We discuss what makes Plants vs Zombies such a universally embraced game, and why hardcore gamers are playing catchup with these sorts of titles.
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Videogame Podcast Guests
Andy Robertson appears in this podcast. "Videogame reviews for the whole family, not just the kids. I dig out videogame experiences to intrigue and interest grownups and children. This is post-hardcore gaming where accessibility, emotion and storytelling are as important as realism, explosions and bravado."
Chris Jarvis appears in this podcast. "I write stories to say what I think about games, for me it's the only way I can really communicate what I feel about them. Do you ever have a response to something that's hard to put into words? I find that sometimes I have something to express that can't be communicated by trying to explain how I feel, directly."
Before the tape started rolling, here are our scribbled notes.
Plants vs Zombie success put me off a little. I'm always suspicious of the next big thing, so I didn't get around to playing it until quite recently. Like with Peggle, it wasn't until it came to the DS that I had an easy way to put some time into it.
At first I wasn't really sure what all the fuss was about. Giving it to the kids to play (4 and 7) they seemed to get board of it quite quickly and went back to Lego Indiana Jones on their DS's.
But when I played it myself I was surprised to find a game that had much more to it than it first appeared. There is a wide variety of different plant weapons that you are slowly granted access to. But what really hooked me was the way you needed to intelligently combine the different vegetable attacks to do well.
The resource management while playing felt more like a Real Time Strategy than tower defence. In fact those levels where you have a set number of plants but can move them around do actually turn the game into more of an RTS than anything else.
Balancing your sunshine currency while also getting units into battle soon enough for them to regenerate is something I've not seen in other games like this. This complexity, it turned out, was actually what had stopped the kids playing. Once they saw me play a few levels , and rush to get my stock of sunshine generating Sunflowers out as soon as possible, something clicked and they got on much better.
Plants vs Zombies is a great fit for the DS, it mirrors Nintendo's propensity to take a simple interaction and create a thousand reasons to play it again and again. Like Peggle, the basic idea is hugely simple and restrictive, but this only serves to increase the joy of the drip feed of innovative ways to play.
I'd heard about Plants vs Zombies a while back and had never got around to playing it until recently. I expected more from it, given the popularity and hype the game has enjoyed. To me it just seems like a pretty standard tower defence game, albeit dressed up in nice graphics and a setting which seems to "fit" the design.
It interests me why this game has achieved public and critical acclaim when there are many other tower defence games available, many of which are free. Is it simply that people are drawn by the quality of the product and therefore feel happy parting with their cash? Then reinforcing the time the spend with the game off the back of personal investment?
Or is it the bite-sized game-play? One thing I will say in PvZ's defence is that the levels are of a good length compared to many other tower defence games - some of which outstay their welcomes.
And, on one hand I enjoyed that PvZ did not create levels which really required a particular strategy - it's easy for a game to slip into a level or 2 in which the player must work out exactly how the designer wanted them to play the level, to the nearest X points of damage or resource. However, at the same time this generous approach to design means that the game rarely feels challenging. (although I've only played the first 25 levels of the free version).
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Pet Zombies 3DS will offer a quirky take on the virtual pet, by providing a sinister playmate who'll always come back for more punishment... read now
Plants vs Zombies is more than the Disneyfication of Tower Defence, it injects real time strategy with enough personality to connect with family gamers of all ages... read now
We discuss what makes Plants vs Zombies such a universally embraced game, and why hardcore gamers are playing catchup with these sorts of titles... listen now
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