If I could only tweet about this game it would be: Left 4 Dead for people with no time and no friends. Well, not really. But, really.

PopCap is known for their simple yet very addictive games like Bejeweled and Peggle1. Plants vs. Zombies is a bit more complex (ie. requires more strategy) than an average PopCap game, but it is also much more fun. It’s a really nice little time sink, but with some variety.

Screenshot of Plants vs. Zombies
Obviously a marketing screenshot, because no true player would arrange his/her defense like that.

The basic gameplay is rather standard tower defense, with 10 levels at each set. Each set changes the rules a bit like introducing a pool to your backyard or making the zombies attack at night. Each level introduces both new zombies and new plants. What makes the game interesting is that there are special levels between the “normal” levels, which are a bit varied. Also, completing the story levels opens up other minigames and even a Zen gardening mode.

I guess it’s once again the crazy setup that makes the whole game so enjoyable. Sure, this is casual gaming, but at least it doesn’t involve gritty realistic gangster life in NYC or space marines killing aliens. Sure, there are zombies. But these are not normal garden-variety, slate green brain devourers. These ones are special.

Screenshot of Plants vs. Zombies
It's thriller, thriller night…

My absolute favourite zombie was the Thriller Zombie that summons back-up dancers. Unfortunately, the Michael Jackson Estate didn’t appreciate the zombie with a red leather jacket and it has been replaced with something less iconic in later versions. A real bummer and I can only guess the estate forgot that MJ did play a zombie before becoming one. There were other favourites as well, the zombie dolphins’ cries still wake me up at night.

As for the strategy, after couple of rounds of trial and error I had up and running a defense pattern that I could use virtually throughout the game. Sure, in the latter levels some adaptation is required when the zombies get long range weaponry, but it was just adaptation of the pattern and not rethinking the whole defense. The major decision is the partitioning between resource generation and the actual defense. Having more sunflowers allows in the long run more expensive units, but requires skimping on the initial defense.

It’s quite inevitable that this game will be followed by Plants vs. Zombies 2. It would be a shame if it was just a level-pack2, like the various Peggle games, adding a couple of new zombies and plants. Well, I’m not really expecting co-op mode and melee weapons, but as the first PvZ was such a fresh execution of the tower defense genre, it would be shame if the next one was too similar.

  1. I should know, I have played through all Peggle, Peggle Nights and the free Peggle Extreme.

  2. aka an expansion pack.