Plants vs. Zombies Review (Xbox 360)

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Plants vs. Zombies Publisher: PopCap Games
Developer: PopCap Games

Platforms: Xbox 360, PC and Mac
Reviewed on Xbox 360

I'm a dismal gardener. I'm even less interested in gardening and farming simulations than I am in actually tilling the soil. But when that gardening is point-and-click, and purely in the interest of fending off waves of pole-vaulting, Zomboni-driving undead, there's nothing I'd rather be doing than sowing a few sunflowers. So, with seeds in hand and a horde of zombies ready to storm my lawn and scale my roof, it's time to get planting!

Kyle Ackerman

Plants vs. Zombies already took the PC world by storm, but the version released on Xbox Live Arcade is even better than the original PC release. PC gamers can download an update that improves the PC original, but the only (decidedly minor) issue with the Xbox 360 version is that the Xbox 360 controller isn't as precise as a mouse. Fortunately, PopCap has done a great job adapting the control scheme to make the game equally playable, and it's glorious to lounge back on the couch, botanically battling zombies with a wireless controller.

The game is brilliant in its strategic simplicity. Wave after wave of zombies cruises in from the right side of the screen, while you plant vegetation that resists the onslaught. Resources are limited – plants are fueled by the sun, and while sunlight falls from the sky during the day, most of that power comes from planting sunflowers (Ehh? Get it?) or similar plants. As the adventure mode of the game progresses, the plants and zombies get wackier, culminating in a gigantic boss battle.

Plants start off as simple as the "Peashooter" (it fires peas) and the "Wall-nut" (a filling obstacle) before venturing into growths like the "Fume-shroom" and the "Kernel-pult." Some are quite straightforward, such as the "Squash." It squashes zombies. The zombies are equally silly. The first home invaders are the simple shambling undead, followed by the shambling undead wearing things on their heads. Later zombified freaks are contractors, pogo-stick enthusiasts or disco dancers (I miss the Michael Jackson zombie, too, though the change to a zombie who looks more like Disco Stu is sensible). Plants vs. Zombies is easily the lightest take on video game zombies ever, but no less engrossing for the distinction.

There are so many strategies one can take to defend against a zombie onslaught that the game feels personalized. On the very hardest sequences of certain mini-games, one does have to optimize a bit, but this is a strategy game that (within reason) can be played as you see fit. It also offers a tremendous variety of play beyond the basic adventure mode. There are tons of mini-games and puzzles that vary the basic play that are unlocked after spending some time in adventure mode. There's even a pleasant set of gardens in which one can putter while collecting currency. These modes vastly extend the game beyond the basic adventure by offering different approaches to botanical zombie killing and endless modes that will truly test your defensive strategies. To this, the latest version of Plants vs. Zombies adds offline competitive and co-operative modes that let you play with or against your friends.

Interestingly, there is one issue with Plants vs. Zombies' move to the Xbox 360. For all the wonderful and fancy additions to the original, PC version of the game, and the joy of bringing Plants vs. Zombies to yet another platform, the Zen Garden has minor problems with the Xbox 360 controller. Never mind that I occasionally had a little trouble with the cursor and wasted bug spray on the wrong plant. The issue is that the Zen Garden is a pleasant diversion and background cash-cow that serious fans rely upon to earn money for the high-ticket items in Crazy Dave's Twiddydinkies store. On the Xbox 360 you'll need those items for at least two achievements. Left on its own, the Xbox 360 controller will disconnect and the game will pause – that means no feeding chocolate to Stinky the Snail and leaving the screen on as a relaxing addition to your living room.

Zen stress aside, Plants vs. Zombies is still a marvelous game, and a near-required purchase for Xbox 360 owners. I may be a dismal gardener, but tending a little garden has never been so much fun.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on September 13, 2010 10:17 PM.

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