Let’s pre-empt the first question. It’s a tower defence game. For those unfamiliar with the genre of tower defence, it’s a lot like a real-time strategy game. Only instead of a large map, you have a single area that you have to defend. The bad guys (in this case zombies) start approaching from one end of the area and their objective is to make it to the other end (kinda like golf). Your objective is to stop them by putting obstacles and weapons in the way (again kinda like golf, i.e if golf had landmines in the sand traps). It sounds like a relatively simple concept, but like any good RTS, it gets infinitely complicated once you hit the ground.
In this case, most of the gameplay happens in the garden of your house. With the zombies pouring in from the road (on the right of the screen) and trying to get into your house (on the left of the screen), it’s up to you to build up the defences and stop them. Since each level is played out on a single screen area, the placement of your defences matters a lot. Put a ranged offensive weapon (in this case a pea spitting plant) in the front row of your defence and its going to be useless and will get devoured (literally) by the zombies in a matter of seconds. Similarly put a short range weapon, like a puff-shroom, at the back of your defence and it would be useless.
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Where you place your defences is important. What you place is just as important. Amongst other things in your zombie-stomping arsenal are Walnuts, which stops zombies in their tracks making them easy pickings for your ranged weapons, Chompers, which devour a zombie whole but are vulnerable while they sit and digest, Ice shrooms, which freeze all zombies on the screen and many, many, many more that you unlock by completing levels. Even the battle ground changes every now and then. From a garden to a pool to the rooftops, it keeps mixing things up so your tactics have to be re-engineered to tailor the situation.
The currency in the game to buy any plant is sunlight, this is available in short bursts during the day time, but in the night levels, you must plant your own sunlight-producing plants to get anywhere. And since each plant has a recharge time, you need to often balance available resources with the situation on the ground to make some instant game-altering decisions. But the real beauty of the game lies in the amount of freedom it provides you to play the way you want to. You can save up resources and buy heavy weaponry or you could dot the map with small arms and play it like a chess board. And once the game moves on to some of its tougher levels, you are constantly tested but never frustrated.
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Every good zombie game needs a zombie Almanac. Esp one written as well as this.
To stop it all from being monotonous, the game throws in some welcome distractions in the form of mini-games like zombie bowling, zombie whack-a-mole etc. While these may not be as complicated and strategic as the main game, they are a lot fun in installments. And after you have played the game for a while, you can unlock them in the form of puzzles and mini-games, which can be played any time you want.
Visually it looks quite gorgeous. The game adopts the cartoon style visuals whole-heartedly and everything from ice spitting plants to the newspaper-reading, bucket wearing zombies drip with charm and cuteness. My only complaint regarding the visuals is that there is no resolution, detail etc options to smooth out the visuals when you play in full screen mode. The music is well in touch with the visuals and does its job well as does the in-game sound.
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No I do not have obsessive compulsive disorder. I just like neat little rows of plants.
There is enough gameplay and variety here to loose yourself for hours at a time and it’s also enjoyable in short bursts since it saves your progress every time you quit. If you have even a passing interest in RTS games or are looking for an introduction to tower defence games, this is the title for you. The gameplay is perfectly balanced to appeal to the hardcore and the newcomers alike and unless you absolutely abhor the strategy genre, there is no reason not to give this a look.In Plants vs Zombies, Popcap have created the perfect tower defense game. It’s easy to pick up, hard to master and at times impossible to put down. If you are still having second thoughts about this, then see if this little bit helps – It’s got pole vaulting zombies in it! For Rs 199, you can’t ask for a better game. Now Popcap please get this working on XBLA and the iPhone.
(+) Fun gameplay
(+) Beautiful visuals
(+) Plenty of variety
(-) Limited appeal
Title: Plants vs Zombies
Developer/Publisher: PopCap Games
Genre: Strategy/Tower Defence
Platforms: PC (Rs 199). Buy here