reviews\ Sep 8, 2010 at 8:00 pm

Plants vs. Zombies (XBLA) review


Plants vs. Zombies, the latest sensation from the wizards at PopCap Games, has invaded several platforms now, including iPad and iPhone, but haven’t yet found their way to game consoles…until yesterday, when the game finally arrived on Xbox Live Arcade. But can a game that usually relies on touch-screen specifications or mouse control survive with a game controller? The answer is absolutely. In fact, you’ll be hard pressed to put it down.

The concept is simple, built upon a basic set of real-time strategy rules. You’ve got a house, and a zombie outbreak is working its way towards your door. Your only line of defense are a series of plants, which you’ll strategically place across six rows in your yard. As you proceed through the game, you’ll gain access to different kinds of plants, including sunflowers (which provide sun energy to buy even more plants) and more powerful plant life with a offensive power (such as the Audrey-like snappers that can devour a zombie in a second). But be warned – for each new piece of plant life you acquire, a new breed of zombie shows up, ready to meet you head-on. You haven’t seen anything until you’ve seen a senior zombie in a wheelchair packing a catapult. Or, for that matter, a pool-surfing zombie on top of a dolphin (They’re trying to kill us! I knew it!).

As dastardly as all this sounds, Plants vs. Zombies is completely family friendly. The strategy is easy enough for anyone to pick up on in a matter of minutes, and the replay value is ridiculously high. Each stage gets progressively harder, but not to the point of impossible, as you can devise a number of given strategies to take out the zombie horde. My personal favorite: cherry bombs.

If that isn’t enough, Plants vs. Zombies also comes with a number of extra modes. Survival Mode tests your mettle against an onslaught of zombies, giving you the chance to see just how far you can go. There are also new multiplayer games, both competitive and cooperative. The Plants vs. Zombies mode, where one of you control each team, is actually quite fun, as you’ll go head-to-head to see who will come out on top. Sadly, it’s off-line only, but the game does support leaderboards. Well, not ordinary leaderboards, mind you.

See, you get access to your own personal house in the game. And as you complete Achievements, you’ll see dead zombies stack up on your lawn, so you can show off to your friends just how well you’re doing. While it’s a little more complicated than using an actual leaderboard system, it’s a fresh take on showing how well you’re doing in a game. Plus, zombies are way better than garden gnomes.

Gameplay works remarkably well in Plants vs. Zombies. You’ll control your on-screen cursor using a controller, either with the analog pad or D-pad. Either way, you’ll find moving from row to row to be hassle-free. Collecting sunlight icons and choosing your next available plant army team member is a cinch, too, as you simply select the one you want to use and put them wherever you like. Then watch the pea-shooting sparks fly.

As for how the presentation is, it’s on the same level as previous versions. Both the zombies and plants have quirky animations that define their characters, and watching them do battle on the screen is a sheer delight. There’s hardly any slowdown whatsoever, and the varying types of stages (just wait till you get to the roof) are great. The music is a good set of background tunes that keep you happy-go-lucky as you fend off the undead, while the sound effects are delightful, with all your favorite zombie groans kept intact. If only the plants talked more…

PopCap Games has once again won us over – and given us another reason to wear down our Xbox 360 consoles. Plants vs. Zombies is a sheer addiction that you won’t take off anytime soon, whether you’re a veteran player or a first-timer joining the ranks. Online play would’ve been nice, but the other options – particularly the multiplayer modes and the simplified gameplay – will keep you firmly planted on the couch for hours at a time. Braaaaiiinnnnss…


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