23 Jan

The people over at PopCap Games seem to know what the human brain craves. They have well known titles such as Bejeweled, Feeding Frenzy, and Peggle under their belt and are arguably one of the most successful casual game developers today. [Insert Nintendo joke here]. One of their more recent titles is Plants vs. Zombies and it has taken the gaming industry by storm and is now playable on the PC, Mac, iOS, XBOX Live Arcade and most recently, the Nintendo DS. Even if you have already purchased Plants vs. Zombies for your PC or Mac, the DS version is a great buy if you want to play on the go.

Fun fact: One of the proposed names for Plants vs. Zombies was Lawn of the Dead

For those of you who have been living underneath a rock, in a cave or some other remote location the internet does not reach, Plants vs. Zombies is a wildly popular tower defense game where you defend your lawn from hordes of zombies with plants. However, these are not just any plants. There are 48 different plants and they can do everything from shooting projectiles to freezing everything on the screen. Also, the zombies are not your run of the mill walking undead. 26 different kinds of zombies will attack your house and while some of them are classic shambling zombies, others can pole vault over your plants or even moonwalk and summon more zombies in a very thriller-esque scene. Plants vs. Zombies is truly unique in that each zombie does something different instead of just getting stronger as the levels progress and each plant serves a different purpose.

If you are looking for a story in Plants vs. Zombies, or any tower defense game for that matter, then you are in the wrong genre. The plot consists of zombies storming your house to eat your brains and you have to fend them off with your hyper aggressive plants. The main part of the game is the adventure mode which consists of zombies trying to get to your house from the front yard, back yard and the roof. I think that you are either playing as a botanist who has survived the zombie apocalypse thus far due to creating these conscious plants, or a workaholic gardener hallucinating from a severe case of dehydration, but that is up for debate.

A mini game where you can only use exploding plants

In addition to adventure mode, Plants vs. Zombies offers up a few other goodies. Throughout the game you will unlock puzzles and various mini games, including a survival mode, which put you in different scenarios. For example, one of the mini games has you using a slot machine and the results of the slots determine what plants you can use to fend off the zombies. These extra modes will add hours onto your game and some of them will definitely keep you on your toes.

The graphics is where Plants vs. Zombies takes a hit. All of the action takes place on the DS’ touch screen and the graphics do not look nearly as sharp as they do on the PC version. Also, there is some noticeable slow down when there is a lot of stuff going on. On the bright side, the slowdown is not at all game breaking, and the graphics still retain the charm of the original game. Plus, events occur on the top screen every now and then, and some of them are pretty funny.

The audio in Plants vs. Zombies is pretty minimal, but works well with the game. The music is a little creepy, but strangely light-hearted at the same time, however once you hear the groans of the zombies and the various sound effects your plants make you will tune it out and start to concentrate on the game.

You can purchase various upgrades out of the back of this guy's car

Plants vs. Zombies is pretty straightforward when it comes to the game play. You use sunlight that either falls from the sky or is produced by your plants as resources to bring more plants out onto the lawn. The game is broken up into six rows and the zombies attack from the right. Depending on which zombies are attacking, it is up to you to pick a handful of different plants to fight back the waves. Throughout adventure mode you will also run into different hazards like water from your pool in the backyard, fog, and nightfall where it is solely up to your plants to produce sunlight since none will be falling from the sky. It can also get pretty challenging at times, and sometimes it switches up the game play by making you use whatever plants you are given at random, or by giving you a hammer and telling you to play “whack-a-zombie.”

After most of the levels in adventure mode you will unlock a new plant to use. You also collect money to buy upgrades at Crazy Dave’s store, such as letting you choose more plants to use, or buying upgrades that transform your plants into something completely different.

The touch screen is used almost exclusively in Plants vs. Zombies. You drag plants from the top menu to where you want them on the grid, and tap coins and sunlight to collect them. For the most part this works really well, but there were times when I misplaced plants because my hand slipped and sometimes tapping the sunlight or coins did not register right away. However, those slip ups were few and far between and the overall touch screen control is very precise and felt completely natural when I was trying to get a lot done at once.

If you haven’t purchased Plants vs. Zombies for any platform you owe it to yourself to at least play this game. This tower defense game is simple, yet very compelling like most of PopCap’s games, and the amount of content it has to offer will keep you around for a while. The graphics and frame rate suffer a little on the DS, but if you don’t have an iPhone or other mobile alternative, Plants vs. Zombies for the DS is still a quality title.