Plants VS. Zombies

PopCap has created a fun, clean game about the zombie apocalypse that the whole family can enjoy.
Michael Caleb - Staff Reviewer

Content at a glance:

Violence: Arms and heads of zombies fall off, but not graphically; blood is only present on one type of enemy; cartoon explosions; anthropomorphic plants being eaten alive.

Spiritual Content: Origin of zombies is not given; unlockable zen garden, but no tie to Buddhist beliefs; supernatural powers are alluded to, but sorcery and dark forces are specifically excluded from possibilities.

Language: None.

Adult Content: One enemy is in his boxers.

Miscellaneous: Some might see an allusion to psychotropic mushrooms in one of the plants; gambling is mentioned.

Commendable Content: Plants are willing to die to save lives.

PopCap, known for their popular additions to casual gaming such as Bejeweled, Bookworm, and Zuma, have created a game that combines two seemingly incompatible forces: anthropomorphic plants and the walking dead. Even though I was initially skeptical of such a concept, the developer-created music video and one hour trial sold me on the full game. What I did not expect was for there to be so much extra content and quality packed into such a (deceptively) simple game.

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Story
The story is almost nonexistent. You play as an unseen homeowner that is trying to protect himself from a horde of invading zombies by planting seeds, provided by the Doom and Gloom Seed Company, that spawn living plants. Along the way, you will come across your neighbor, Crazy Dave, who does little that makes sense, but always explains it away by reminding you that he is crazy. The story does not go beyond this, really: zombies want your brains; you don’t want them to get your brains.

Sound
There is little variation in background music used, but all of it is catchy enough to not grate on the nerves. There is a satisfying “pop” when zombies are defeated, and everything else sounds like it should. The song during the credits also does a lot to endear itself.

Graphics
The art design is charming for friends and foes alike. The menus have subtle details, such as cracks and outlines that add character to what would otherwise be purely mundane functionality. Animations are simple but polished, and there are alternate death animations for certain enemies that will randomly occur and are rather entertaining.

Gameplay
At its core, the game plays as a simple tower defense game. Your house is to the left, the zombies come from the right, and you need to do everything in your power to make sure that none of them make it to the other side. The two primary resources in any given skirmish are sunlight and time. What really intrigued me was the fact that there are night levels, which prevent sunlight from falling from the sky, yet allows you to use nocturnal plants. This means that, depending on where and when a battle is taking place, as well as which zombies will be in the rush, your tactics will need to change drastically. With a total of forty-eight plants and twenty-six zombies, this provides more than enough variety for the none of the fifty main missions to feel repetitive.

Much of the game isn’t even available until after the first time you complete adventure mode. Upon reaching this goal, you will unlock a number of puzzles, mini-games, and survival challenges that vary the gameplay even more than it already was. In addition, you will receive your very own garden to grow plants for extra money or relaxation. One of my favorite aspects of the game was the humor found throughout. From a help menu in which the zombies try to convince you that you will win by letting them overrun your home to the Suburban Almanac, which gives you interesting, and often peculiar, insights into the lives of the plants and zombies, there is a lot to laugh about. Really, if I said any more than that, it would be ruining the fun.

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Violence
Although arms fall off of zombies to show when they are almost dead and their heads follow when they are, the portrayal is far from graphic. The only instance of blood I came across was the little bit smeared on the buckets of the Buckethead Zombies. The zombies chomp on plants when they come near, and can fully devour them. While this is happening, the plants will show signs of distress and pain. There are also cartoon explosions when a certain variety of zombie is destroyed, or when certain plants are used.

Spiritual Content
No explanation is given as to where the zombies came from; it is left up to the player to decide whether they have risen supernaturally, as in Night of the Living Dead and its ilk, or by scientific means, such as in The Zombie Survival Guide and the Resident Evil series. Upon completion of the adventure mode, a zen garden is unlocked, although it has no connection to Zen Buddhism beyond its name. The Plantern’s almanac entry implies that it is able to generate light through supernatural means, mentioning sorcery and dark forces, although both are said to not be the method it employs.

Language
None to speak of.

Adult Content
Newspaper Zombie does not have any pants on, revealing his heart-printed boxers.

Miscellaneous Content
Some might find the Hypno-shroom, which has a multicolored top and dizzy eyes, to be an allusion to the abuse of psychotropic mushrooms. Spikeweed’s almanac entry mentions the success it experiences while gambling on hockey games.

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Commendable Content
The sentient plants are willing to fight and lay down their lives to protect the human who has planted them.

Conclusion
PopCap has created a fun, clean game about the zombie apocalypse that the whole family can enjoy. For $20 from PopCap, or $10 from Steam, you will most definitely get your money’s worth with this purchase.

Plants VS. Zombies is now available on the iTunes store for the iPod Touch, iPhone, and iPad.  The version for the iPod and iPhone has all of the main campaign, but removes many of the mini-games and extra challenges that were present in the PC and Mac version.  The iPad version, however, has all of the original modes, plus an extra mode only available for the iPad.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this Spotlight review are those of the reviewer (both ratings and recommendations), and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Eden Communications or the Christian Answers Network.

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