cooldown times on plants – after placing a plant, you have to wait for it to become available for use again. Some plants can take a long time to recharge, which can prove problematic – the loss of a sturdy Wall-nut can lead to an excruciating wait to replace it, watching as the zombies shamble towards your more fragile plants with you unable to slow them.
Even with these challenges, however, the game is not particularly difficult – it’s a busy game which keeps you on your toes, but it’s far from insurmountable. Fortunate, then, that Popcap filled it with bonus modes – minigames like the frankly terrifying ZomBotany, which sees hordes of plant-headed zombies heading towards you, turning your own weapons against you; or the charming Zen Garden mode, which gives you the pleasure of growing a collection of plants (and doubles as a way to earn the in-game currency used to buy new plants and items for use in the main adventure mode).
The secret star of the show, however, is the almanac. Unlocked a short way into the game, this book contains details on all the zombies and plants you’ve come across. But it doesn’t just fill this with information about how to use them, being dotted with wonderfully silly trivia: so we learn the distinctly creepy Grave Buster plant (which eats zombie-generating gravestones) “spends his off hours volunteering at a local zombie rehabilitation centre. ‘It’s just the right thing to do,’ he says”. Every entry is worth reading, filled with the humour and character that makes Popcap games stand out from the crowd, and adds real pleasure to the experience.
And that’s what makes this a fantastic game: charm and good cheer. This is by far the happiest zombie-themed game around, and all the better for it. Every level offers not only an opportunity for head scratching, but also to enjoy the glorious imagery that fills it. Ranks of Peashooters and Melon-pults, protected by surly Wall-nuts and Tall-nuts. Angry Cherry Bombs and Jalapeños exploding in a fit of rage, reducing nearby zombies to ashes. And the zombies themselves: zombies wearing cones on their heads for protection; others charging down the lanes in full American football armour, having their defences gradually worn down by your plants – or maybe running headlong into a Chomper and getting eaten whole.
It may not be the longest game around, but it will keep you occupied for the better part of a day at least, and is very well suited to short bursts. Every moment is a pleasure to sit through, and the conversion to Windows Phone is near-perfect: a few of the minigames are missing, and occasionally the framerate can dip a little, but it looks just as good as its bigger brother on the PC, and the controls are perfectly realised. Just a wonderful little game.
Plants Vs Zombies xBox Live Achievements
- Nom Nom Nom (10 points): Stop the horde using only the Sunflower, Wall-Nut, and Chomper on any level.
- Soil Your Plants (5 points): Plant your first 10 peashooters.
- Home Lawn Security (15 points): Complete Adventure mode.
- Master of Morticliture (20 points): Collect all 49 plants (including plants from Crazy Dave’s shop).
- Crash of the Titan (10 points): Defeat your first Gargantuar.
- Explodonator (10 points): Blast 10 zombies at once with a Cherry Bomb!
- Close Shave (5 points): Win any level after all lawnmowers have been used.
- Shopaholic (10 points): Go trunk diving and spend at least $25,000 on Crazy Dave’s Twiddydinkies.
- No Fungus Among Us (10 points): Complete a nighttime level without planting any Mushrooms.
- Don’t Pea in the Pool (10 points): Complete a daytime pool level without using peashooters of any kind.
- Grounded (10 points): Defeat a normal roof level without using any cataplit plants.
- Good Morning (10 points): Complete a daytime level by planting only Mushrooms and Coffee Beans.
- Popcorn Party (15 points): Defeat 2 Gargantuars with Corn Cob missiles in a single level.
- Roll Some Heads (10 points): Bowl over 5 zombies with a single Wall-Nut.
- Disco is Undead (5 points): Hypnotize the lead dancer zombie.
- Better Off Dead (15 points): Get to a streak of 10 in I, Zombie Endless.
- China Shop (15 points): Get to a streak of 15 in Vasebreaker Endless.
- Beyond the Grave (15 points): Beat all 19 mini-games.
Plants Vs Zombies Gameplay Video
Plants Vs Zombies Screenshots
Version Under Review : 1.2
Website : popcap, Twitter : @plantsvszombies ; check out what gamers are saying about it in our Gaming Forum
There is a trial version available and the full version is available for $4.99, we are not sure what are the limitations of the trial version.
Our Rating for Plants Vs Zombies