As mentioned in my earlier Left 4 Dead review, the undead are definitely in-vogue at the moment. PopCap, desperate for another hit after Peggle, Bejeweled & Bookworm Adventures all went down a storm, have joined the bandwagon and brought us possibly the most basic and/or pure Tower Defense game possible.
In the best possible tradition, the undead have risen for reasons only loosely elaborated upon and they’re after brains… pretty much yours exclusively, which I guess is one of the pitfalls of living over the road from a cemetery. With such a precious commodity at stake & lacking in anything approaching guns, bladed weapons or explosives too fend off the encroaching decomposing horde, it’s pretty damn lucky that you happen to be the best damn horticulturist in town!
Starting off with peashooters (literally) and upgrading to heavier artillery such as cabbage-pults, starfruit & exploding mushrooms (which results in, yes, a mushroom cloud), your job is to arrange your offensive & defensive plants to hold off wave after wave of devious (but oh so polite) ghouls.
Whilst it doesn’t really push out the boat with regards to the tower defense formula, there is a distinct purity about the game with no fiddling about redirecting the waves to ensure consistent & maximum damage or recovering stolen items (because, frankly, once your brain has been eaten, there can’t really be much too recover). Instead, there are just 5 lanes, 20+ types of zombie and over 40 ways of stopping them!
Graphics & audio are stock PopCap, which means it’s great too look at, charming to watch in motion and entertaining (if not spectacular) to listen too. The music is catchy but limited to 5-6 tunes, none of which will leave you humming away at work, but the zombie & plant variety & designs are where the game excels most with the innovation & cleverness in both the puns & their visual representations essentially making the game.
All is not 100% rosy though. The game seems to have an issue with its 3D Acceleration mode (which is designed to help keep the frame rate up, rather than push polygons) & larger monitors, resulting in a poor, jaggy image. The first time through the adventure mode is quite easy because of the basic gameplay and it’s all too easy to work out an impenetrable defense with even a basic array of plants.
Luckily, the former is easily ignored and the latter is countered by the large number of puzzles & mini-games, the Zen Garden, the Tree of Wisdom (which doles out, among its nuggets of wisdom, various cheat codes), the collectibles & (if you have the Steam version) Achievements to prolong the experience.
On the surface, Plants Vs Zombies looks like all the other throwaway Flash games that you see cropping up left, right & centre. But as we’ve all seen before you can’t write PopCap games off for targeting the casual market when they do it so well, yet manage to cater for everyone else in their own special way.