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Old 06-09-2009, 07:56 AM   #1
modeps
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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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Old 06-09-2009, 09:07 AM   #2
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I agree that the game is too easy. However adventure mode is really just a really long tutorial. The best part of the game are the mini games. I, zombie endless is my favorite, but "column like you see it" and vase breaker are pretty fun too.

If you want some difficulty try "bobsled bonanza", Zombotany and "pogo paradise". (or whatever its called). You basically quit when the game was just starting to get good.
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Old 06-09-2009, 09:18 AM   #3
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Rebuttal

*Posted this in the wrong place originally , I've moved it here from the link on the news feed *
A great review, but I don't really feel the difficulty criticisms hold very well. The difficulty of the main game isn't intense at all in the beginning, you can breeze through it very quickly with little trouble. The real challenge in the game is survival mode. There is a specific achievement for survival mode for getting to 20 flags (rounds). Just when you think you know how this game works, you are thrown a seriously difficult task. Some of the mini-games are also very difficult, the bob-sled game is virtually impossible until you get spike-rocks.

Another thing you completely skipped over was the zen-garden. I think that adds a lot of longevity to the game since you'll want to use it to get the money you'll need for many of the high level upgrades, and to get all the achievements.

Good review overall, but I think there are some things you should have mentioned for players who are looking for a longer game, I've personally put in about 40 hours to get all the achievements. That's worth it in my opinion.
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Old 06-09-2009, 09:44 AM   #4
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You can get this for TEN DOLLARS on Steam. This game is completely worth it for such a paltry amount.
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Old 06-09-2009, 10:19 AM   #5
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The demo was fun and eventually I may buy it. It's a game girlfriends/fiances/wifes enjoy watching, so that's a win win in my book.
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Old 06-09-2009, 10:19 AM   #6
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The first run-through was just for the casual gamer. Run through the game again with all your seed packets and the 3 slots they fill for you and the challenge really begins. Mini games are wonderful. Did you try Portal? Really challenging... You gave up way too soon.
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Old 06-09-2009, 10:21 AM   #7
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[Additionally, there's no 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.
I could be mistaken, but I'm pretty sure you can buy plant "upgrades" at Crazy Dave's--I've never bought one though, so I don't entirely know how they work. Figured I'd point that out, though.
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Old 06-09-2009, 10:32 AM   #8
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I could be mistaken, but I'm pretty sure you can buy plant "upgrades" at Crazy Dave's--I've never bought one though, so I don't entirely know how they work. Figured I'd point that out, though.
Correct. I had honestly forgotten about those.
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Old 06-09-2009, 10:47 AM   #9
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sorry modeps, but if you didn't play past the adventure mode, you didn't get to the core of the game. The point of the zen garden is to continue replaying, earning money to open more slots and plant upgrades. This makes the challenging mini-games a tick more easier, and much more deeply satisfying. (Lobbing the ice-watermelons at the piles of zombies on the hard survival level is quite fun) For $10 this game is a no-brainer, and easily a 5/5
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Old 06-09-2009, 10:59 AM   #10
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sorry modeps, but if you didn't play past the adventure mode, you didn't get to the core of the game. The point of the zen garden is to continue replaying, earning money to open more slots and plant upgrades. This makes the challenging mini-games a tick more easier, and much more deeply satisfying. (Lobbing the ice-watermelons at the piles of zombies on the hard survival level is quite fun) For $10 this game is a no-brainer, and easily a 5/5
Fair enough. I admit in the review that I didn't play past adventure mode because at that point I was burnt out on it... but at least I didn't skirt around that like most people most likely do. I'm typically more thorough in reviews as you all may have seen If these features were integral to the game, perhaps they should have been open from the start? Adventure mode is typically the meat and potatoes of the game, and that course didn't leave me wanting to eat more.

If the consensus is "hey, go back and play more" I can certainly do that.
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Old 06-09-2009, 11:03 AM   #11
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I agree, if all you did was play the adventure mode, you really missed out.

The mini games and survival are really really fun, and many of them are extremely difficult. Also, the Zen Garden is a time taker. I don't know how much time I've used on it, but it's alot. And I only have half of the flowers, if even that. I want to get them all.

5/5, without a doubt.

Quote:
Originally Posted by modeps View Post
Fair enough. I admit in the review that I didn't play past adventure mode because at that point I was burnt out on it... but at least I didn't skirt around that like most people most likely do. I'm typically more thorough in reviews as you all may have seen If these features were integral to the game, perhaps they should have been open from the start? Adventure mode is typically the meat and potatoes of the game, and that course didn't leave me wanting to eat more.

If the consensus is "hey, go back and play more" I can certainly do that.
Actually, you unlock some Mini Games and Puzzle Mode in the middle of the game, so you had a chance to try them out, before you finished the game.

Other than that, your reviews are always a pleasure to read.
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Old 06-09-2009, 11:12 AM   #12
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I would also rate it 5/5. I hope they do a sequel.

I finished adventure mode, plus almost all the mini games. I haven't done to much in the Zen garden, I've already gotten more than my moneys worth out of this game.
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Old 06-09-2009, 04:11 PM   #13
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The game crashes on my PC every tmie it starts. I dunno why. No response from Popcap support so far.
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Old 06-18-2009, 07:02 AM   #14
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The game crashes on my PC every tmie it starts. I dunno why. No response from Popcap support so far.
The zombies have eatin' your computer's brain!

Seriously, this game is amazing. I agree with the consensus: definitely worth $10. I just beat the last hard survival this past week to get the gold trophy. It was on the roof and that was anything but easy. The upgrades are definitely helpful and I advise modeps to go back and snag a few (cob cannon especially as it the most unique of the offensive types).

This game is busting at the seams with content. Supposedly, a new zombie type appears during a subsequent playthrough but I've yet to devote the time to try adventure mode again. Also, endless survival has grabbed my attention (12 flags in) and the need to get more achievements .

Here's hoping they definitely follow this up with a sequel.
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Old 06-18-2009, 09:54 AM   #15
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Seriously, this game is amazing. I agree with the consensus: definitely worth $10. I just beat the last hard survival this past week to get the gold trophy. It was on the roof and that was anything but easy. The upgrades are definitely helpful and I advise modeps to go back and snag a few (cob cannon especially as it the most unique of the offensive types).

This game is busting at the seams with content. Supposedly, a new zombie type appears during a subsequent playthrough but I've yet to devote the time to try adventure mode again. Also, endless survival has grabbed my attention (12 flags in) and the need to get more achievements .

Here's hoping they definitely follow this up with a sequel.
Yeah, I would like to see a sequel as well, could be awesome. As to the new zombie, it will appear for the first time in the level where it rains seeds. I think it's right before you get to the roof levels. You might not spot it, as it may run away, if you don't kill it fast enough.
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