Plants vs Zombies’ simple gameplay and hilarious visuals will appeal to a very large audience, while at the same time managing to be addictive enough to keep even the most hardcore of gamers coming back for more.
Even the parents will like this one
Before saying anything else about Plants vs Zombies, you should know two things: it is a casual game and it was developed by Popcap. The former means that the game is targeted at as large an audience as possible (which is also visible in its dual pc/mac distribution), while the latter ensures it will actually be a good game. Popcap is known for elevating the creation of casual games to an art form, something which has been recognized at the 2010 Game Developer’s Choice Awards, where Plants vs. Zombies received three nominations: Best Game Design, Innovation Award and Best Downloadable Game.
And it shows: rather than assuming a wide variety of people would like this game, I actually forced a whole bunch of “volunteers” to play a few rounds. This invariably ended with me having to escort them politely away from the pc, or I would never have finished this review. You’d never think parents and girlfriends would enjoy spitting peas at the walking dead, but they do.
Just a quick nibble
Plants vs. Zombies is a simple tower defense game. The playing field consists of your garden in which you grow various types of plants to protect your house from being raided by brain-hungry zombies.
The game offers a simple system of resource management which involves collecting sun that falls from the sky for growing more plants. Survival depends on a healthy economy, so you will have to plant additional sunflowers to boost your income. The sun you gather can then be spent on a wide array of green weaponry such as plants that shoot peas, carnivorous plants, or exploding peppers or cherry bombs. During any single level you will encounter several waves of zombies and at least one huge wave, in which a large amount of foes try to storm your yard at the same time. These final waves never fail in producing total mayhem in both pea shooting and scrunching sounds.
The strategy element in Plants vs Zombies is two-fold. Firstly, one needs to assess the situation in a level by looking at both the playing field and the zombies that will attack you, and then choose the correct plants to counter them. Once a level has started you need to find a balance between enhancing your economy and investing in offensive plants.
The game gradually introduces new plants which encourages the player to test out new plants and strategies involving combinations of several plants. You will soon be faced with counters to these strategies, however, so Plants vs Zombies stays fresh until the very last of its 50 levels.
There are different combos and ways to be effective, but you might find yourself sticking to a certain routine once you have found it is effective. The game counters this in a surprising way: after you have finished adventure mode once, you can play through it again, but your neighbor ‘Crazy Dave’ chooses three plants at random from your arsenal. These cannot be changed, and you are forced to adapt to the plants that have already been selected.
Apart from this adapted version of adventure mode, the game offers a lot of mini-games and extra unlockables that greatly enhance replayability. Popcap even put in some references to its other titles, such as a bejeweled-style mix and match mini-game.
The controls for the game are very intuitive and the playing field is well-laid out, so even without the in-game help new players won’t find it too difficult to crack some zombie skull. In fact, most players won’t find the game difficult at all. Probably as a result of its targeting a wide audience, Plants vs Zombies is far too easy, and if you have any experience whatsoever with tower defense games, resource management or just clicking a mouse really, you won’t have any trouble chalking up the zombie kills. The later levels of the game become more challenging, but even then you will have to make some pretty gross mistakes to lose a round.
Another problem which might annoy the more hardcore gamer is the lack of a health bar for zombies and plants, offering no transparent way to check the remaining life of characters on the playing field. You get some visual feedback in the form of cracks appearing in half-eaten wall-nuts, or zombies losing some limbs, but this is imprecise and hard to evaluate on the fly. Also, an option for storing different plant setups (such as a selection for water levels, or on for night levels with fog) would have been nice, as re-picking the same plants for the umpteenth time gets somewhat tedious after a while.
None of these problems manages to really break the game experience, however, so even experienced gamers will find themselves being sucked in time and again by the Plants vs. Zombies desktop icon. “Just one level. Oh well, just one more.”
Plants with personality
The 2D visual style of the game is more indebted to modern flash games than the 2D games of old. What sets Plants vs. Zombies’ graphics apart from other titles (even among more ‘serious’ games), is the high degree of character that is to be found in every aspect of the game. The superb character design is an indicator of the rich sense of humor that permeates the entire game. This is especially visible in the facial expressions and animations for both plants and zombies.
The game’s design is simple yet effective, and in a time in which next-gen HD visuals seem to set an industry standard, Plants vs; zombies lofi-approach shows that personality in design is just as, if not more important.
The game’s soundtrack consists of only a few songs, but the light touch of the music complements the visual style of the game very well. The tunes adapt to the chaos in a level, and the song for the earlier boss levels is one of my favorite in any game to date (though this probably tells the reader more about my preferences for old-school gaming tunes than it does about the quality of the music).
It is the voice acting, however, that takes the the crown. How many different ways can you moan “brains”? A lot, apparently. The enthusiasm with which the zombies assault you – yes… enthusiasm in zombies, you’ll see – is nicely reflected in shrill war cries as they launch from the skies to grab unsuspecting plants.
Squashing melons, peas shot against the bucket serving as helmet for tougher zombies or the blast of a doom-shroom all sound the way they should, and one can’t call the sound effects for the plants anything but decent, though they are somewhat overshadowed by the magnificent vocal work delivered by the zombies.
The most memorably feature of Plants vs. Zombies is without doubt its humor. It is here that the game shows off its excellent writing, because its many puns and funny descriptions manage to keep both children and adults entertained.
As mentioned earlier, facial animations just ooze with character. You can’t help but laugh out loud when you first see a zombie with a traffic cone on its head being flattened by a squash with a temper. The character descriptions for both plants and zombies are down-right hilarious. These are stored in the Suburban Almanac, a sort of encyclopedia that lists all of the different plants and zombies you have encountered during the game, and as a result, you will find yourself leafing through more often than you’d expect in search for more laughs.
At the end of every 10 levels you get a particularly crowded level, and the zombies always leave a polite note (complete with cutesy spelling mistakes) to inform you they are coming over “for a midnight znack”.
At times absurd, at times unexpected, Plants vs Zombies captivates its audience from start to finish. I haven’t had this much fun in a long time.
Plants vs. Zombies equals simple yet incredibly addictive gameplay seasoned with personality and humor. This game is a great addition to any game library, and there’s no reason not to own a copy. Get this game. You will find yourself mumbling “Brains!” enthusiastically for weeks to come. And loving every second of it.
- Top-notch character design
- Makes you laugh. A lot
- Large array of mini-games and unlockables enhance replayability
- Too easy
- No health bars for plants or zombies
Read on : Gamespot