Friday 17 September 2010

Game Review – Plants vs. Zombies

Format: iPhone and Xbox Live

The premise here is very simple, you are alone inside a house that must be fortified with an incredible variety of plants, to stop an invading army of zombies from getting inside and eating your brain. While this does sound kind of ridiculous if you say it out loud, the idea goes a long way, boasting lots of fantastic and challenging strategy based game-play in this Tower Defence title. While the weapons you are given to fight off the zombie horde come in plant form, they come in many shapes and sizes, all with their own unique and useful abilities. This coupled with a large variety of enemies to prepare for; Plants vs. Zombies is a refreshing marketplace purchase and no-brainer (get it?) for the iPhone.

The game itself is set in one of three locations, your front lawn, back yard and eventually, your rooftop. Each of the three levels is divided into a grid with each space allowing you to place your plants. The zombies’ goal is of course to reach the other side and your arsenal of vegetables will do everything in its power to stop that from happening. The game offers 48 different plants as weapons, the most important being the sunflower plant, which must be used to gain sun currency to then proceed to build your other green weapons. Some of my personal favourites include the Jalapeno Chilli, which destroys everything in the grid-line, the Pumpkin that serves as a protective shell for any plant inside it and the Cabbage-Pult, the self proclaimed cabbage launcher. Zombies will come in all shapes and sizes, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, before each level you will be given a sneak peak at what zombies will be invading your home and it is up to you to choose the correct set of seven plants to take with you into the level (this can later be upgraded to eight and nine available plants per level). For example, balloon zombies need to be shot down by cactuses because ground plants cannot reach them, while water zombies need to be destroyed by water based plants that can only be planted on lily pads. There is a large variety of ways to tackle the un-dead and inevitably you will find a successful formula that works for you, but trying and experimenting with each plant is fun in it’s own right. The levels also create variety by offering nighttime levels where lightning flashes are the only way to view the grid, or fog that prevents you seeing what zombies are entering the level until it’s too late. The swimming pool specifically offers the most versatility, as it requires water-based plants to be included in your roster to take down those specific zombies.

Plants vs. Zombies offers a fairly challenging campaign adventure. Integrated alongside the core game-play I have been discussing, there are also plenty of fun and entertaining mini-games available at the end of each campaign segment that helps find even more intuitive and fun ways to kill the zombies. The hilarious character known as Crazy Dave guides you along the campaign and the humour is very entertaining, coupled with the occasional letter you find from the zombies themselves, which also prove to be a giggle. Crazy Dave also has his own shop that will let you choose from lots of different upgrades for your plants to help you in your endeavour.

Both the iPhone and Xbox Live versions of the game are wholly entertaining and work a treat up to this point, but unfortunately it is only the latter that has competitive multiplayer available. Indeed Plants vs. Zombies offers a co-op and competitive game-modes, the former allowing two players locally to take on missions and maps from the campaign mode and the latter creating an epic battle between the plants and zombies. This in particular is a whole lot of fun as you are allowed to play as the zombies in much the same way as you do the plants, building up resources using tombstones instead of sunflowers and sending out your minions to try and get those brains. The variety of zombies isn’t quite as extensive as the list of plants, but with a total of fifteen powerful un-dead to choose from, the battles can be thrilling fun, for example the American football zombies move faster and are tougher thanks to their gear serving as armour. Some of the funnier zombies include the paper-reading zombie that gets upset when his newspaper is destroyed and suddenly becomes enraged and moves twice as fast. All of this can be customised in the options and can create plenty of fun and versatile game-types for you and a friend. It is a real shame these options aren’t available online, in fact you can’t play online at all, which really lets Plants vs. Zombies down.

I myself played this game on the iPhone first, so I wondered how the control mechanics would translate to a pad because the game required quick movements so it seemed touch-screen was the perfect control mechanic here. Fortunately, they translate really well, making planting easy with the analogue and collecting the sun resources has been made easier with them gravitating towards your cursor at all times. While this is indeed a great transition, I can’t help but feel that the touch screen is till much more fluid and enjoyable.

Plants vs. Zombies is a great looking game, the design of each plant and zombie is beautiful to look at and on the big HD screen, and it is even more glorious. On the iPhone the graphics are still very pretty and colourful, going a long way to further the experience. The audio is also very well presented, the zombies make cool sounds and each plant has it’s own sprites and sounds also. This helps bring Plants vs. Zombies together as an excellent technical achievement, gaining further credit with fluid and enjoyable game-play, great humour and plenty of replay value on the console version. Whichever way you choose to experience Plants vs. Zombies, make sure you do because it is a whole load of fun.

Technical presentation – 8.0
Graphics – 9.0
Game-play – 8.0
Replay value – 8.0

Final score – 8 / 10

Igor, CeX UK Contributor

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