Game Title: Plants vs. Zombies
Release Date: 9/8/10
Genre: Action/Adventure, Tower Defense/Strategy
Developer: Pop Cap Games
Available Platforms: Xbox Live Arcade
MSRP: 1200 MS Points ($15.00)
ESRB Rating: E10 (everyone 10 and up)
At its heart, Plans vs. Zombies is a twist on old tower defense games. Hordes of zombies are attempting to take over your humble abode, advancing from off-screen to try and make it through the array of cleverly named plants you’ve placed between you and them. These are not just stinging nettle or poison ivy, either. You have at your disposal an increasingly powerful army of foliage ranging from basic Pea Shooters all the way up to Mother Nature’s version of guided artillery.
Mind you, the zombies aren’t just the lumbering, generic corpses you watched in an old George Romero on late night TV. Well, some of them are, but for the most part they are sporting a variety of defensive attire or weapons. Everything from wearing traffic cones on their heads to football gear, screen doors to mining equipment, the zombies will try to stump you with attacks of varying speed and intensity. You’ll get a quick peek at the pedigree of zombies about to pounce on you, so you have to be smart about which plants you choose to have at the ready.
What you have as an advantage is that the undead will always attack you from right to left, so you can plan a little bit ahead. Also, the zombies are inexplicably polite and will occasionally leave you a nice letter announcing their intentions. Also, your neighbor, Crazy Dave, will pop by from time to time and offer you an upgrade of some kind. One thing I’ll say about the Xbox version is that you probably ought to buy when Dave shows up, you’re going to need his wares before you get a chance to see him again.
I love that PopCap didn’t do just a straight port of their PC game to the Xbox, or worse yet, a scaled down version just to appease those who had been demanding the game on a console. Instead they included not only the full Adventure Mode plus all the mini-games that came with the PC version, but a full local co-op mode as well. There’s no co-op over Live, which I think is a huge missed opportunity for them, but I’m impressed anyway that they made the extra effort to give console gamers something they’d been requesting.
A big fear I had for such a point-and-click focused game was a really bad control scheme (I’m looking at you, Darwinia). I’m exceptionally pleased to report that they nailed it. Sure, a mouse is still a little more accurate, but PopCap compensated by making your cursor attract the sunlight and coins that you’ll be going after.
My only real complaints with the game are relative to the PC version, so I would hesitate to call them real issues. I was sad to see that PopCap replaced the Thriller-era Michael Jackson zombie and his dance crew with generic disco zombies. I know, I know, maybe it’s too soon but I always liked that one. I miss being able to drop in on Crazy Dave at the back of his car, but that’s hardly a deal breaker in this case. The extra features in this version make up for any shortcomings I might perceive.
The overall quality is what you’d expect from a seasoned developer like PopCap. The sheer variety of plants and zombies means that replay value is practically infinite. The amount of different game types and play options are impressive as well. I’ve loved this game since it came out on PC and the Xbox version does not disappoint, either. It’s easily one of the best titles you’ll see on Arcade this year. I give it four out of five T-Virus vials.