Plants vs. Zombies Review
Plants vs. Zombies first shambled its way into PC gamers’ hearts in mid-2009. Since then it has become a worldwide phenomenon, receiving Mac, XBLA and iOS versions in the process. Now PopCap’s other juggernaut title has infected the DS, bringing with it a slew of exclusive new features.
The core Adventure mode contains 50 levels where you must defend a house against waves of zombies by placing special plant units on the lawn. There are 49 different units to choose from (a new one is unlocked after each level), and they range from useless to outright prerequisites for survival, though they’re all highly imaginative. The zombies have also been given equal attention, of course, including everything from pole-vaulters to snorkelers. They’re never too cute to decapitate, though.
As you unlock new plants and progress through the game, you’ll need to choose your units wisely. Each of the more advanced zombie types has a plant designed to counter it. For instance, football zombies have helmets that protect them from your peashooters, but you can lay down magnets that will suck the helmets right off, rendering the zombies vulnerable. The pole-vaulters will jump over your first line of defenses, but you can plant a potato mine to welcome them upon their arrival. The game starts off rather easy, but later levels do get somewhat stressful, with seemingly endless zombies barraging your poor little plants.
Beyond the Adventure mode, there are straightforward Puzzle and Survival options, as well as a “stress-free” Zen Garden where you place a variety of plants that produce coins. A snail will then automatically pick up the coins, and each day you can come back to water them and plant more. Coins are used to buy items and new plants in the shop, so you’ll probably want to get your garden started as soon as possible for some easy money. Most of the replay value comes from the 22 mini-games, which offer the freshest take on the plants versus zombie warfare. Whether you’re bowling with Wall-nuts or taking on the Bobsled Bonanza challenge, these mini-games add some much-needed variety to the overall package.
You can also play Versus mode against a friend, which allows you to choose plants or zombies for competitive and cooperative games. Finally, the DS version includes the Zombatar, where players can create their own zombie. Needless to say, there’s a massive amount of content and variety here, especially considering the $20 price tag.
Unfortunately, despite all the added bells and whistles, the DS iteration of Plants vs. Zombies is guilty of the ugliest presentation yet. The extremely pixelated visuals and muddled sound drastically reduce the charm other versions are famous for. It’s not like this is a particularly taxing 3D game with anti-aliasing and an abundance of particle effects, so the very noticeable drop in quality is both perplexing and inexcusable. Even the iOS version’s presentation is considerably better by comparison.
Although it’s still a fun and imaginative game no matter where you play it, there are cheaper and far superior Plants vs. Zombies offerings on almost every other platform. I’m not sure why PopCap delivered watered down audio/visuals, but the fact that they did essentially rules out the DS version for anyone with a PC, iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, or Xbox 360.