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Review | Plants vs. Zombies XBLA

Plantly good

Format: Xbox 360/PC/iPhone/iPad | Genre: Strategy | Publisher: XBLA | Developer: PopCap | Release Date: 08/09/10 | Price: 1200 MS points (£10.25)

Mike Rose is swept away by the wonder of PLANTS VS. ZOMBIES XBLA.

HOW MANY times have you played through Plants vs. Zombies, then? This Xbox Live Arcade playthrough was in fact my fifth – I’d already played the original PC edition twice through, then given it the once over on both iPhone and iPad. I’d usually get a bit grumpy when a developer takes its game and starts churning it out on every platform going – I’m looking at you, Team 17 – but with PvZ I can definitely make an exception, as it’s quite easily one of my favourite games of all time.

Of course, even for such a great game, a fifth playthrough is clearly not going to be as glorious as the ones that came before it. Fortunately, the XBLA edition comes with more than enough extra features to make this the definitive release, including more customization options, online leaderboards and some brand new, utterly spiffing multiplayer modes. If you haven’t given PopCap’s plant-em-up a go yet, then this is a brilliant place to start.

What’s the Plan(t)?

Plants vs Zombies takes place in various areas around your house. Evil zombies are rising from the ground, and trying to get to your abode and eat your brains. Fortunately, you’ve got a reasonably-sized garden and plenty of plants to fend off the undead with. Plants can be placed in any of five rows and will automatically use their specific skills to stop the zombies in their tracks, from spitting peas to exploding cherries to walnut shields.

Zombies will lurch from right to left, and you must stop all of them from reaching the left-hand side of the level. You can’t simply place down as many plants as you want, however – you need to collect sunshine that falls from the sky and is spat out by sunflowers. Balancing the number of sunflowers placed down against your defence is crucial in saving the day.

This is the basic idea, but there’s far more to it. Eventually you’ll have over 40 different types of plant to choose from, and over 20 types of zombies to hold back. Certain zombies will require you put down specific plants in order to stop them, and you’ll need to work out the best way to place down your defence. Certain strategies are better than others, but each level will require you alter your plan a little to accommodate the new zombie arrivals.

On later levels, the action really takes off and beautiful madness ensues, with peas flying all over the place, dozens of zombies attacking at the same time and walnuts shedding tears as the undead take a bite out of them. As zombies encounter plants in their row, they’ll gobble them down, leaving you with a smaller defence. Letting zombies get too close to the left-hand side can be disastrous.

Wrap Your Brains Around This

There really is nothing quite like PvZ, and it’s possibly the most addictive game I’ve ever played. The story mode takes several hours to blast your way through, building up to a grand boss battle finale. Along the way, there are tons of lovely upgrades to purchase with your collected pennies, from new plants to special elements which make the going that little bit easier.

Once you’ve played through the fantastic main story, there’s still plenty to keep you occupied. Playing through a second time puts a special twist into play, and you may even meet a zombie you hadn’t before. Then there are wonderful minigames to try out, survival modes to play through, puzzle levels to head-scratch over and plenty of collectables to pillage. In total you’re looking at easily over 20 hours worth of gaming available, and even after that you’ll probably still go back for more.

There’s even a whole gardening section to mess around with. Special plants can be collected during play, and will be transported to your ‘Zen Garden’, where you can then water them and play music to them. Fully grown plants will earn you cash galore, so it’s worth spending some time tending to your little ones when you’re trying to unlock those last few, really expensive upgrades.


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