This review is based on the iPhone version of Plants vs Zombies.
Popcop Games does some really cool titles, and their reputation for quality is unsurpassed; offhand, I can’t name a single release that hasn’t been both critically lauded and commercially successful. Among their biggest hits has been Plants vs Zombies, a unique take on tower defense games in both gameplay and style.
Once again, zombies have a carnivorous appetite that only your sweet, succulent brains can satisfy. They’ve come to your house for a tasty meal, and only your plants stand in the way! You start with basics like a sunflower to provide the plant building sun resource and a pea shooter, and earn additional options when working through the Adventure mode’s 5 stages and 50 total levels. Each stage adds a new wrinkle: you’ll fight off the undead at night, at your pool, in the fog and eventually on your roof to protect your cerebral cortex from consumption.
The plants have a lot of character, and there are a huge variety of combinations to play with from level to level. You can mix up tower speed versus power, slow versus splash and other tactical choices when filling up your tower slots. The designs also make sense: it just seems right that hot peppers are explosive bombs, corn cobs are missiles and pea pods are bullet shooters. By collecting coins as you play, you can drop by Crazy Dave’s store to buy advanced options like the Gloom-Shroom (meh) to the Cob Cannon (totally awesome).
The zombies are whimsical in their design as well, ranging from the standard grunt to the linebacker to the four zombie bobsled team (how’s that for an Olympic touch). Some of these are laugh out loud funny; if you haven’t used a Hypno-Shroom to take control of a red leather clad, Thriller tapping Dancing Zombie, you haven’t lived.
It’s a port of the popular PC title, and it translates extremely well to the iPhone. The graphics are clean and crisp, the sounds still pop and the game runs at a steady clip except in the busiest of circumstances (and the slowdown actually helps by giving you a bit of extra time to make moves). I actually enjoyed the controls a lot more, as picking up sun and coins is a lot easier with a series of finger taps over mouse clicks. Placing plants can be done with either a point-and-click or drag-and-drop approach, so you’re free to interact in the way you feel comfortable.
There’s no multiplayer, but Plants vs Zombies doesn’t need it (although it’d be pretty zany to deploy the undead). Leaderboards are unfortunately absent too, but there are local achievements you can earn.
Plants vs Zombies is simply awesome. It’s one of the deepest tower defense games ever made, and the changes made for the portable version make sense: the Adventure mode captures most of the experience from the PC version, the touch controls work really well and even the modified achievements are more natural to pick up as you progress. Heavily layered with a lot of character and humour, it’s fresh and funny in all the right places for a genre that needed such a breath of fresh air. The game is easily worth a lot more than its asking price of $3 US, and an absolute must own for anybody who enjoys gaming on the go.
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars