Game Review: Plants VS. Zombies
Release: September 8th, 2010 (Xbox Live Arcade)
Genre: Tower Defense
Developer: Popcap Games
Available Platforms: Windows, OS X, Xbox Live Arcade, iOS
MSRP: 1600 Microsoft Points (Xbox Live Arcade)
ESRB Rating: E10+
Homeowners have to worry about a lot of things. Maintaining the lawn, fixing the roof, cleaning the pool, and dealing with Crazy Dave, your neighbor. In Plants VS. Zombies, though, you have a whole new problem to deal with: the undead. Crazy Dave will have to be your best friend, since he has all the tools you need to fight off this infestation. Get out your shovel, because the best defense against zombies are legions of plants. Plants VS. Zombies just hit the Xbox Live Arcade, and it’s marching to your inevitable death… of free time.
If you’ve ever played a tower defense game, you’ll know the general concept of Plants VS. Zombies. Zombies are slowly marching to your base, and you have to set up plants such as Wall-Nuts and Pea Shooters to defend your home from them. Most tower defense games have all the enemies following one path that winds around, but Plants sets it up with a few lanes of traffic, with zombies slowly marching in one straight line. This mechanic change is the most important, non-superficial, difference between Plants VS. Zombies and any number of tower defense games. Adventure Mode has you defending your front yard, back yard, and roof from the incoming zombies during night and day, with gameplay varied in each set of levels (back yard has a pool, nighttime lets you use mushrooms, and the roof requires potted plants). The whole time, your neighbor Crazy Dave is willing to sell you upgrades, such as allowing more “seed packets” in your production build at a time, or allowing you to upgrade sunflowers which produce sunlight, which is required for all plants and items to be used.
Additionally, the Xbox Live version includes extra modes outside of Adventure. A Zen Garden mode lets you water and grow plants for bonuses, Puzzle Mode gives you challenges, Mini Games turn the tower defense strategy on it’s zombified ear, and so forth. While all these are valid and fun modes, Adventure is required to unlock them, and offers the biggest chunk of gameplay. Much like the minimal plot, though, you don’t need too much to have a great time.
If anything can be said about Plants VS. Zombies, it’s how addicting it can be. Many times during the review did an half-hour play session turn into two hours of addiction. The game definitely has the “one more time” vibe. It’s a constant quest for the next seed packet, the next mode to unlock, and so forth. It doesn’t hurt that the music is excellent, and accompanies the hilarious art style as well. Not all zombies have to be the Capcom variety of head-exploding. The controls are adapted well for the Xbox 360 controller, making it a breeze to move around with the analog stick, alongside swapping seed packets with the bumpers.
Like it was stated, there’s minimal story, but even then, what’s there is good. Crazy Dave is crazy, that’s all you need to know (his recounting of the Konami Code at one point catches you off guard, hilariously). All the story and game animation is carried out in simple drawings in the same style, with no real voices or special effects. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s just vibes with the concept. Outside of the rare “brains”, the zombies are a generic mass of unintelligible, grunting monsters. Only a few, such as the Disco Zombie, stand out, with the rest having small changes to delineate their difference in attack.
Plants VS. Zombies can not be recommended enough, but the buy-in price might be a little too high for the Xbox Live Arcade crowd. Try the online version for free before you buy. Additionally, for such a time waster, the iOS version might be better suited for on-the-run gaming. Still, I can’t say I wasn’t easily sucked into the world of Plants VS. Zombies for hours at a time unintentionally.