Review: Plants vs. Zombies

In any universe, zombies would undeniably conquer plants. PopCap Games seeks to overturn that stereotype with the release of Plants vs. Zombies, an infectiously cute tower defense title that packs enough charm and personality to entertain any gamer. If you’ve moved on from Peggle, welcome to your new addiction.

The basic premise is quite simple. Waves of zombies will encroach on your lawn. Like any good, faithful plant, your various flowers and dalliances in the garden will rise to protect their owner’s home. From your doorstep to the road, you have an invisible grid with slots, representing your yard – your domain and your final defense against the shuffling undead. They don’t mess around, either. They’ll keep coming after your doorstep even if you seem to have built the most sturdy defense. To build your defense, you’ll need the power of sunlight. Sunlight can be processed by planting a number of sunflowers, or you can catch it as it falls from the top of the screen. Either way, it’s imperative to build a formidable army.

At the top of the screen you’ll find your arsenal filled with deadly plants and helpful additions to your army. You’ll find seeds to keep the zombies munching and at bay, killer plants that can swallow a zombie whole, and simple peashooting plants that whittle away a zombie’s health little by little. Used in combination with each other, you can create an impenetrable defense that can keep the undead from infecting your cozy little home.

Aside from your garden-variety zombie (is there even such a thing?), various zombies equipped with screen doors, football helmets, and even poles with which to vault over past some of your plant army. They’re quite the nuisance, and it will take some quick thinking in order to effectively stall them. That’s where the core gameplay lies, and where the most fun is! Like you were addicted to scoring the perfect shot in Peggle, you’ll no doubt be pushing for the next level and how far you can get before you begin losing. Though you may feel as if constant collection of sunlight quickly becomes a clickfest, the several layers of strategy you must take note of at all times can become quite difficult as the game wears on.

You’ll be managing how much sunlight you need in order to pump out new units, and figuring out the absolute best way to keep the zombies at bay. Later on in the game, you’ll be exposed to higher and higher numbers as they shuffle in, and it WILL get difficult. The trick is all in where and what you place, like most tower defense games, and most recently one of my favorites, Final Fantasy Crystal Defenders. Plants vs. Zombies features good, simple (and addictive) fun if you’re willing to learn about the several nuances of each flower or plant and what it can do. Toss in some slot machine mini games, stores from which you can beef up the amount of plants available, and you’ve got yourself a winning combination.

PopCap knows how to keep and engage an audience, and it shows with the adorable art style. Smiling, colorful plants keep you wanting to see which new ones you can unlock during the course of the game. Inviting and warm environments ensure that you stick around to protect your lawn far longer than you logically should. Though zombies may seem unsafe for the kiddies to play around with, the entire game is quite kid-friendly, cartoony, and just plain “feel-good.”

The soothing sounds of Laura Shigihara (the genius behind the viral Plants vs. Zombies music video) are worthy of re-listening to. Bouncy tunes and ominous voiceovers from the zombies will bring a smile to your face even if you can’t quite get the hang of how tower-defense should work. It’s not a walk in the park – or garden, for that matter! We forgive you if you can’t figure it out! The gorgeous and atmospheric tunes play well with the graphics and will be a constant reminder that no matter how tough Plants vs. Zombies may seem, you’re still playing it quite casual!

Plants vs. Zombies is a fantastic excursion into tower defense, especially for those new to the genre. It allows both newbies and veterans a decent challenge that ensures you’ll be staying up late with PopCap’s latest darling. I’ll be anxiously awaiting to see what they can come up with in order to top this, because I know it’s going to remain at the top of my current favorites list for a good while to come.

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