PopCap Games’ latest addictive game made a big splash on the PC last summer, as Plants vs. Zombies became a hugely successful tower defense game that took a new approach to the genre. Now PopCap has brought the popular PC game to Xbox Live Arcade with some new features while trying to keep the same addictive experience intact.
What’s It About?
The title may give the intricate plot away as you’re trying to prevent hordes of zombies from getting into your house with the special plants you have in your arsenal. Plants vs. Zombies shirks the general level design that most tower defense games use as it focuses on checkerboard-style yards where zombies are moving from the right side of the screen to your house on the left and your plants are your only defense. You are required to collect sun drops from the sky and your sunflower plants since they act as your currency to be able to place your plants around the yard.
One of the bigger concerns about this port is how PopCap would handle the translation from a one button mouse control to the Xbox 360 controller and they’ve done a great job to make the controls work well for this kind of game. You can move the cursor around to collect sun drops as they’re in the vicinity of the cursor, though either trigger lets you suck in sun drops from anywhere on the map. Placing plants is as simple as rotating between plants in your inventory, pressing A to plant them, and holding down B to dig them up if you make a mistake. The action is centered on being efficient with your time, your build order, and having a good strategy for what plants are best for the types of zombies you’re facing. That may make this sound like a hardcore RTS, but it’s a lot simpler in Plants vs. Zombies while having that addictive quality that PopCap is known for.
Why Should I Care?
Plants vs. Zombies is easily the best tower defense game out there with its simple gameplay that has a lot of depth to the strategy while still being very accessible to most people and offering a ton of content that most XBLA games don’t offer. The only issue I’ve noticed just from playing through the Adventure mode several times on four platforms now is that your first time through PvZ’s main mode is slow since it’s more of a tutorial for the nearly 40 plants you’ll earn as you work towards the end. Once you have a nearly full arsenal of plants and have beaten the campaign, you’ve opened up several new modes that offer new challenges since PopCap has done a great job of trying all sorts of crazy things with the mechanics of Plants vs. Zombies for those new modes.
The Puzzle and Mini-Games modes offer a good variety of challenges that do weird and interesting things with the core mechanics of PvZ that you wouldn’t expect, including a few mini-games where they pay homage to their own properties with Bejeweled and Heavy Weapon-inspired mini-games. The Survival modes offer a chance to flex your tower defense muscle as you try to survive more difficult hordes of zombies that the main campaign can’t really offer, which also appears in the endless modes they offer that give you almost endless replayability as you work on beating your high scores. The new modes in this version of PvZ are the Versus and Co-op modes, with the latter being pretty much what you’d expect from the idea of co-op PvZ. The versus multiplayer is a neat diversion as one player controls the traditional plants and the other plans the zombie attack that is good for quick multiplayer action.
Why Is It Worth My Time And Money?
The simple truth is that Plants vs. Zombies on Xbox Live Arcade is one of the best values on the entire service, as I’ve already put just over 25 hours into the game as of this review and my time with the Steam version knows that I’m maybe halfway to the possible limit of what there is to do in this game. So not only is it the best tower defense game out there, it’s a great value at 1200 points ($15 in US dollars) that tower defense fans should give a shot. PopCap has done a great job to make PvZ control well like their last release on XBLA and PSN, which was the weird pachinko/pinball puzzle game that caught the eye of casual and hardcore gamers alike.
The only thing that maybe throws a wrench into the cost vs. value argument is that the cost of Plants vs. Zombies on PopCap’s own website ($19.99) and on Steam ($9.99) is oddly different for no apparent reason when comparing the cost of each version that is out there. The XBLA version offers a few features that the PC versions lack and there will even be a disc release with Peggle and Zuma included with it for $20 in the near future if you want a more physical version of the game with even more value for the price. At this point in time, it’s really up to whatever platform you want to play the game on since the PC, Xbox 360, the DS early next year, and iPad versions offer a lot of content for the price.