Plants vs. Zombies GOTY Edition – PC
Developer: Popcap Games, Inc.
Publisher: Popcap Games, Inc.
Release Date (NA): May 5, 2009
Genre: Tower Defense
Nerd Rating: 8.5 out of 10 – Great
Usually when you think of zombies, you’ll probably come up with ideas about horrific and depressing apocalyptic scenarios. It only gets worse when you add plants to the mix, with fungal infections taking over the human brain in settings like The Last Of Us. That said, there are games where the zombie apocalypse gets played for humor, and these games can often be the most fun you can have while dealing with the graveyard horde. Fetch your spade and seed packets, it’s time to get those zombies off your lawn in Plants vs. Zombies.
Plants vs. Zombies doesn’t have much of a story, as such. It’s a simple struggle, over the course of two days, to protect your home from zombies. You have some assistance from your neighbor, Crazy Dave, who will occasionally help you with learning the game mechanics. He’ll also start selling you upgrades and new plant types after you find his taco. The zombies send you poorly-written notes at the end of every set of levels to announce the big rush battle.
The story may be largely absent, but it’s not really necessary either in this case. The premise is simple enough to justify things, and a humorous mood is maintained between the graphics, the music, and the behavior of Crazy Dave and the zeds themselves. The player character is never seen, with the only existing representation being a male voice shouting, “Nooooo!” when a zombie gets into the house. It’s never said if you live alone or with family, so this may not even be the player character screaming.
So how do you use plants to defend yourself? It’s pretty simple when those plants are sentient and actively attack the horde. The zombies come across your lawn in distinct lanes, so you plant living power generators, turrets, and walls in those lanes. Every plant has a clear and specific purpose, with most of these purposes at least partially being “Hurt the zombies in this lane.” While it’s easy to understand, it’s a lot of fun to implement. At the start of every level, you pick out a set of seed packets based on what you’re going to be fighting, letting players have a degree of control over how they want to handle each problem.
There are five sets of levels: Front lawn during the day, front lawn at night, back yard during the day, back yard at night with fog, and the rooftop. Each area has a different terrain and its own strategic needs. Furthermore, sunlight (which is necessary to plant a seed) is scarce at night, so you’ll be depending on cheaper plants and strategies. Every fifth level in a set, Crazy Dave will introduce a mini-game or other method of changing things up, and every tenth level is a faster-paced situation with seed packets coming on a conveyor belt instead of being able to pick and choose at your own pace, ratcheting up the tension.
Aside from the above, which is the main gameplay, Plants vs. Zombies has a bundle of mini-games, challenges, and a restful Zen Garden mode to explore. The Zen Garden is primarily a money-making method, though it does have a peaceful atmosphere, letting you take your time growing flowers and other plants to sell to Crazy Dave for a profit.
The graphics would fit well in a cartoon, with beautiful and clearly-designed art for almost every object, plant, enemy, and background. The art isn’t mind-blowingly detailed, but it doesn’t need to be. Zombies deteriorate as they’re damaged, losing their shields, limbs, and eventually their heads. Similarly, plants designed to take a beating will change as they’re devoured bit by bit to buy your other forces time to win the day. Animations are fluid, and even when idle, many plants are at least bouncing around happily.
The music is generally a bit tense but rarely dire, retaining a good fit in every stage. While there’s some memorability to the stage music, though, it’s the credits theme that’s spread far and wide. It’s actually what introduced me to the game, and it’s used in the game’s trailer as well. The main singer is the joyful sunflower, while the zombies join in with short, spoken lines. The hook will stick with you well after listening, and the energetic song itself may merit repeat listenings just for the fun of it.
Plants vs. Zombies is a wonderful game to help ease into or out of the October frights you’ll be coming across in the Halloween season, and just good fun any other time of year. Picking it up at $4.99 seems like such a no-brainer, even the zombies themselves would tell you to do it.
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