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Review: Plants vs. Zombies
by Tom Acres
17.4.10
Game Information


Basic information
Plants vs Zombies
Developer: Popcap Games
Publisher: Popcap Games

Released on Windows: May 5, 2009
Released on iPhone: February 15, 2010

Platforms
Microsoft Windows
Mac OSX
Xbox Live Arcade
iPhone OS
iPad

Genres
Tower Defense

Certification
N/A

I wouldn't call myself a fan of casual games or casual gaming in general. It's one of the reasons that I traded in my DS for a PSP, and why the only living thing in my house that ever goes so far as touching the Nintendo Wii is my cat (he sits on it, I don't really know why). So when I was browsing the App Store on iTunes, looking for some time wasters for my holiday to Cyprus, I wasn't really anticipating finding anything that would last me longer than the plane journey. What a surprise it was to me, then, that a £1.79 Popcap game entitled 'Plants vs. Zombies' has threatened to destroy my chances of a nice tan. I may be a gamer but I'm allowed to want a tan, right?.

Thanks a lot Popcap, I'm going back to the UK even paler than before, and it's all thanks to your rather brilliant and insanely addictive game.

Okay, I may have been playing games on a variety of platforms for about 12 years now, but I feel quite ashamed to have never experienced a Popcap game. As it turns out, they're a rather successful company responsible for the likes of Zuma, Bookworm and Bejeweled (the latter has sold over 50 million copies). It also turns out that this game I'm reviewing was released in May 2009 for the good old PC; it recieved plenty of critical acclaim and is Popcap's fastest selling game ever. After several delays, the iPhone/iPod Touch versions became available in February, and they're still just as good as the PC version.

In case, like me, you didn't know anything about Plants vs. Zombies, it's most easily described as kind-of-like-a-tower-defense-game-in-which-you-are-tasked-with-protecting-a-house, from a horde of zombies by planting seeds and growing plants to fend off the waves. Your plant seeds by using sunlight, which can be collected as it falls from the sky or by planting sunflowers and mushrooms which also produce sunlight. There are a ton of wacky plants you can grow once you have sufficient sunlight; there are over 40 plants but only 8 can be used in a single level. There are peashooters, exploding cherry bombs, potato mines, chillis which burn zombies, Venus fly traps that eat zombies and a tonne more. Every time you finish a level you unlock new plants, so there's plenty of incentive to keep on ploughing through the surprisingly lengthy campaign.

As well as new plants showing up, there are plenty of zombie variants too to keep you on your toes. There are your standard slow moving ones - some wear traffic cones and buckets as armour, some can hurdle plants with a polevault, some are dressed as American footballers and can plough through your defences. Best of all, there's even a Michael Jackson zombie who comes equipped with a legion of followers dancing to Thriller. As you can already tell, this game has tons of charm, character and plenty of laughs too.

There's also plenty of value for your £1.79. There's the 50+ level campaign, a free play mode, 13 achievements to earn and it's so fun you'll keep playing anyway. There's tonnes to unlock and collect, and you'll be seeing new things right until the end of the campaign. The difficulty curve is spot on so the game is never frustrating whilst still maintaining a good degree of challenge (day and night levels keep things interesting).

The game looks simply fantastic for a mobile game as well. The art style and animations look superb, the level of detail in the colourful environments is wonderful and the sound is great too. The music consists of some pretty darn funky 80s style tunes and the zombie groans are a joy to behold every time you hear them. It looks super sharp on the small screen and so stands very strong next to its big brother on the PC.

Speaking of the PC, I tried the demo version on that platform and found it to be pretty much identical. In fact, I consider the iPhone/iPod Touch version superior thanks to its brilliant touch screen control system which makes playing the game even more of a joy.

You may notice that I've said nothing negative so far in this review. Well, that's because there isn't really anything negative to say about Plants vs. Zombies. It was brilliant on the PC and is now arguably even better on Apple's mobile platforms. The gameplay is perfectly balanced and tuned, the presentation is spot on, the control system is even better and it costs less than an ice cream at this rather spiffy hotel I'm in right now. To be honest, if you have an iPhone or an iPod Touch, and you haven't picked up Plants vs. Zombies, then you deserve to have your brain eaten.

10/10

Tom

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- Tom Acres

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