There’s a zombie on your lawn… there’s a zombie on your lawn…. yeah you know the song, I’m sure… but how has the game held up since launch? Well, time to talk about that.
Story: For all intensive purposes, you are a regular home-owner in the suburbs of the USA… and for some reason, zombies have decided to invade your house. There is nothing to tell you if they are all over the town, the street, or anything else. But they want to come into your place and eat your brains. Apparently, you look very delicious.
That’s it. There is no real backstory or given reason for the chaos to happen to you. It just is, and for some, that will be a refreshing change that harkens back to the day when the total story of the game is what one screen shows you. It leaves everything else for you to either create in your mind, or to ignore entirely and jump right into the action. After all, you are here to defend a house and kill some zombies.
And to this end, there really are no characters outside of Crazy Dave, a neighbor who is wearing a pot on his head, sells you stuff out of the back of his van, and really wants to see you win, though he seems helpless to assist in any other way. He is entertaining in the small bursts he shows up, but he doesn’t really add much.
In short, if you got this game to have a deep and meaningful story told to you, sorry, you bought the wrong game.
Graphics: This is one of the many places Plants vs Zombies shines. While very cartoony in style and with backgrounds that seem as generic for a home as possible, there is not a single character in this game that doesn’t ooze personality. From the basic zombie shuffling forward with that blank slack-jawed look to the insane and all-too-happy psycho zombie lurching forward cranking a jack-in-the-box, there is not a single enemy you will face that isn’t expressive, colorful, and give you a sense of personality between the animation and the expression they carry.
And the plants are no different… happy sunflowers share the battlefield with stalwart wallnuts, determined pea-shooters, evil exploding mushrooms of doom, and many other plants that will help you protect yourself from the zombie infestation.
The result is a charming display of absolute havoc as the vegetables fly and the zombies march forward in their unending hoards that will leave you amazed at the sheer chaos as well as pleased with the individuals that make it up.
If there is any one issue with the graphics it’s their technical limitations. This game does not run at anything higher then 800x600, not only stopping you from a wide-screen view, but appearing blocky on many modern computers. You will get past it for the greatness within, but expect to need a round or two to get used to this.
Sound: While the music isn’t going to be the most memorable for the most part, it will set the mood very well, often energetic and with tones that vary from seeming to hint at trouble ahead, to that final stretch where victory is coming if you can just hold on a little longer… but the most notable points for music are exactly 2, the scene for beating the game and the 4th “boss.” Ill explain why that is in quotations when we get to gameplay.
The scene at the end will stick in your head for weeks after you finish the game, assuming of course, you haven’t seen the music video online yet. And on that note, Pop-Cap really disappointed me. If they wanted to make this a treat for finishing the game and a gamer put it online, well that happens. But in this case, as part of the advertisement campaign for this game before launch, this video was already officially on YouTube and Steam! Unless you live under a rock, any interest in this game has already netted you both the ability to see the ending and download the song that goes with it for free, all courtesy of the company releasing the game. Something about that feels somewhat backwards to me.
But the 4th “boss” theme is simply epic… because it’s not there. Instead it’s you, the backyard, the zombies, nighttime, a thunderstorm, and the power is out. All you hear as you use lightning to get an idea of what’s going on before it fades to black again are the sounds of battle, the patter of rain, and the thunder. It is a shocking contrast to the rest of the game, and simply hits the nail perfectly.
Gameplay: Plants vs Zombies is a Tower Defense game in which you will use your army of plants to defend your house from the zombies. The game takes place on a grid made of 5 rows the zombies will tread down, and you will stop them by planting your plants in their way. Each plant you put down will require you to spend from your sunlight bank as well as have a cooldown time before you can plant another of the same type, balancing out what your plants can do with what they will cost you.
And these abilities will vary. Sunflowers, for example, generate sunlight (which also drops down for you during the day), pea shooters shoot the oncoming zombies and wall-nuts do nothing but are really tough. And this toughness matters, because when zombies reach your plants, they do what zombies do best… they eat. By the handfuls, they will tear apart your plants and devour them before moving to the next spot, ultimately reaching your house and eating your brains if you do not kill them in time.
Keeping this gameplay fresh for the entire game, you will be introduced slowly to new zombie types and new plants, ultimately requiring you to have to choose which plants you want based on the zombies you see will be coming at you before the action starts… and variety is the name of the game. With many zombie types and at least as many plants you can unlock, you will find plenty here to keep you going.
On top of this, about twice in every world (there are 5), you will have a level that is effectively a minigame that allows you to relax from managing your plants and resources. This is because you will be instead given a track that brings plants you can drag-and-drop. These games usually take the form of bowling where wallnuts are the balls and the zombies coming forward are your pins, or the normal game where the track brings you what you can use for a final all out assault by the zombies before you move on to the next world. In total, this game will offer you 50 levels to complete before you finish the game. This may sound long, but considering how easy it is, and how short the levels are, it really isn’t. You can probably finish this mode within 6 hours.
And if that is not enough for you, the game unlocks other modes while you play… in the form of minigames, puzzles and a survival mode. Each minigame is varience of the game, be it the zombies get plant-heads and the abilities of the plants they have for head, the plants rain down in a thunderstorm, or even a Bejeweled clone in which the zombies are trying to eat the plants you match. Sadly, there are also some pretty dumb things in here too, like a game where the zombies are invisible.
Puzzles tend to take the form of a few specific gametypes that unlock new levels as you finish them, including an entertaining mode where you get to play as the zombies trying to eat a pre-built army of plants and devour the brains they are protecting.
Survival mode is pretty self explanatory. It’s you, the zombies, and the level doesn’t end.
Bugs: The only bug I found in this game is an issue with the resolution. When I played this game on my old PC, the resolution was annoying, but it was at least handled in a way that didn’t make the pixilation look ugly. I do not know what change happened, be it an update in the game, my new OS (I was running Windows XP before), my new graphic card, or any given driver change that came with building the new machine, but the smoothing that the game did before does not happen now. This was not a big issue and by the time the game was over, I barely noticed it, but at first glance, everything looked exceptionally blocky and uglier then it should because of it.
Overall: Short, sweet, and fun as hell, I enjoyed the hell out of this game. And it will probably charm you as well. If you enjoy Tower Defense games at all, you need to get your hands on this. If you haven’t played this type of game, there is no better game to introduce you to the genre. The only people I can say may not want to get this one are the guys who hate Tower Defense games…. and even then if it’s on a Steam Summer sale, pick it up. It starts at $10 and will likely prove the exception you like to the rule you hate.