You have a house, and you are being targeted by zombies. Instead of whipping out barricades, loading up your shotgun or ensuring that your doors and windows are properly locked up, you start laying down a new garden lawn and start planting seeds. Why? Because these seeds will spawn mighty fighting plants that will fend off the undead from taking a bite out of your warm juicy flesh.
Yep, this is a funny plants defense game for people who think that their green thumb will be their saving grace in the face of a zombie apocalypse. And with the strange plants that appear in the game, we are not surprised. There are flowers that shoot pellets, mushrooms that squirt dangerous gas, exploding cherries, large mutated venus fly traps that will consume zombies in a single bite and even odd looking plants that will destroy tombstones. Yep, your garden arsenal of seeds is an army waiting to be grown and all you need is a little sunlight.
How to Grow a Zombie Repelling Garden
The seed bags you have access to in the game are pretty wicked to be precise, it is the seeds that are impressive. They not only do they spawn strange plants, but they only need soil and a bit of sunlight to grow. No need for water or fertilizer, just dash them with a bit of sun and they are ready to fight. Okay, in case you are already scratching your head wondering how this game actually works, here is a quick breakdown of the mechanics.
The stage, or the garden is composed of five horizontal rows (or paths), your house is on the left and zombies will come in from the right. This little patch of soil and grass is your only defensive line against those nasty zombies.
In each row, you can plant up to 9 plants these will all automatically attack any zombie that comes within their range. To get a plant, all you need to do is to grab the corresponding seed from a toolbar on top of the screen then drag it to the desired location. However, before you can do that, you must first gather some sunlight.
Everything Under the Sun
As we said, all that your garden plants need is a bit of sunlight to help them grow. In this game, sunlight is nicely packed into small yellow glowing balls of energy. You click on them to gather them and they will be yours to use for any plant you create. When the stage is set in daytime, sunlight will fall regularly and you can just wait for the orbs to drift down to the ground as you gather them one by one. If the rate of natural sunlight is insufficient for your needs (it usually is), then you can plant "sunflowers" which also generate sunlight on their own. The more sunflowers you have, the more sunlight you produce every minute and of course, having more of this valuable resource allows you to expand your defenses faster.
The big problem is when the stage is set at night (and we all know how zombies just love to attack at night), in this case, sunlight does not naturally occur in the stage and the player will have to rely on sunflowers alone. While this may not seem like much of a big deal (you will also rely on sunflowers more during the daytime), it actually changes the way you start your build order. With precious sunlight now being produced only through sunflowers, you are reduced to waiting on a single sunflower for the early part of the stage using sunlight to produce only more sunflowers until you have enough to invest in defensive plants. Fortunately, at night, you also get access to mushrooms. These are low end defensive plants that deal little damge but require no sunlight at all (yes, just keep planting them). The shrooms serve are as a useful starting defensive line while you increase your sunflowers.
Different Plants for Different Folks
There are a wide variety of attacking plants in this game. From those that produce sunlight, to plants that are made serve as a defensive walls, to plants whose only purpose is to appear briefly then explode to take out a large group of enemies. Knowing the strength and value of each plant type is important, and also since their attacks vary in style and element, they are also effective against certain types of enemies.
Before any stage starts, you will get a quick preview of the enemies. While their volume cannot be discerned from the initial preview, you can get a good idea of what kinds of enemies will appear. And with that knowledge, you can decide which seeds to bring. The game will limit you on which seeds you can actually have during a stage (this number starts out at six, and it will be expanded later in the game as you buy upgrades), if you bring the wrong combination of seeds, expect to have no chance at winning at all. While there are some seed combinations that adapt well in a wide variety of situations, it is still advisable that players practice with different combinations and try to master at least one set of seeds for day time stage and another set of seeds for nighttime stages in order to compensate for the sunlight resource limitation of night stages.
Do Your Research
Later in the game, one of the zombies will drop an almanac, which is a compilation of all the zombies you have encountered and the plants you have acquired. Try to read this through if you are unfamiliar with the specs and abilities of the different zombies and plants. Doing so will inform you of the different strengths and weaknesses of each (like the screen-door shielded zombie, which can only be defeated by the large gas mushroom since the gas attack passes through the screen).
More than Tower Defense
While the stage layout is truly different, it is hard to deny that Plants VS Zombies is a tower defense game you have units to defend you, enemies moving in set paths and target goal that you must defend. But despite this similarity, it is also hard to categorize the game as a simple TD title. The stages are short and the base gameplay is primarily different. More importantly, you also have to play plenty of minigames along the way (one involves using giant nuts as destructive bowling balls against zombies some of them even go boom, and yes, for the sake of everyone's sanity, we are avoiding any instances of exploding nut jokes). Plants VS Zombies, technically, does fall into the tower defense genre. But to say that that is all there is to it would be very, very wrong.
There is a certain sense of excited fun in the game's later stages, when the sunlight production is taking too long to keep up with your needs and the zombies are charging in close, it is a pretty common tactic to throw in those cherry bombs just to clear them out. You get attached to the concept of having your garden, of tending to seemingly sentient plants and to the concept of not letting any of those undead things actually make it to your front door. It is a prolonged battle between your shrubs and those ghouls, and you have to keep winning.
Sentient Plants can be Cute
We have all seen the merchandise big sunflowers with faces in the center and those tulip-bud-shaped green plants with beady eyes; these two are the most iconic of all the plants in the game and there have been countless uses of their images on posters, decals, stuffed toys, shirts and more. Sentient, zombie-killing plants, and we love them. After all, they are designed to be extremely cute and adorable. While some of you may not be too appreciative of the cartoon-like approach of the game, the visual result is effective. The designs easily convey the humor and lighthearted feel of the game, which is a great big advantage.
The game itself is very visually pleasing, and not just because of the cute mascots. The animations are smooth and the controls (be it mouse or touch screen) are very responsive while we have heard of a few devices having compatibility issues with the controls, the problem is more device specific than it is with the program itself. For those of you who purchased the PC version of the game, it plays quite well with the mouse. While moving the mouse takes longer than just pressing a screen, having a dedicated cursor on screen as opposed to clicking all over the place is actually easy to follow.
The audio is also quite fun to listen to. The background music is appealing and makes the game feel fun and the sound effects make the game more involving to play. Overall, the audio for Plants VS Zombies is polished and well executed.
Plenty of Things to Do for a Really Good Game
One of the best things we love about Plants Versus Zombies is that there is plenty of content to enjoy. The developers at PopCap have certainly done a great job of ensuring that the game has plenty of things for people to do after they finish all the stages (and there are a few dozen stages in the story mode alone). PvZ also has plenty of mini-games for players to master and long list of achievements to unlock. In short, this game should be an instant hit for completionists. Also, it helps a lot that the basic gameplay is actually quite fun and entertaining, this makes replaying any stage or doing certain mini-games an enjoyable experience (and you will appreciate that when you come back for the achievements).
Plants VS Zombies is a pretty famous game, and while some may say that it is overrated, we beg to disagree. The gameplay is addictive and is well suited for mobile devices particularly tablets. While it plays well on a desktop computer or on the home consoles (it is also available on the Playstation 3 (via Playstation Network) and on the Xbox 360 (via Xbox Live), it was designed with tablets in mind. This is why the trigger areas are large and the stage setup is easy to control. When using a mouse or a controller, the inputs still remain quite intuitive.
The challenge level of Plants VS Zombies varies a lot, starting from really basic at the beginning to slightly advanced near the end. Intermediate level casual gamers will certainly find something to chew on with this while the more hardcore players might take this one out for a quick afternoon spin.
Cobbling together a game that uses Plants and Zombies is a pretty neat oncept and we have no doubts that the developers found the idea interestingly silly the first time they conceived of it. But regardless of its' roots, Plants Versus Zombies is a well made plants game that stands on its own pretty well (PopCap should be proud). It is addictive, nice to look at and easy to control. Finishing stages feels rewarding and getting achievements is something that players will enjoy striving for. Overall, the game provides a really encouraging experience that will make you want to come back for more. Popcaps Plants Versus Zombies has certain carved out a great niche for itself with its amazing gameplay.