Given all this, I was thrilled to hear about Popcap’s newest game, Plants vs Zombies. A quick hop into Steam, and I was ready to thrash some zombies! My impressions after the cut…
The game is kind of like “Tower Defense Light” with a more interactive resource collection mechanic. What does that mean?
Zombies attack in “slow, rolling attacks” and “huge waves.” Zombies will attack by moving right-to-left in their “lanes” and trying to break into your house (and then engage in a little mange-de-cerveau). Your defenses are primarily oriented towards blocking and defending these lanes (rather than the open grid of “classic” Tower Defense games), although as you progress, you gain advanced defenses that can span lanes.
Defenses are built out of plants that you purchase and place. The defense “currency” is sunlight. Sunlight comes from the sky slowly (at least, in daytime levels) and can also be provided by sunflowers and special mushrooms. As you progress through the “adventure” mode, you unlock new plants; additionally, zombies occasionally drop coins that you can use to purchase more upgrades — new plants, additional slots to bring more plant choices into levels, and the like.
Plants vs Zombies also builds strongly on the Steam achievements system (at least, if you purchase it via Steam). I’m a badge-whore. It kept me playing for several weeks beyond the end of “adventure.” There are puzzles, mini-games (including some downright entertaining send-offs of classic PopCap games in the PvZ engine), a challenging “Survival” mode, a Tamagotchi-like experience, and other fun replay surprises.
The graphics are mostly “drawn-animation” style, rendered in a relatively low resolution — but cute, stylized, and pretty attractive. (I’m the kind of guy who still likes playing Diablo 2, so a few pixels don’t hurt me.) The music is great, and the sound effects (necessarily repetitive due to the nature of a Tower Defense type game) never got on my nerves, and often made me chuckle. BRAINS!
Conclusion and cheat codes.
The game balance is far from perfect. There are definitely plants that deliver a lot of bang for the buck, and plants that just aren’t worth the sunlight cost. Learning which plants meet your playstyle, though, is part of the fun! Overall difficulty felt pretty good — I only failed levels a few times, and rarely more than once, but I was playing pretty hard! If you get visually overwhelmed easily, the “click sunlight to collect” mechanic might make this game a little more painful for you. Another bonus is that Emi enjoyed watching me play, and spent lots of time helping me manage my Zen Garden. Any game you can share with your significant other is worth consideration!
Overall, I actually enjoyed this game quite a lot. The segmentation of game levels makes it great for casual gameplay sessions, but I also had several multi-hour marathons. It’s certainly a good gameplay value for $10… I give it a “Buy” rating!
Oh, and I’m not really giving out cheat codes in this section. FOOLED YOU! You’ll have to buy them from the Tree of Knowledge like I did!