There are few games that I consider perfect – completely successful expressions and explorations of their play mechanics and artistic values. NiGHTS and Super Mario Kart (SNES) are a couple on my list – I’m sure you have your own.
When I got my ipad one of the first games I downloaded was PopCap Game’s Plants vs Zombies – it had recieved many favourable write-ups in EDGE and being a big tower-defence game fan I was sure I was gonna’ love it.
3 or 4 hours of play later I had pegged PvZ up on the ‘potentially perfect’ list. Having now spent tens of hours on the game completing the various achievements and launching massive campaigns into the Survival mode I can certainly declare it perfect in my book.
Plants vs Zombies is a tower-defence game that plays on every human’s hard-wired instinct to defend their homes – in this case from a selection of zombies shambling across your lawn, swimming through your pool and climbing on your roof!
The linear nature of PvZs battlefields (zombies progress straight down one of 6 pathways), and ‘everything-on-one-screen’, birds-eye viewpoint means Popcap can furnish the player with a massive variety of plants with which to lay-out their defences. Peashooters, Cob Cannons, Wallnuts, Winter Melon Catapults and atomic Boomshrooms are just a slice of your arsenal – all powered by the smiling, bopping sun-flowers that look so pleasant you’ll defend them like dear friends.
Here's a screenshot I took from my iPad version of PvZ, you can see the great selection of plants available.
The zombies are beautifully designed and in-keeping with the homely, low-fi setting of the rest of the game. A normal zombie is weak, so how does he toughen himself up? He puts a traffic cone on his head. Still not tough enough? He puts a metal bucket on his head. Tougher Still? He puts on a suit of American football armour… We’ve got zombies on pogo sticks, bungee zombies, zombies on ice-resurfacing machines and tons more. The zombie army is bursting with character compared with your average tower-defence game.
It’s no surprise that a PopCap game has gorgeous, life-affirming artistic design – well, in PvZ the music is just as good, with loverly relaxing yet spooky tracks created by Japanes artist Laura Shigahara . The most famous of which is the classic ending theme:
A word on the gameplay: Plants vs Zombies has one of the most moreish learning-curves ever conceived: completion of each stage rewards the player with a new Plant or item which players just have to try out. New obstacles are added to the mix just when the player thinks they have things under control and mini-games are sprinkled in when repetition starts to fatigue the players. The whole thing is just a master-class.
The act of actually building out your lawn with plants is super addictive, with plenty of combos to find and exploit. The search for that perfect set-up just never ends and this hits its ultimate expression in the never ending survival mode.
Buying the best items from Crazy Dave's car-boot sale will soon become and obsession! Still don't know what the bacon is for though!
The game has a massive level of complexity but it’s introduced to the player in such a way that before you even realise it your fingers (or mouse pointer) are dancing at light-speed over the level, brain whiring with a thousand considerations as the zombie genocide continues.
As you can see from the official website PvZ is available on XboX Live Arcade, iPad, iPhone, DS, PC and Mac so you if you haven’t tried it, you really have no excuse (well unless you only have SONY consoles and no PC or Mac I suppose!).
You can even get a free trial here.
This Friday I was lucky enough to catch up with my good friend (and as it turned out huge PopCap fan) Insp. Chin, let’ see what he has to say for himself:
Here's Insp. Chin in Subway with his iPhone version of Plants vs Zombies ^^
Hi Chin, so how did you discover Plants vs Zombies?
It’s from my friend, she recommend me to play it. Also, I’m a fan of PopCap games.
Which PopCap games?
Zuma & Bookworm Adventures!
Did you try playing Zuma Blitz on Facebook?
So was your first experience of Plants vs Zombies on PC?
Did you buy it straight off or was it a trial version?
A free, trial version.
Insp. Chin supplied me with this exclusive screenshot of his PvZ welcome screen. WELCOME BACK! Chin
How did that work?
Basically you can play 90 mins of the game for free… it’s good, ‘depends how long you want to play really…I mean whether you actually need to pay for the game.
What did you think of the game when you first played it?
Pretty fun, it’s a strategy game – you have to plant flowers and put eveything in right the slot.
Did you find it hard to understand the game at first?
When I started it’s very simple, with good tutorials and easy to understand. You can get one new plant after each stage so there is more and more to learn.
So you were enjoying it straight away?
Yes, I also liked the mini-games, like bowling the Wallnuts at the zombies.
Insp. Chin in action! He can't look up once he has started playing!
So did you buy PvZ after the 90-minute trial ended?
No, I ended up getting the full version from a friend (laughs, embarrassed)
Once you had the full version – however you got it – how often did you play it?
I only played when I was bored as my PC is slow and I’m always busy – so only on weekend if I’m bored. It’s relaxing, not stresful to play at all.
What do you think is good about this game?
The visuals, and the design is perfect. Also the music - Laura I think her name is, is the composer, she is Japanese and she made the tracks with the designer of the game. I think the designer is actually the zombie’s voice as well….actually…errmm…
…In the Japanese version the voice of the zombie in the final song is the composer’s father.
Could you get addicted to Plants vs Zombies?
Ahaha…not before, since I don’t have a lot of chance to play. Now I have it on iPhone I’ll play it all the time on the train.
So do you think it’s a game that fits better on the iPhone?
Yes, because it’s best to play in little bits.
Do you have favourite type of Plant?
haha..yes the…Jalapeno, errmmm the Chili Pepper
This is Insp. Chin's favourite Plant ^^
Do you have anything you think could be added to the game to make it even better?
I dunno, hmmm, but I have seen trailer for the XboX version and you can customise your house etc. that’s cool.
It’s perfect really…perfect..uhahaha….
…But I’d like to play as zombie….
I heard on the XboX version and the DS version you can play as the Zombies and invade your friends house!
Yes, I think on XboX you can do that, but I have tried it yet.
So given you somehow got the PC full version for free did you pay for the iPhone version?
So you did give PopCap some money in the end, after all the enjoyment they gave to you?
Yes, for £1.89 it’s really worth it.
Of all the PopCap games you’ve played in your life, how much money have you actually spent on them?
Less than 10 quid…uhaha (laughs uncomfortably)
PopCap Games - will they be around much longer if all of their customers are like Insp. Chin ?
And how many hours of those games have you played?
Alot of hours, I used to play Bookworm Adventures, Dynamite, Zuma, you can find those games free-to-play on the plane to Malayasia!
So hours and hours of play and you have only given £1.89?
Yes, they are free on the plane, Zuma for 13 hours, I got it for free
Would you say you’re a cheap gamer?
I’d say I’m a Malaysian gamer!
Do you have any messages you would like to give to PopCap?
haha…I’ve told them PvZ is awesome and they replied to me straight away on facebook. I’ve known them for about a year. They don release a lot of games but they put maximum effort into each. I really love that about them.
But Plants vs Zombies is a very good game…. oh my god, I feel so bad now, oh my god!!
That’s enough before you dig your own grave here Chin!
That’s it for this week’s interview. If you would like to be interviewed by Leady247 just let me know in the comments box ^^
I’ll back soon with another interview with Gischie on Sengoku Basara 3.
Update: Thank’s to Splatterhouse in the comments box for confirming that PvZ will also be coming to PSN Soon. So now you have no excuse at all not to play this !