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Old 06-09-2009, 07:56 AM   #1
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[PC/MAC] - Plants Vs. Zombies Review

Title: Plants Vs. Zombies
Platform: PC/Mac
Platform Reviewed: PC
Developer: PopCap Games, Inc.
Publisher: PopCap Games, Inc.
MSRP: $19.95
Writer: James 'modeps' Hunter

Plants Vs. Zombies Review

PopCap's "casual" take on tower defense is charming and fun... for a while.

Around the time PopCap released Peggle, they really started their way into the hearts and minds of people who consider themselves 'serious' gamers. Many folks, myself included, just looked at their games as something you didn't really admit to playing (Bejeweled) but would still find hours lost to relatively pointless jewel swapping. Now though thanks to Peggle, folks revel in their love for PopCap games, so when they told everyone about their latest title... notice was taken by many and people started talking.

Plants Vs. Zombies is their own take on the tower defense genre where you must protect your house from the walking dead. Instead of building large structures to hinder their progress, you grab a trowel, your best sun bonnet, and step into the shoes of a gardener laying down a lawn full of special plants that do your dirty work. The zombies shamble down up to six fixed lanes, and most plants you lay down will only defend on one of those lanes. If they get past all your plants, there's a single use lawnmower on each lane to protect your house. If that goes and a single zombie comes in for dinner... game over.

Each round of play begins by picking which seed packages you'll be able to use in battle. At first, only a handful of slots are available but as the game progresses you'll be able to buy more slots for more photosynthetic options. With 48 different types of seeds to pick from which are unlocked as the game progresses, there's almost endless mix-and-match possibilities. You "pay" for the majority of plants with sunshine, which is earned by clicking on little suns that float from the top of the screen onto your lawn, or generated by Sunflowers. This adds a bit of an actiony feel to the title as you've got to make sure to collect the suns in the midst of combat, or they'll go away.

As you progress through the game, you'll have to defend the front and back yard of your house in the daytime and nighttime and switch to different locations around your humble abode. Each level provides a new challenge to overcome and forces you to adapt and pick new plants to throw down. To help break things up, there are a few mini games interspersed as well, changing the way a board is played completely if only for one round.

Probably the best part of PvZ is the art style. Everything is wonderfully adorable, including the zombies with their cute little arm bones sticking out. Everything drips with a certain loving quality that shows how much thought went into making these zombies family friendly. If you don't laugh when the Michael Jackson zombie moonwalks onto the board and summons some backup dancer zombies, you have no soul. There are plenty of other amusing zombie archetypes as well, but some of the fun found in this title is coming across them for the first time.

Not all is sunshine and daisies though. At no point during the majority of Plants vs Zombies did I feel truly challenged. While the introduction of new plants helped move things along, it felt like one way too long tutorial on the mechanics of play. By the end of the game, even though more modes were unlocked, I had my fill of PvZ and really have no desire to play further.

Additionally, there's no typical upgrade mechanic for your plants so that large 48 seed packet list isn't as impressive when taking a second look at it. If you want a dual Pea Shooter instead of just a single one, you'll need to take up an inventory slot with that type of seed. Space is limited on the game board as well, so if you want to make room for that type of plant, you'll have to dig up (with no resource return) the existing plant and plop the next on open plot. Perhaps this adds a bit more to the thought process in how you take on the zombies, but I found it more annoying than anything.

I'd also be amiss if I didn't point out one egregious oversight on PopCap's part. There is zero wide screen support. This game was created to be 4:3 and that's it... so if you go full screen you'll get some pretty sexy black bars on the left and right of the game board. The least they could have done is place some sort of graphic over there.

Plants Vs. Zombies is a charming title, but once you get past all that charm it's still just another tower defense game that's light on challenge. For $20 though, its hard not to recommend at least a one time play through just to check out the art, zombie designs and laugh at Crazy Dave's helmet.

Score: 4 out of 5

The Good
  • Great art style
  • Lots of different plants to choose from
  • Multiple mechanics help keep the flow moving
The Bad
  • Not much challenge to be had till the end
  • Wears out it's welcome after a few hours
The Ugly
  • Stupid Digger Zombie!
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