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Retrospective: Plants vs. Zombies

I wish the Zombie Apocalypse would get here really quick if for no other reason than I can finally litter my front yard, backyard, pool and roof with a metric ton of plants that’ll do my bidding and slaughter the hordes of the undead wholesale for me. Granted, I don’t think I could keep a plant alive short of watering it and making sure it’s in the sun all while a shuffling group of reanimated dead were approaching me.

So. I guess I’m in trouble. But, I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.

Still, that doesn’t mean that playing Plants vs. Zombies was a complete loss. On the contrary, it’s probably one of the best games that Pop Cap Games has released in the last few years, if not one of the best games they’ve ever produced. And that’s why it’s been ported to just about every system in existence short of the major consoles currently available from Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft.

The first thing anyone will notice about Plants vs. Zombies is that it is based on the basic principle that all Pop Cap games have perpetuated – utilize an extremely simple game mechanic and encapsulate upon it as the game goes on. By collecting Sun, you become able to produce additional plants, which either exist to create Sun at a faster rate, defend your lawn proactively or statically, or augment one of those therein. Additionally, as time goes on, zombies will become more difficult to deal with thereby forcing players to continue adapting their overall strategy and rely on new plants acquired as levels are completed to make it to the next level.

But the game never dumps more on the player than would seem manageable at the time. There is always a delicate balance between challenge over time running parallel to the learning curve necessary to adapt to the obstacles the game presents to the player. All throughout, I never felt like the challenge was overburdening – the game definitely made you learn from your mistakes and remember them – but never punishes you in the extreme for messing up. However, if you totally botch it and lack the ability or ignore the need to devise a basic strategy, the game will point this out to you by zombies happily feasting on your brain.

Additionally, as you play through the Adventure mode of the game, you’ll progressively unlock alternate game modes that will keep you busy even if slaying your way through the main game bores you every so often. Survival is exactly what it sounds like - You setup and defend against perpetual waves of zombies until you break down and get overrun or you beat the level. Conversely, there are mini-games and puzzles that will keep you amused to your hearts content long after its stopped beating and you feel a definite lust for human brain matter. The mini-games essentially mix it up offering a significant amount of variety to what you’ve been playing through and seeing in the Adventure. On the other hand, puzzle mode offers Vase Breaker and I, Zombie, both of which remain interesting regardless of achieving gold in any level. To add a delicious, brainy cherry on top – both have an endless mode and will keep you more interested than a mad scientist tempting you to feast on his juicy cerebellum.

But what I find most interesting is that Plants vs. Zombies pulls a bit of a bait and switch that many gamers, especially those who don’t play a terribly large amount of games, will be aware of during the course of gameplay. PvZ is a tower defense game and you’ll never be aware of it if you haven’t played another game in the TD genre ever. However, if you’re interested in keeping enemies from getting to you and are looking for the next step up, there is such a significant amount of content in-game that the cost makes Plants vs. Zombies virtually a steal.

The best part, as I previously mentioned, is that PvZ is available for so many different systems is that you can play it on just about anything. Anything with an ‘i’ in it (iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad – you get the point) and Steam have made the game achieve an immutable perennial presence. All that’s left is for it to be ported to major consoles and it’ll be near synonymous as a gateway game designed to get its hooks into a fresh-faced player.

Overall, well worth the money and the game will be nestled on my hard drive via my Steam account for a very long time to come because even if I don’t play it, I’m pretty sure I can get someone else hooked on it.

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