Plants vs Zombies (DS) Review
Developer: Popcap Games / Publisher: Popcap Games / ESRB: Everyone 10+ (Animated Blood, Cartoon Violence) / Played on: DS / Price: $19.99
If you haven’t heard of Plants vs. Zombies by now then you probably aren’t a video game player, as the game has appeared on nearly every current generation game system. PopCap has decided TV screens, computer monitors, and iPods aren’t enough to hold back the zombie hordes as the newest version of the venerable title makes an appearance on the Nintendo DS. Featuring simple-yet-addictive tower defense gameplay and adorable representations of the walking dead, Plants vs. Zombies appeals to both the casual gamer as well as the hardcore. The zombies are still coming, the plants are still fighting, Crazy Dave is still crazy, and Plants vs. Zombies for the DS is as enjoyable as ever.
The premise of Plants vs. Zombies is simple: zombies are storming across your lawn in search of fresh, juicy brains, and your only line of defense come in the form of varying plants, flowers, and fungi. Naturally. Plants vs. Zombies is a tower defense game, with your towers taking the form of the plants and the enemy creep being the undead. The single-player campaign will have you going through a variety of levels, planting madly to defend your home. The game boasts 48 plant types that offer a range of uses: basic Peashooters attack zombies, Wall Nuts act as strong barriers to the zombies, and giant ears of corn chuck globs of butter at enemies to stop them in place. You’ll collect sunlight that either falls from, you guessed it, the sun or from sunflowers that you can plant. More powerful plants require more sun to produce.
Equally bizarre are the zombie variants, with over 20 in the game. Zombies wearing buckets on their heads are common, while the more ridiculous bungee jumping and dolphin riding zombies are more fearsome and rare. Since you can only choose 10 plant types to take into each stage, picking the right fauna to stop and repel the next zombie horde is a key part of the strategy, and also will require some trial and error once you progress past the first ten or so pretty simple levels. For example, later levels have water running through parts of the stage forcing you to use aquatic plants to win, while other levels feature sight-impairing fog that you must eliminate in order to see the shambling hordes. The steady single-player campaign progress maintains the variation with the consistent addition of new, fun, occasionally bizarre gameplay elements.
There are plenty of activities to keep you busy outside of the single-player campaign. You unlock a few unique mini-games after a few levels, like Wall Nut bowling, which gives you a limited supply of Wall Nuts that act like bowling balls to stop the zombies. Four of the mini-games are unique to the DS, and utilize its special features: one has you screaming into the microphone to keep your plants motivated and not fall asleep. It’s nice to see PopCap add new features since many people could be playing this game for the third or fourth time now. Zen Garden mode lets you plant and raise your own collection of flowers; survival mode sees how long you can last against an endless onslaught of undead, and a multiplayer mode taken straight from the Xbox 360 version rounds out the package. Multiplayer mode can be played wirelessly with only one game cartridge and has one player taking on the role of the plants with the other being the zombies. Playing as the zombies is a nice change of pace but feels all too similar to playing as the plants. Your objective as the zombies is to penetrate the defenses of the plants and enter the house, just like the zombies would do in the single-player campaign. You collect brains instead of sun to create zombies but there just isn’t much outside of the novelty of playing as zombies to keep you coming back. Overall there is plenty to do in Plants vs. Zombies even after you beat the single-player campaign, which add hours to the overall completion time.
The PC version controlled so simply, and the translation to the DS threw fresh challenges that the developers have handled extremely well. The intuitive and easy control makes the game accessible to any player. The stylus is a very capable control mechanism, but in some rare cases the diminutive size of the level on the small DS screen makes hitting the right plant type or lane a little inaccurate. In spite of this minor infraction, Plants vs. Zombies for the DS handles just as well as any other adaptation of the game.
Graphics and Sound
Plants vs. Zombies features cartoon-like graphics that drip with personality and humor. The plants look fearsome, insofar as plants can be fearsome, and the zombies look as absurd as ever. As the game is not on an HD system, Plants vs. Zombies for the DS doesn’t look as good as the other versions. On-screen objects and menus are cramped and this actually causes a bit of confusion during gameplay. Certain zombies can obscure other zombies by their size, causing some panic moments because you simply can’t see the approaching enemy. The overall graphics aren’t as smooth as their PC counterpart, either, and look rough around the edges. Oddly, the images used by the upper DS screen, which feature high resolution zombies and backgrounds, look very nice but have nothing to do with the action going on below. Fans of the original game will be happy to note the same sounds and music have been ported over to the DS. Ominous moans and crunches as zombies om nom nom your plants sound terrific on the handheld, and add to the charm.
Those of you who haven’t played Plants vs. Zombies yet should do yourselves a favor and pop this one in your DS. The fun gameplay coupled with an incredible amount of replayability should keep this cartridge in your handheld for months. While this isn’t the superior version of the game due to its below average graphics and cramped playing field, it is still as fun as ever. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a green thumb that’s itching to bury the dead…
8 / 10