As far as tower defense games go, Plants vs Zombies is one of the best additions to the genre and the Game of the Year Edition is a great version of an already great game.
The city has been invaded by flesh-eating zombies and they are formally threatening to go into your house and eat your brain, so naturally, you use plants from your front and back lawns to defend from the undead creatures. This is the original (and remarkably silly) premise behind Plants vs Zombies, one of the most popular tower defense titles of the past few years. Although the original version of the game was terrific, developer PopCap decided to capitalize on the game’s success and release an expanded version that comes with additional content. So does the game hold up? And is the new content any good? Luckily, the answers to both questions is a resounding yes.
The main mode is called adventure where you complete levels in a specific order. As you progress through the game, you unlock more plants and you earn the right to face new zombies and this constant variety will keep you on your toes until the credits roll. The gameplay is remarkably simple: you have a grid-based lawn and you use solar energy to buy new plants. Then you strategically place those plants on your lawn so that they attack the waves of zombies that are invading your modest house. But be careful, should at least one zombie penetrate your defenses, you lose the level.
There’s a variety of both plants and zombies to take into account, each with its advantages and disadvantages. There are plants that shot one pea at a time, plants that shoot three peas, freezing plants, plants that provide solar energy, plants that explode nearby enemies, plants that turn peas on fire and so on. The same approach goes with the zombies. There are regular zombies, zombies with shields, zombies that have the ability to jump over obstacles and so on.
Although the mechanics always remain the same, the environments change. The first part of the game, for instance, takes place during the day and the second one during the night. Subsequent chapters take place in the pool and the final moments on the roof. This forces you to alter your strategy, since some plants don’t work at night, for instance. As the environments change, so do the seeds you plant and the strategies you apply to defeat the slow-moving enemies.
Something that remains fresh throughout the game is the great sense of humor that appeals to both younger and older players. Despite the subject matter (undead creatures trying to eat your flesh,) the cartoonish visuals, the notes the zombies left before attacking your house, your next-door neighbor and the overall silly tone are so ridiculous, that it’s hard to take anything that happens in the game seriously. Although the audiovisual presentation is colorful and silly, it’s a shame that you can’t change the 4:3 screen ratio. While this sounds like a unimportant criticism, the black bars at the side of the screen get obnoxious after a while.
Apart from the adventure mode, Plants vs Zombies offers a healthy number of extra modes that are really entertaining. Zen Garden is a virtual garden where you can grow sprouts into fill-size plants that reward you with extra money. Plants get thirsty every once in a while and you need to water them, use a fertilizer, play music and so on. But you can perform a limited number of actions and once you’ve completed them, you need to leave and come back later.
There are around 20 minigames to unlock, including bowling, slot machines, survival and Bejelewed minigames. There’s also a puzzle mode called vasebreaker where you break vases and some of them have plants and others have zombies in them. There are also whack-a-mole minigames where you hit the undead using a wooden hammer as they rise from their graves. The other mode that’s worth mentioning is Zombatar, a “make your own zombie” minigame. This is a very basic editor where you an create a zombie from different options (skin, facial hair, eyewear, clothes, accessories, hats and so on) and once you’ve created a zombie you like, you can save that avatar as a JPEG image.
If you like the tower defense genre or games that you can play only a handful of minutes at a time, the Game of the Year Edition of Plants vs Zombies is a must have title. If you played the original, this “definitive version” comes with numerous minigames that will keep you entertained for hours and hours. As far as tower defense games go, Plants vs Zombies is one of the best additions to the genre and the Game of the Year Edition is a great version of a great game.