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Plants vs. Zombies DS Review

30/04/2011 Specialist Tech Gamer Review
Guest author: Tom Dann
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Plants vs. Zombies DS

Plants vs. Zombies




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Plants vs. Zombies is Night of the Living Dead meets Day of the Triffids. It delivers more mileage than you'd expect, with a huge variety of ways to defend your garden from the living dead.

Two years ago, Plants vs. Zombies was a hit casual game. Despite receiving near-universal praise from critics and achieving good sales, somehow I missed out. Perhaps it's because I've never been fond of tower defence games, or perhaps I wasn't expecting a casual game to actually be good.

But Plants vs. Zombies is very good. It's an incredibly simple set-up: the dead are rising, and the only thing between them and your house is your lawn, roof or swimming pool. Luckily, you have a huge assortment of defensive plants to hold them off.

Pea-shooters act as a basic defensive turret, shooting peas at encroaching zombies. The "thup" that sounds on impact, combined with the shuffling and groaning of the zombies, makes for a great soundtrack -- one that made me laugh on more than one occasion, and reflects the overall light-heartedness of the game.

As you progress, you unlock more plants. Plants like the multi-shot pea-shooter, a zombie eating squash, a potato mine or a melon catapult. You can only use a limited number of plants in each mission, so you'll need to develop your own approach based around a few options.

My personal favourites are the Grandpa zombies.

My approach was to combine pea-shooters with mines and walnuts (zombies must eat them to get past, presumably because they look like brains). Cherry bombs can be thrown to take out large groups of dead-heads (most missions culminate in a veritable horde of corpses).

Every flower you plant needs sunlight, a resource which drops from the sky and must be clicked on to be collected. Sunflowers multiply this resource, and are essential for maintaining an efficient defence. As a real time strategy fan, I immediately found myself resource farming sunflowers, and guarding them closely.

There's plenty of variety in the attacking hordes, too. Basic zombies mix it up with more heavily armoured zombies (as identified by a variety of helmets, including saucepans and traffic cones). Pole-vaulting zombies sprint up to your defences and vault over them.

My personal favourites are the Grandpa zombies, who shuffle even more slowly, reading the paper. Once their paper is torn to shreds, they rage and sprint forwards, causing huge damage to your defences. Most zombies need to be killed in the same way, but the variety is welcome.

It re-casts the monsters as comical critters.

Additional gameplay variety can be found elsewhere. Once zombies start assaulting you at night, there's a distinct lack of sunshine. In this instance, you must plant mushrooms: sun-shrooms are cheap and offer limited extra sunshine. Puff-shrooms are free to buy, and offer little firepower, but are essential to keep the zombies at bay while you have fewer resources.

During the adventure, typical levels are interspersed with arcade-style intermissions. One sees you bowling giant walnuts at zombies, while others are more typical missions where you must make do with plants you're given, rather than being able to choose. These are small changes, but I found they expertly changed the pace at the right moments.

Plants vs. Zombies' greatest technical achievement is its broad appeal. The charming graphical style eschews the typical, ultra-gory approach to zombies, instead re-casting the monsters as comical critters. Of course, bits of them fall off under fire, but the entire affair is very family friendly. I found the style hugely appealing, and, having been a fan of zombie movies for years, didn't mind the comical gore. Somehow the naturally repetitive gameplay doesn't get boring.

Guest review by Tom Dann

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Tom Dann wrote this Tech Gamer article under the watchful eye of Simon Arquette.

"Gaming technology and techniques fascinate me, always have and always will do. They've driven me to a gaming degree, and aspirations to a whole lot more. Here though, I'll be reviewing games for how they put their technology to work to deliver a compelling experience."

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