Thick cloud cover rolls in to cover the moon and blot out the only light of the night. Heavy, dense fog rolls in obscuring what little view there was. Suddenly, heavy dragging steps are heard approaching out of the inky blackness of the night and a deep, gravely cry of “Braaiiinnsss!” Can be heard reverberating through the chilly air… While this may sound like a regular nightly walk home if you’re in Chicago, most of you are probably thinking of an impending zombie invasion. A little less than two years ago, Pop Cap Games made the chore of defending a home from a zombies into a wildly successful tower defense game that has been released has now seen its sixth release. Dubbed Plants vs. Zombies, this title puts a unique twist on the otherwise stagnant tower defense genre by having players fend off the adorable zombies by utilizing killer plants.
The action of the main game mode in Plants vs. Zombies takes place in different areas around the besieged home: such as the front yard, back yard, and roof. Conditions range from sunny afternoons to dark and stormy nights, where you can only see by lightening flashes. You have a diverse arsenal of plants at your disposal (though you don’t get to take all of them into battle at the same time) you can use to shoot, explode, and otherwise maim your undead foes. You control all of the action exclusively with the stylus and the touchscreen, a feature which is perfectly suited to this title. The only complaint with the stylus controls is that sometimes the action gets very hectic and it is easy to release the plant too soon and place it in the wrong slot. You are sometimes assisted in these endeavors by your neighbor “Crazy Dave”, who really only seems crazy because he wears a saucepan on his head and proclaims himself to be “ccRRRRaaaAAAZzzzZYYY”. Crazy Dave lends his help in the form of advice and selling you various items and plant upgrades. Crazy Dave also serves as one of the game’s many comic relief devices, and is just one of the numerous factors that make Plants vs. Zombies one of the most charming games to date.
Aside from having simple and easy to understand gameplay, Plants vs. Zombies has the added bonus of being a game with a lot of character. The amount of environments you play in is rather limited, but Pop Cap compensated for that with spooky music and sound effects to create the right mood. In a night time level, where half the playing field is covered with fog, long guttural cries of “BRRAAIINNSS!” will be enough to set you on edge and start frantically placing offensive plants. The zombies, despite having nothing on their minds but eating yours, are actually very adorable. From undead disco dancers to ghoulish miners, each type of zombie has some sort of endearing quality that you will likely notice just before one of your pea shooters botanically blasts the brain eater back to the depths of the netherworld from whence it came.
Many people are randomly docking points from the DS version of Plants vs. Zombies, much like a mad scientist randomly slashing at a cadaver just to see what kind of damage they can do. There are a lot of complaints about the game’s graphics floating around in other, less RoboAwesome-esque publications. It is pretty easy to say most of those gripes are pretty trivial. Granted, the resolution of the game’s sprites is a bit lower than their PC or console counterparts, but Pop Cap deserves some props for getting all of the PC Game of the Year content to fit onto a DS cartridge, along with four brand new mini-games, local multiplayer options (with one or two cartridges) and other DS exclusive content. Pop Cap very wisely chose to spend more resources on content that flashy graphics. This isn’t said to deny the fact that here are some undesirable framerate lags when the battleground gets too crowded with plants and zombies, but these lags in no way affect the ability to play each level through to completion.
Don’t be surprised if that thing going bump in the night is you waking up at 3:00 AM and fumbling around your dark house, trying to find your DS as you groan “oneeee mooorreeee leeveelllllllll…”. You will quickly discover that the DS version of Plants vs. Zombies is just as excellent as it ever was. Solid tower defense gameplay is presented in a spooky/cute manner that somehow makes a game that grabs onto your skull and gnaws. Look past the sometimes laggy framerate, because what you’ll see is a game that’s hours upon hours of strategic fun. In a time when zombies and other creatures of the night have saturated our pop culture, it is refreshing to play a well-crafted game that can stand out amongst the festering, stumbling, growling crowd.
Plants vs. Zombies
|Addictive tower defense gameplay with a unique twist, great music and character models||Framerate gets pretty laggy at times, touch screen controls can be slightly frustrating if you allow them to get the best of you|
|Verdict||Plants vs. Zombies will be a great buy for someone who has never played it before, but the added and exclusive content will be a draw even for people with extensive experience in other versions of the game.|