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Plants vs. Zombies DS Review

20/11/2011 Thinking Odyssey Gamer Review
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Plants vs. Zombies DS

Plants vs. Zombies




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This is not your archetypal Odyssey. There's no Return to the Homeland after a Great Ordeal; there's no wifey waiting patiently for you at the end of your twenty-year excursion.

You, as a player, are well-entrenched in your Homeland -- and charged with defending your Turf. This is the stuff of many a good horror flick. You protect your little cottage, while the enemy plop randomly through the garden hedge to make a beeline for the house (and your certain destruction).

We already know what to do with this kind of plot -- it's almost second nature -- which is why we have time to enjoy the chase.

So much so that I've grown fond of Zombies lately. It must be the way their cute little heads pop off and roll on the ground in front of their shuffly little-old-man feet. Or maybe it's the googly, unfocused eyes and downtrodden countenance.

Every day, I hum the Plants vs. Zombies tune as I travel on my merry way. I look fondly at fading sunflowers in fields near our apartment, as they jostle in the last throes of a long Autumn. I know Winter is just around the corner, but I relish the Here and Now: the safety of a real-life, Zombie-free existence.

Or maybe not.

No matter how cute the Zombies may be, or how radiant and pulsating with Life the Sunflowers in my garden are, fear still wraps its icy fingers around the heart of any player when the timeless edict appears on-screen... "that there's a new wave of Zombies approaching".

@libby_ol: PvZ. I can't help it. I'm freaking myself out.
@GeekDadGamer: But who is winning? Plants, Zombies, or you?

Zombies. Definitely Zombies.

Starting with the front lawn, the Zombies progress in stages, plodding to attempt access via the back garden, then with the addition of fog... and finally the roof.

This is not your archetypal Odyssey.

Someone told me about those later stages of the game. As you might have realised by now, I'm not the one you'd want watching your back, which is why I did find the on-screen 'suggestions' rather useful. A reminder about planting more sunflowers, for instance, can be timely and reassuring when you're facing an army of the living dead.

As the protector of your Home Turf, you have the option of popping different plants into your lawn, in rows, some of which are more Zombie-proofed than others. Pea-shooters, for example, poot peas at approaching Zombies, whereas the primary role of a Sunflower is to create Sun that fills up your plant creating ability, the catch being that a player can only acquire a new plant when they have a full vial of sunlight. (By the way, I also heard there's a Nobel Peas Prize, and a Sunflower Trophy to gun for, the former of which might be enough to keep me playing for as long as it takes.)

But I wonder -- if this Odyssey is so familiar, how does it retain its power? And what's this leap that we take when we're gaming when Game becomes Reality for a moment? Is that buzz I feel my imagination taking over?

Perhaps when we embark on the Home Turf defence, something has been sparked. Perhaps when we see a new wave of Zombies we are reminded of the first time we read a scary book, heard scary words out of the mouths of horror movie starlets. Words can do that, you know. They sear themselves onto your brain like a hot iron, so that glimpses of feelings and thoughts from the past never die.

A leap that we take when we're gaming when Game becomes Reality for a moment.

Perhaps it's not the Zombies I should be afraid of.

Alright! That's enough. Planets vs. Zombies is a game. It's fun. Let's just leave it at that.

Er... could you just leave the light on when you go? Thanks.

Written by Libby O'Loghlin

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Libby O'Loghlin writes the Odyssey Gamer column.

"I bring my writing goggles to the gaming experience, because I see gaming as part of the Odyssey. I want to understand its attraction, and whether it bubbled up from the guts of our basic need for story-telling. I want to understand it as a narrative medium, and how it feeds into our daily lives."

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