Review / Plants Vs. Zombies (PC)

Just when we think we’ve exhausted every way possible to kill zombies PopCap Games comes along and proves us all wrong. Plants vs. Zombies is the latest game to be released by PopCap and is currently available through PopCap’s site for $19.99 or through Steam for $9.99. The goal is to simply keep zombies from making it inside your house by planting different plants in their way to stop them. It sounds simple enough and it is, but there is so much to do in this game. With a pretty lengthy adventure mode, puzzles, minigames, survival mode and a zen garden Plants vs. Zombies is an easy to recommend purchase for tower defense or RTS fans as well as being a solid introduction to both genres.

Plants vs. Zombies (PvZ) is set up in an easy to learn way for the first few levels. The playing field usually has nine squares across and five squares down. You can place plants on any of these squares though it’s recommended you start from the left and gradually move to the right. You start off with a peashooter plant and a sunflower and will soon amass a variety of different plants. Sunflowers act as the currency delivery system in PvZ. Every so often a little sun icon will burst out of the sunflower and you have to click on it in order to add 25 points of “Sun” to your inventory. The more sunflowers you have, the more Sun you will accumulate. You then use these points to pick different plants to place on the field. There is no limit on how much Sun you can accumulate but there is a limit on how many plant types you can bring into battle.

PvZ is always bringing new surprises into the mix. At first it just seems like you complete a stage and receive a new plant that will be helpful for the next stage. When you least expect it the game throws in a currency system that adds on to replay value. As the levels go on you eventually meet Crazy Dave who will sell you useful items such as additional plants, extra lines of defense such as lawnmowers and pool cleaners and extra space in your inventory to bring more plants to each level. He will also sell you items that help you to maximize your zen garden’s potential. Those plants can also be sold for even more money.

And then there’s other bonus material that presents itself while you’re playing and more games unlock after beating the the adventure mode. We get to play minigames such as Wallnut Bowling and a game that’s a mix between PvZ and Bejeweled. The best part is that the majority of what can be unlocked has to be done after completing the game. Those who consider themselves completionists will be playing PvZ for dozens of hours unlocking everything.

The animation is what gives the game most of its charm. The colors are vibrant and each plant and zombie has its own personality. The Wallnut for example has this dopey smile that gets progressively sadder as the zombies munch away at it. The Sunflower bounces in place gleefully, Tangle Kelp lurks menacingly in the water and the Squash literally squashes zombies. The zombies also come in many different flavors with certain strengths and weaknesses. Buckethead Zombie requires multiple plants to take him down quickly and the Dancing Zombie will keep resurrecting backup dancers until you pop his head off. I counted a total of 26 zombie types and 48 plant types in all. Some of those plants can only be used on the night stages but there is a plant you acquire later on that can wake them up during the day. You’ll never get tired of using the same plants because getting through the later stages require a bit of strategy.

PopCap nails the soundtrack by providing background music that resonates with the zombie atmosphere mixed with a happy go lucky vibe that the plants bring to the game. The sound effects are simple and certainly not spectacular and the zombies only have a few lines of dialogue. However we’re not playing to hear zombies talk, we’re playing to send them back to the grave.

There is so much more to PvZ . It’s simple and addictive and begs multiple playthroughs. The system requirements are low enough for just about any relatively modern PC or laptop to run it flawlessly. PvZ shows that when an original idea merges with proven gameplay styles the result is pure gold. You can sense how much fun the developers had when putting this game together. It’s my hope that PvZ eventually gets ported to a handheld so I can never have it out of my sight.

+ Wonderfully unique plants and zombies
+ Simple yet elegant animations
+ Tons upon tons of replay value

– Maybe a bit too easy for seasoned gamers
– Gaining money is a slow process
– No handheld version… yet