Developer: PopCap Games
Publisher: PopCap Games
Available On: Xbox LIVE Arcade, PC, iPad and iPhone (XBLA Version reviewed)
How on earth do you top one of the best casual games of all time? You add to it, that’s how…and that is how PopCap have achieved such greatness here, this time on Xbox LIVE Arcade. Let’s not beat about the bush here, this game is wonderful, so much so that I almost want to just type “buy it” in an enormous font and walk away to go and play it some more, but that won’t do!
If you don’t know what Plants vs. Zombies is about (it’s okay, we forgive you) it’s pretty self explanatory really, it’s a tower defence game at heart whereby you have to protect your house (and thus yourself) from the zombie onslaught using plants! These are no ordinary plants though, pea-shooters, melon-pults (melon catapults), fume-shroom (a mushroom that shoots fumes!, and many others. You unlock new plants (read weapons) throughout your progress that are paced incredibly well to match the new zombie attacks. It would be a spoiler to tell you about the later items and enemies, plus it would definitely ruin the humour so no more on that particular aspect of the game.
In that respect, the game isn’t too drastically different from previous incarnations (including the iPhone version we reviewed back in March), though the way the controls have been handled is clever. You can use the d-pad to move about the “grid” but you can also choose to use the left stick to move as though you were using a mouse. Go near the sunlight, coins or cards you collect and the cursor automatically attracts them, easy collection is guaranteed. To remove plants you still use the spade, but now you hold the “B” button for a few short seconds. This may seem an inconvenience but rather a few seconds to “confirm” than an accidental button press removing your best plant in a crazed moment of all out attack from the zombies! You cycle between your plants using the bumpers, which feels intuitive and natural.
The game looks stunning, it was always a very charming game with cheery music and loveable visuals but seeing it all rendered in high definition is just gorgeous. From the very moment you see the title screen this game will not let you down in the sound or visual department.
Included in this new version of the game are versus and co-op modes, the latter of which is handled with an absolutely genius touch. In co-op you are limited to 4 plant slots each, however, you cannot pick the same plant so there is a huge element of strategy involved. Perhaps one person plants sunflowers to block the enemy with the potatoes and mines whilst the other person plants the pea-shooters and conducts the attack in general. It doesn’t end there though, you can play some of the mini-games in co-op as well, including the bowling!
Versus mode is just as fun and the biggest compliment you could give it would be so that it’s so good, it’s amazing it’s not been in the game until now! In this mode you choose either Plants or Zombies whereby Plants play exactly as they normally would, you have to stop the Zombies getting into your house and eating your brains as that ends the game. However, you get to play as Zombies in this mode! As with the plants, you need to collect currency to enable you to put your attackers into the game but with the Zombies you plant tombstones to gain “brain power”. Your goal is obvious, get into the house, munch the yummy brains! As the Zombies you have three non-playable Zombies stood at the top, middle and bottom of your lanes holding a target, if your opponent manages to destroy all three targets, you lose! It’s so well designed and so fun that it’s such a huge shame that it’s local play only, just like the co-op.
On top of that, the usual challenge mode and endless mode return and there is also a unique way of showing the leaderboards. You have a house which has things added to it as you unlock achievements and complete parts of the game. Your friends also have a house you can see as well, and there are traditional leaderboards visible “underground” as well. This truly is the most complete package of the game to date, there really are an exhausting amount of things to do.
At 1200 microsoft points Plants vs. Zombies is an absolute steal (even if like me, this is the third version you’ve purchased it) and in a world where value is key, you’ll struggle to find a better value proposition than this title. 50 missions and 21 mini-games will keep you going for a long time indeed. The only thing that prevents it from perfection is the lack of online co-op, but nevertheless this is an absolute must buy.
Has our review sold you? You can buy Plants vs Zombies directly from your console or via xbox.com