PopCap is known for making simple yet addicting games, such as Bejeweled and Peggle. This time around, though, it is something a bit different, with more character and personal peril. Plants vs. Zombies was released on the PC and Mac several months ago and it looked interesting at the time, but I never got around to playing it. Now I’m glad I didn’t, as I couldn’t imagine playing it any other way than on the iPhone (or iPod Touch).
The premise of the game sees you protecting your yard and house from a zombie invasion. If the zombies get to you they eat you brains. I bet you didn’t see that one coming, right? Luckily, you have quite the green thumb, because you can call on a wide variety of plants and fungi to protect your grey matter. In essense, this is a unique tower-defense-like game where you are defending yourself.
There are many different types of zombies that come at you from the right side of the screen. Before the level starts, you’re given a glimpse of the types of zombies that will appear in that level, so you can plan accordingly. Eventually you’ll be able to choose which plants you will take with you on a particular level – each one has its own unique way of offering you either offensive or defensive tactics. You can’t just plop down a dozen plants in the first ten seconds and just wait for the zombies to fall at your feet, as there is a currency system that you have to use during game play that determines how fast you can plant. That currency is sunlight, and each plant has a certain amount of sunlight you must spend to plop it in the ground.
There are day/night stages which determines how you get sunlight and where you get it from. During the day, sunlight falls from the sky at certain intervals, and you can plant sunflowers, which produce it. It is definitely easier to build up a good amount of sunlight during the day. At night, though, it’s a different story. You get no sunlight from the sky, naturally. You can still plant sunflowers, but you also get the use of fungi at night, and there is a sun-producing mushroom, as well. Because your sunlight build-up is slower at night, you’re given a couple offensive plants that cost zero sunlight, but they’re usually short-range and fall easily when having to deal face-to-face with a zombie.
Just like plants, zombies have various strengths and weaknesses, as well, and you’ll need to choose your plants to exploit those. Plant selection is more difficult at night, in my opinion, as you want more “instant” offensive abilities, since your selection of high-power damaging plants is limited. There are also other location and environmental conditions to deal with during the course of the game. Eventually the zombies will stop attacking your front yard and move to the back. There you have a pool, and must make use of various aquatic plants to deal with swimming zombies. You can place non-aquatic plants there, as well, but you’ll first have to drop a lilly pad for them to sit on. Action does move to your roof near the end of the story mode, as well. Here you’ll gain special catapult plants to launch attacks up the incline of the roof. You’ll end up dealing with fog that covers some or all of your yard at various points, as well, which makes it difficult to see where the zombies are and which ones they are. But, in all special circumstances, you’re given the appropriate tools for the job.
A neighbor of yours will help you along the way, too, most notably by selling new items and plant slots to you from the back of his car. This is the only way to get certain plants and abilities, as well as the only way to increase the number of plants you can choose to use on a stage. Money comes in slowly from taking down zombies during the story, but once you clear that you can move on to the quick play modes and the dough flies in.
The visuals are also nice and vibrant, making things interesting and the various zombie types easy to identify quickly, which is a plus in making split-second decisions that may win or lose a level for you.
The touch screen controls are intuitive and precice, I didn’t have any issues placing plants at all. In some games my fat fingers have problems making precise touches on the screen, but not here. I even feel that the point-and-click of the PC/Mac versions of this game might be a worse control scheme than we have here on the iPhone. You’re also given enough variety in the plants you have at your disposal and the stage design so that things never get boring. There are even achievements to obtain during the course of various game play modes.
I only really had one issue with this game. I found the fog levels rather obnoxious, not for the fact that I couldn’t see the zombies, but for the fact that I couldn’t see where I had already placed plants. Even if I remembered where I placed them, those are night levels, and the best way to get a lot of offense going early is to use those short-range, die-in-two-seconds ‘shrooms, which are best placed close to where the zombies originate. This leads to many of them being taken out by the zombies. Even if there are audio cues as to when this takes place, it can be drowned out in all the other action going on. Yes, there are ways to dispel the fog temporarily, but it is almost too much to keep up with on those levels. It is just a smidge overbearing.
That being my only issue, this is definitely the best game I own on the iPhone and if you don’t buy it at its steal of a price ($2.99), I will never speak to you again. It is a fun, highly addictive title that you will enjoy long after you’ve completed the story mode. And, it’s now portable! What more could you ask for? Kudos once again to PopCap for an excellent transition over to the iPhone interface for one of their signature titles.
- Game: Plants vs. Zombies (iPhone/iPod Touch) [iTunes Link]
- Platform Reviewed: iPhone
- Developer: PopCap
- Publisher: PopCap
- Release Date: 2/15/2010
- MSRP: $2.99
- Review Copy Info: A copy of this game was purchased by DualShockers Inc. for purposes of this review.