Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Plants vs. Zombies (PC) Review

At last year's Xbox Canada Community Birthday Party, I won a copy of the retail version of Plants vs. Zombies. Fast forward about a year later, and I finally opened the box and installed the game. I know, I know, it took me a while, but I was busy! I still have a game backlog I'm working through, you know.

As most of you probably know by now, Plants vs. Zombies is a thoroughly addictive tower defence game by PopCap Games that's available on a host of platforms, from desktop to console to mobile. The game's premise is simple: There are zombies on your lawn, and they're trying to get into your home to eat your brains. Your only defence, aside from the advice of your neighbour Crazy Dave, is a host of plants ready to combat the undead horde!

Colourful and cute, Plants vs. Zombies allows players to use up to 49 different types of Plants to fend off 26 different types of Zombies across 4 game modes. The primary game mode is "Adventure," basically the Campaign. It's here that you're introduced to the game's economy of Sun, which you collect as it slowly falls from the sky. Planting Sunflowers is essential to your efforts as they'll create Sun for you. As you progress, you gain access to a host of combat, defensive, and trap Plants. The basic Peashooter, for example, costs little Sun and provides simple direct attacks to damage incoming Zombies. The Chomper is a fly trap that will eat approaching Zombies that shuffle too close, and good old Wallnut functions just like his name implies, as a wall that Zombies need to eat through to advance.

Different types of Zombies have weaknesses to different types of Plants, and as the player you'll need to choose which several Plants you'll want to use for that Level. The environments also range from your front lawn, to your backyard which has a pool, to elemental problems like fog and the occasional storm. This all adds to the variety and strategic challenges presented to the player.

As you progress, you gain access to an Almanac that provides details for all the Plants and Zombies you've encountered. Not only does it provide hilarious descriptions of each, but the Almanac will also inform you of general toughness, damage potential, and weaknesses, so it's a good idea to read up on any new entries before moving on to the next Level.

Aside from Adventure Mode, there's also Mini-Games, Puzzles, and Survival game modes. Mini-Games are a host of odd gametypes, such as bowling and a Zombie aquarium. Puzzles are specific scenarios that require players to really think their way through various challenges, and Survival sees the player facing wave after wave of Zombies in an effort to survive.

As you progress through any gametype and kill Zombies, you'll earn money which you can use to purchase items or a small amount of upgrades from Crazy Dave, and in time you'll also earn access to the Zen Garden. The Zen Garden allows you to grow and nurture specific plants which in turn will generate additional money for you. The entire set up and interaction between game modes is both cute, clever, and engaging, ensuring players will take a vested interest in everything Plants vs. Zombies has to offer.

The graphics are simple and colourful and certainly get the job done, but the game really shines with its sound scape. The music is both fun and enjoyable and really helps to set the atmosphere for each Level, and the very limited voice acting, be it the blabbering of Crazy Dave or the grumble for brains of approaching Zombies is fantastic.

My only major gripe with Plants vs. Zombies is the game's difficulty. I personally found it far too easy, and in Adventure Mode I only ever failed one Level once simply because I made a bad selection in my choice of Plants. Some of the Mini-games and Puzzles have proven far more challenging, thankfully, and successful completion of those tends to net the player more cash which in turn allows them to further invest in their Zen Garden, which in turn nets more cash to buy Upgrades that prove useful in any game mode. See what I mean about interaction between game modes?

Plants vs. Zombies is a wonderfully simple game that will chew up far too much of your time faster than the undead scavenging for brains. With a price tag ranging from $9.99 to $19.99 (US) and hours upon hours of entertainment to be had, this tower defence game is a sound investment on any platform and for gamers of all tastes and skill levels.

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