Plants Vs. Zombies

Plants vs. Zombies’ depth in gameplay modes, mechanics and presentation catapult it to being an all around amazing experience.

By Tressilate, Posted 28 Feb 2011

Zombies and Tower Defence Strategy games are two components that have become staples on nearly every gaming platform. However it is only PopCap Games’ originality in combining these two overused ideas that created the fantastic Plants vs. Zombies (PvZ). With only a few minor issues, PvZ’s depth in gameplay modes, mechanics and presentation catapult it to being an all around amazing experience.

Offical Trailer for Plants vs. Zombies

The story is simple; your neighbourhood is being overrun by zombies, and your garden is the last line of defence. You must, over the course of five chapters, fight off the constant waves of zombies trying to enter your home. Although it is far too easy at times and occasionally moves at too slow a pace, the story mode is incredibly enjoyable simply because it doesn’t take itself seriously. The very base humour of cartoonish plants fighting equally ridiculous zombies is constantly exploited, and wonderfully culminates in one of the most entertaining game endings ever created. This defence is logically not accomplished in a winding path style, but rather through the use, at least initially, of a simple 9x6 garden. Twenty-six distinct types of zombies, ranging from highly durable football players to zombie summoning Michael Jackson imitators, attempt to enter your house, but can be stopped through the use of the forty-nine different plants in the game. These plants, which are wonderfully introduced one by one as the story progresses, include pea shooters, wall-nut walls, and bomb-like jalapenos.

Plants vs. Zombies Review
Now that's a zombie!

The basic, but incredibly deep outline of each level includes employing the sunlight to plant your defences to keep the zombies from advancing through your garden.  This sunlight is collected both from the sun itself and through the use of sunflowers. Furthermore each plant has a specific time frame in which only one of the same plant can be placed in your garden. Additional depth in the design of plants is that each plant incorporates different functions, levels of strength, durability, and stipulations for use. Players have a limited inventory and thus ought to be cognisant of what each plant does as well as the regulations surrounding its use. For instance, mushrooms are asleep during the day, some plants can only be placed on water and others are ineffective if placed on a slope. The end result of this overarching depth is an excellent dynamic between the cost and capabilities of each plant. On the offensive side, the zombies are just as well designed as all they have their own levels of strength, and resilience as well as special abilities. The strategic challenge of PvZ is thus to fend off the various types of zombies by efficiently utilizing an equally diverse set of plants, and a limited inventory amidst a given environment’s battle conditions.

Although the base gameplay is incredibly addictive, PvZ’s biggest strength is that it presents something new and interesting to the player at every juncture. The standard flow of the game is continually manipulated as PvZ changes the types of zombies attacking, the weather, and the locale of invasion. This manipulation is extremely important in the game as there is a clear distinction between fending off zombies in each level, during the night, day, and whether the skies are clear or not. Further gameplay differentiation occurs as the story mode beautifully incorporates levels that focus around a few of the ten unlockable mini-games such as Whack-A-Zombie and Wall-Nut Bowling. These mini-games not only breakup the standard flow of PvZ, but also are incredibly deep and addicting in their own right.

Plants vs. Zombies Review
Quick grab the sun, grab it!

PvZ’s depth is further illuminated by the dozens upon dozens of meaningful unlockables present in the game. In the story mode players will, after every single level, either unlock a new plant or game mode. These new plants are not just for aesthetic purposes, but also act as an upgrade or stand as a new type of plant that is often integral to the completion of the next and subsequent levels. Players also constantly earn money that can be spent at Crazy Dave’s TwiddyDinkies to unlock even more plants for in game use, items for their Zen Garden, more inventory space, and several other helpful gameplay amenities. This aforementioned Zen Garden, which is made available after completion of the main story, is a place for players to plant, water and maintain the various plants in the game in order to earn even more money. This garden also includes the Tree of Wisdom which provides helpful hints as players engage in somewhat tedious, but nonetheless enjoyable task of growing it to maximum height.

Beyond these aforementioned extras, PvZ also features an extensive array of other ways to play. Planters earn more unlockables, and experience even more enjoyable gameplay in both the Survival, and Puzzle modes. The former is by far the most challenging element of PvZ as players eventually build up to the Endless Survival mode in which they literally fend off zombies until they die. On the other hand, the Puzzle Mode presents two enjoyable, though incredibly easy, derivations from the standard game that also includes their own endless modes. Vase Breaker, the first of the two variations, has several vases placed in your garden that house either plants or zombies. Players must strategically break the vases and use the plants provided to defeat all of the zombies in the level. The second variation is I Zombie in which players become the zombies, and try to overcome various plant defences in an amazingly well designed gameplay setting.

Plants vs. Zombies Review
Heavy Weapon, one of the ten wonderful mini-games included in Plants Vs. Zombies

The multiplayer options included in PvZ are fantastic as players, in addition to being able to play through the entire story in two-player mode, can engage in the co-op and versus modes. The former is similar to the one player survival mode, but slightly alters the game’s mechanics in order to comfortably support two players. These alterations include splitting the inventory so that each player controls half of the plants, adding the ability for players to throw butter at zombies as well manipulating how sunlight is obtained. The second and much more enjoyable mode has one player play as the plants, and the other as the zombies. The gameplay features the same mechanics found within the single-player game modes, but also gives the planter the opportunity to defeat the zombies’ spawning points with projectile attacks. Although it is unfortunate that these game modes are local multiplayer only, PvZ does feature some amazingly deep leaderboards for those who are online-inclined.

Despite the occasional visual lag in the game, and that the last column of your garden is partially covered, the game truly is a graphical success. Zombies’ protective gear and limbs fall off as they are damaged, Crazy Dave really does look crazy, and the game’s locales are always pleasant to look at, even when overrun by zombies. PvZ wonderfully juxtaposes colourful backgrounds, cartoonish plants, and flamboyant zombies with all the other absurdly humourous content in the game. This subsequently creates an extremely enjoyable visual experience amidst the zombie apocalypse.

Plants vs. Zombies Review
A lot of zombies crowd the screen, and from time to time this causes a visual lag.

It is no surprise that PvZ’s audio is just as well done as its graphical display. The excellent musical score is rarely underwhelming, and ranges from being upbeat to being incredibly intense while remaining perfectly in tune with what is happening in the game. Furthermore, the sound effects of the zombies, explosions, and weather conditions are all spot on, and do a fantastic job in completing PvZ’s excellent atmosphere.

In short Plants vs. Zombies does have a few minor issues, especially in that it is far too easy to beat. However, its depth in gameplay modes, mechanics and presentation catapult it to being an all around amazing experience. Plants vs. Zombies really is a game that belongs in every gamer’s collection as it an enjoyable and addictive title that manages to reinvent itself at every twist and turn.

Joshua McCaul, NoobFeed.

Note: The DS version review can be found here. At a score of 88, it's pretty much everything Joshua has detailed here, but in a portable Nintendo manner.

comments powered by Disqus

  • This game's so fun, probably one of the most enjoyable games I've played recently.

    Posted Feb 28, 2011

  • This was definitely one of my most pleasant surprises this year. I was shocked at how much game there is in there when all is said and done (even if it is quite easy). Great game that would appeal to just about anyone who gives it a chance.


    Gotta say that I found it much more enjoyable to play on PC than on consoles, though. It lends itself to mouse control.

    Posted Mar 01, 2011

  • Fantastic review, wow, great read.

    Posted Mar 05, 2011

  • Brilliant review of an exceptionally addictive game, Josh!

    I definitely agree with you there on the graphics and musical score. Very aesthetically pleasing :)

    Now I feel like playing it again...

    Posted Mar 06, 2011

  • @azn_pride Definitely one of the best games I've played this year.

    @Buckley Yeah, it's definitely one of those games that can transcdend genre divisions and just offer an all-around amazing experience to anyone who gives it a shot.

    @serbsta Thanks mate, glad you enjoyed!

    @caityful Lol I always have the urge to finally grow my Tree of Wisdom to max height. I'm so close too!

    Posted Mar 08, 2011

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General Information

Platform(s): Xbox 360, PS3, PC, 3DS, Mobile
Publisher(s): PopCap Games
Developer(s): PopCap Games
Genres: Tower Defense
Themes: Action, Strategy
Release Date: 2009-05-05

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