|System: PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: PopCap Games||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: PopCap Games||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: May 5, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Pending||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Nathan Meunier
With seriously habit-forming casual gaming hits like Peggle and Bejeweled already consuming far too much of our spare time in the office, at home, and on-the-go, PopCap Games is going for the jugular with its latest masterpiece. A strategy game about adorable flowers might only appeal to the faithful casual market PopCap dominates, but throwing in a horde of brain-eating zombies of all shapes and sizes is a surefire way to get gamers' attention. Combining the two into a finely crafted and expansive offering that's laden with quirky humor and a tremendous amount of play features seals the deal. Thought you were sick of tower defense games? Plants vs. Zombies will change your mind.
PopCap's debut strategy defense game is a peculiar one indeed. Zombies are on the prowl in the neighborhood in search of your sweet, delicious brains. Instead of a quartet of gun-toting survivors, a photojournalist with a thing for shopping malls, or a swordfighting gal in a bikini, the true heroes of this undead apocalypse come out of a seed packet. This hearty assortment of flowers and other exotic plants vow to protect their master's brains at all costs and hunker down to defend their stretch of the lawn from the shambling invaders. Luckily for your apparently enticing gray matter, this season's annuals have good aim. Gardening is rarely an exciting endeavor, except when it's done in a frantic attempt to save your hide.
In each round, groups of zombies will scale the picket fence border and meander menacingly towards your abode and the scrumptious brains awaiting them inside. Your lawn is conveniently mowed into a 5x9 square grid, where you can plant your defenses. Once they appear at the far end of the screen, zombies will advance in straight lines along various lanes of the grid, eating almost anything they come into contact with. They initially appear sporadically in staggered formations and patterns, though they'll also regularly attack-en-masse. As a last line of defense, each lane is protected by a single lawnmower that will shoot across the screen if a zombie reaches it. If any undead ventures beyond that point and on into your house, the game ends. Holding off individual zombies and larger waves requires strategic management of the game's main resource, sunshine, as well as thoughtful deployment of your many floral and veggie defenses.
Sewing new plants requires large stockpiles of sun. During the daytime, droplets of sunshine will appear at random and is collected with a quick click of the mouse. This precious resource can also be harvested from sunflowers you'll plant amongst your floral barricade. With the sun power flowing, you'll be able to roll out a huge range of offensive and defensive plants like pea shooters (some with freeze powers and multi-shot capabilities), produce launchers (melons, cabbage, and buttered corn), explosive peppers, giant potato barricades, nocturnal fungi, and more. There are 49 plants in all, and each has a wildly unique purpose and function. Only a handful of plants can be brought into battle in each round, so selecting which ones to use against the increasingly diverse zombie hordes is an important part of the strategy.
The ridiculous array of zombies you'll face plays heavily into the game's humorous nature and also keeps you on your toes. Early on, you'll encounter zombies that wear buckets, cones, football gear, and even carry screen doors to make them tougher to dispatch. There are Michael Jackson zombies that prance around and summon backup dancers to attack, zamboni zombies that ice the way for the always-entertaining zombie bobsled team, pole-vaulting zombies, water-friendly ducky tube zombies, dolphin rider zombies, and more. New types of zombies are introduced at regular intervals and pose unforeseen threats to your defenses, requiring constantly changing tactics to successfully counter.