Plants vs. Zombies ReviewAustin Godfrey
Giving credit where credit is due, the people of PopCap Games are the masters of addictive gameplay. Their seemingly simple puzzle games, bizarre premises, and overly cartoony art style somehow strike a chord with gamers and non-gamers alike. Before the typical player realizes it, they've sunk hours into games like Peggle and Bejeweled. Plants vs. Zombies is no exception to PopCap's line of hypnotic gaming experiences. The adventure mode of Plants vs. Zombies all-in-all only lasts a couple hours, but once you start rolling with a game it's pretty had to call it quits. Every round unlocks a new plant to defend with, and a new zombie to defend against, and there's always a little voice in your heard whispering, Just start the round to see what this new plant is like. You don't have to play the whole round. You can quit whenever you want trust me.
Gameplay is simple yet deep, just like the rest of PopCap's pedigree. The player plants sunflowers to produce sun (the game's economy) and then spends that sun on various offensive and defensive plants. Strategy stems from viewing which zombies you'll be defending against and then deciding what plants to take into to battle, as wells as, when to place what where. The main game consists of five levels each including ten rounds. Every level presents a new challenge like fighting at night when there is less sun, or fighting on the roof and having to use plants with arcing trajectories. Each round adds a new element to your botanical arsenal and your undead horde of enemies. Every couple of rounds strange challenges present themselves like bowling, and each level ends with a sort of boss fight where plants are given to the player randomly and they must do their best to utilize their scarce resources. Upon a second play-through, the game's guiding character, Crazy Dave, ups the challenge by forcing the player to use certain plants and letting them choose the rest.
Once adventure mode is all said and done, the game still has a couple tricks up its sleeve, but unlike other PopCap games, the replayability of Plants vs. Zombies is surprisingly low. The gameplay gets fairly repetitive fairly fast. Extra modes of play, like survival mode, puzzle mode, mini-games, are all unlocked as the player progresses through the main game. These other game types, while fun, just didn't have the same captivating power as the adventure mode and did little to extend the playability of the game. Exclusive to the Xbox Live Arcade version are the Versus and Co-op modes, however, before you make plans with fellow PvZ fans you should note that there's no online capabilities, only local. Versus mode is incredibly fun as long as you never play as the plants. All of the strategies from adventure mode are pretty much useless against a human-planned zombie offensive. In my playtest of Versus mode, I played my friend who had only played the Plants vs Zombies trial game and got trounced every time. We tried random battles, we tried custom battles, and we tried switching teams but neither of us could get the plants to win. Co-op, on the other hand, exceeded expectations. Playing any of the multi-round modes allows players to work together to build a massive garden of defensive might, and then chaotically scatter and bicker when it all starts to go horribly wrong.
Xbox 360 is only the latest system to be infected with the Plants vs. Zombies virus. The game is already a very popular piece of software for PC/Mac and iPhone/iPad, and if you own any of these versions there's very little reason to add the XBLA version to library (unless you of course have another avid Plants vs Zombies friend, and can justify the cost of the game for Co-op play). For those who haven't joined the growing PvZ horde, the XBLA version is a great deal. Fifteen bucks may seem a bit costly, but you get more modes of play for five bucks less than the PC/Mac version. Overall, Plants vs. Zombies is a great game; I just expected a bit more to keep the player unknowingly wasting hours of their lives from a studio like PopCap.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.