Monday, July 11, 2011

Plants vs. Zombies for Windows Phone Review

One of the last two entries in Microsoft's "Must Have Games" campaign was Plants Vs. Zombies. This entry from PopCap Games (makers of games such as Peggle and Bejeweled) is something that is best compared to a tower defense game. Players have to defend their home from wave after wave of zombies using various plants.

The game has quite a few positives and it's clear why it's so popular on a number of platforms. It's rather deep. There are dozens of plants to choose from that offer different advantages. These plants range from Sunflowers that produce resources (sunlight) to Cherry Bombs that help clear out enemies when they explode. There are also plenty of levels to keep you occupied (50 across a number of situations). There are also a number of mini-games and items to unlock. This isn't a game you'll finish in an afternoon. It will keep players occupied for some time.

The game really only has one big drawback. A number of the levels seem very repetitive. After clearing the front yard in the day time, players will have to do essentially the same thing at night. It creates a few different challenges, but nothing major. The zombies still roll in the same way and players only have to make a few minor changes to their strategy. Another example of this repetitive nature is after clearing the backyard at night, players have to clear the backyard at night... with fog covering half of the screen. Really? And it's not just one level with this new addition, it's a number of them. After clearing a location the first couple of times, players pretty well have their strategy figured out and it's just annoying to do essentially the same thing... again... again... and again. But if players are just looking to kill time, this doesn't get too annoying.

There are a couple other minor drawbacks. It would be nice if the zombies were a bit more varied. PopCap lists there being 26 different zombies in the game's description, but some of them are repetitive. For example, there's the zombie with a traffic cone on his head and the zombie with a bucket on his head. They're exactly the same, but the zombie with the bucket takes a bit more to take down. There's the pole-vaulting zombie which can clear the first barrier in its way and there's the zombie on a dolphin which can do the same... but in water.

The player options seem limited. There are 49 different plants, but players can only choose a few of them for any given level and, even then, the yard isn't that large. Most plants will be never used by most players. I found I would stick with about 3 plants I used every time and then I filled up the remaining slots to meet the needs of the given map. Since zombies don't depart from their straight approach, players will probably just recreate what they plant in each horizontal line with minor changes. Maybe for the sequel, players will get to defend their home from zombies that don't move in a straight line and are crossing a large field instead of a small suburban yard. 

Overall, it's a solid mobile game. The controls are very simple. The graphics are charming. The game is rather deep, even if it does leave plenty to be desired. Since it's an Xbox Live title, the game also offers achievements and the ability to compare your performance with your friends. For $5, it's not a bad value. Like all Xbox Live titles, there's a trial option so people can give it a go before buying it. That's probably the best approach to go with. If you don't enjoy the sample, then the repetitive nature of the game will really present a problem.

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