By Alex_V 1 Comments
WHAT IT IS
Plants Vs Zombies, launched by Popcap games in May on the PC, and pending on other platforms, is another bright and colourful title from a developer renowned for addictive so-called ‘casual’ games like Peggle and Bejewelled. The game is about using plants to defend a house from encroaching zombies, using elements of Tower Defense games, card games like Magic, and arcade classic Tapper. An 88 on Metacritic.
WHAT I LOVE ABOUT IT
The game grabbed me and never let go. It’s hard to justify that in words – it just works brilliantly. It was simply an absolute wrench to have to stop playing at any point. You don’t create that with luck.
Like Shaun Of The Dead or any of the classic zombie movies, the humour comes out of the mix of the laughably mundane with the horror of zombie apocalypse. Especially in the designs of the zombies themselves – the Michael Jackson Thriller-style zombies, the breathy grunts of them, the ludicrous way they wear buckets and roadcones as armour. Your get-out is an out of control domestic lawnmower. You are planting flowers to defend yourself – it doesn’t get much more surreal than that.
But there’s more to the game than good humour. Great game design gives you choice, and in this case that comes down to the seeds you choose to defend yourself, how you get these seeds to interact with each other, and the style of defense that you choose through their strategic placement. There’s nothing haphazard about it, which can often be the case in tower defense games – these are straightforward rows, and you immediately see the effect of the plant that you have placed against the approaching zombies.
The mark of greatness comes in the longevity of the game. Ultimately it plays out a bit like Magic or the other card games, where the seeds that you choose make up your hand, and the various strategies are near-infinite. Add to that the impressive detail of the mini-games that punctuate the action (many seem good enough to be games on their own. The power-up system of unlockables gives the game a long-term goal, and the Zen Garden that you can use to grow a selection of plants encountered in the game over real-time weeks and months.
THE GAME’S LEGACY?
I heard Jeff Green on a podcast saying that PopCap should be considered alongside Valve and Blizzard as absolute masters of their craft. This game shows the maturity of a so-called casual market, that actually matches or exceeds many of the pretensions of the hardcore sector that has tended to look down upon games like this as lesser products. No more!