Just when you think that inspiration may be missing from the world of video games, where sequels and clones are the norm, a production such as Plants vs Zombies appears and makes you change your mind.
(Editor's note: When Dimitris first submitted this one, I was like - Plants vs. Zombies is hardly a retro title. Then I realized that it's nearly six years old. My goodness)
The game’s main idea sounds both silly and funny. A house is under attack from zombies and you must defend it. How? By placing plants in its garden! Of course, these aren’t ordinary plants. Besides the fact they are as big as a man, they can also fight, by firing various projectiles (usually), biting, stomping or even exploding. As for the zombies, although they are not known for being …vegetarian, here they seem to like eating plants too, at least until they enter the house.
So, the garden is divided in horizontal zones where the action takes place. Zombies appear on the right of the screen, stay in one lane and shamble up to the left. You need to place as many plants as possible in the appropriate positions, making sure that the zombies meet sufficient resistance. If they eat all the plants in a lane there is nothing to prevent them from entering the house and having dinner with its inhabitants.
There are various types of plants, each one of them with its own properties. Sunflowers produce sun, which you collect to produce more plants, snow peas fire ice projectiles, which slow your enemies, wall-nuts serve as a defensive wall, cactuses spit thorns to airborne enemies, etc. Before you start a level you choose which plants you want to have available and when you finish it you often unlock a new plant. Furthermore, there are bonus items you can buy, e.g. lawnmowers provide an extra line of defense.
There are different kinds of zombies too. The ordinary variety is slow and has little health (if you can say that a zombie has health!), but soon you encounter undead with protective gear or special abilities, such as pole vaulting above obstacles. Learning how to stop them is essential, e.g. zombies holding metal objects are best stopped with the magnet-shroom, that pulls their equipment away for them!
The graphics are full of style and vibrant colors and the animation has many nice details. See, for example, how the sunflowers smile and sway to the music or look at the zombies maniacally chomping your poor plants once they manage to get near them.
The music is original and sets the tone perfectly for a weird experience. The sound effects are very good, such as the sound of projectiles hitting zombies or their brainless growls.
The control is spot on. There is a bar at the top of the screen with your available plants. If you don’t have enough sun power they are slightly grey. You also see how long you must wait for them to recharge (recharging time is different from sun power required), your total sun power and the cost of each plant. You click on a plant, then click on a square in the garden and your green guardian is ready to fight!
The difficulty is balanced and allows for some reasonable challenge. The conditions change sometimes, adding variety to the action: e.g. if the garden has a pool you place plants on lily pads and face zombies that can swim· if you fight during the night you need mushrooms instead of sun flowers. Moreover, some missions don’t let you collect sun power or bring your own plants along and you need to apply new tactics. At the end of a stage and sometimes during its course you encounter a big wave of zombies, which requires a strong defense to halt.
The game has fifty stages and a final boss that looks impressive and is hard to defeat. Besides the campaign, there are many single levels, offering other challenges, such as smashing zombies with a hammer. You can collect trophies for clearing them and you can also keep a greenhouse where you grow plants for leisure, without worrying about the hordes of the undead.
Plants vs Zombies is not long but I enjoyed it while it lasted. It is smart, cute and marvelously executed. Now that it is available online free of charge you have no excuse for not trying it.
Article by Dimitris