Plants Versus Zombies Kicks ASS

Popcap kind of gets a bad rap with so called “hardcore” gamer types. They created Peggle, and Zuma, and several other “casual” games that manage to appeal to all kinds of people. I am one of those people that thinks that the overall difficulty of gaming has gone down in the last several years, and I do think that is a bad thing. That being said, Popcap’s latest game is so great that it at the very least gives them a free pass as a company.

If the title doesn’t explain it, Plants Versus Zombies is a game where you build up a garden of plants to defend your house from an onslaught of zombies. As weird as this concept is, they manage to keep the subject matter of the undead light … verging on cute. Many of you know I’m a zombie fan, but that’s not even the selling point of this game.

The game is essentially a tower defense game. It starts off as quite simple, but eventually becomes more and more interesting as the levels go on. At the end of each level, you are given a new type of plant. Before each level, you get a glimpse of the types of zombies you will be encountering (there are about 25 in total). The strategy comes in selecting the right plants for the job, and building up your defenses adequately. 

Plants Versus Zombies is better than the vast majority of tower defense games because it forces you over and over again to adapt to new things and develop new strategies. You can’t just build a winning formula and stick with it. Just when you have the whole thing figured out… they throw in night levels, with far less sunlight (your resource that you need to build), so you need to rely on mushrooms instead. Just when you’ve got that figured out… they throw in a pool level with underwater zombies. 

The zombie and plant types are all really clever too. The plants all have cute little names, but very specific uses. The zombies all behave differently too. Some of them are pretty straightforward, but some of them, such as the zombies that tunnel underneath your plants and attack them from behind, will cause players to live in fear.

Once you tap out the campaign mode there is a survival mode and a puzzle mode. Survival mode is what it sounds like, where they just give you every plant type and every zombie type and bombard you. Puzzle mode is kind of a mixed bag. Popcap seems to have implemented many little puzzle games that are references (or ripoffs, your choice) of other classic games. This means you can play “beghouled” by sliding around matching plants like in bejeweled. Some of these are really clever, some of ’em feel really tacked on and there only for the novelty of it. I particularly like the puzzles where you can play as the zombies, but the zombie Insaniquarium style game was weak.

No matter WHAT kind of gamer you are, you owe it to yourself to give this game a shot. It has charm in terms of graphics and gameplay. I’m sure you’ll become addicted and smoke through campaign mode as quickly as I did…


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May 2009
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