Does PvZ on the go live up to its big brother on the PC? The answer is an emphatic yes. Developer Popcap has succeed in emulating the experience of the PC version for the iPhone and iPod touch, and has also streamlined the game to be more friendly to the portable devices. Fans of the original should know that content wise, there is nothing new to see in this version and in fact the auxiliary Survival mode so popular in the PC version is absent on the iPhone. For those who have escaped the internet craze; Plants vs. Zombies is a variant on the popular Tower Defense genre in which players strategically place plants in their lawn to defend their home from incoming zombies. Plants vs. Zombies was originally released in May of 2009 for the PC, and at the time was very well received.
Playing PvZ is simple enough at the outset, and the game never truly attains any high level of complexity barring the use of tricky plant combos. Plants vs. Zombies at its core requires the player to use three kinds of plants: resource plants, offensive plants, and defensive plants. Of course, some plants fit into none of these categories, and others still can fall into more than one. Sunflowers and Sun-Shrooms are an absolute necessity as they provide the resources a.k.a. “sun” needed to plant more plants. For instance; if I were to plant a pea shooter I would need 100 sun. A pea shooter does exactly what its name indicates, and as it shoots peas the zombies that are slowly stumbling towards the house will be damaged and ultimately killed. Just as plants come in a wide variety, so do zombies. I won’t spoil anything, but my personal highlights are the Michael Jackson and zamboni Zombies.
The physical interface of playing Plants Vs. Zombies is simple as well, thanks to a smart use of the touch screen. Simply tap a plant and then the corresponding piece of lawn and your gardening is done. The same goes for picking up sun and coins that litter the floor of the battlefield. I can say that picking up sun is much easier in this version. Players who are more methodical, or just simply want to be darn sure that they won’t tap the wrong rectangle, can simply drag and drop a plant to the desired place. When doing this the game highlights a sort of lawn crosshair, the center of which is the place where the plant will be dropped. If one still proceeds to make a mistake, or simply wants to rearrange the layout, a shovel is available for uprooting existing plants. Should the Zombies breach your defenses, there are always the last resorts of the lawn mowers or pool cleaners silently waiting in the back lines. Once these defenses are used however; the house sits naked before the Zombie onslaught.
The real meat of PvZ is the Adventure mode, in which war is waged between sentient flora and the undead across several locations of your besieged home. The location and time of day affects how the game is played, be it darkness, a pool or perilous fog the player never quite knows what is around the next corner… aside from more zombies that is. What propels one through Plants vs. Zombies is the acquisition of new plants and various goodies purchased from your neighbor, Crazy Dave. For the entirety of the adventure mode the stream of rewards is constant, and the standard defense missions are punctured with clever minigames. Playing with new plants and bringing different mixes of plants into battle adds a sandbox element to the game. Players looking for a challenge can always seek out the achievements in the game, although these achievements are not shared over the internet. I personally like to set my own challenges by limiting myself to certain kinds of plants, creating a challenge analogous to a white mage only playthrough of a final fantasy.
When first opening Plants vs. Zombies I was really worried about two things. Worry number one: will there be iTunes support? While this seems to be the standard nowadays, many games sacrifice iTunes support for one reason or another and I was very pleased to see that I can still listen to the latest episode of Touchgen Unleased while playing Plants Vs. Zombies. This is not to say that the game’ s tunes aren’t delightful, I would simply rather listen to my own songs. Worry number two: will the game save automatically when I exit? I was glad to see that yes indeed the game will pick up exactly where I left off after clicking the home button. Again, it seems like a minor feature but this is a game that could go completely sour for me without an autosave feature (which it has).
With my main worries out of the way, I was left to explore the adventure mode of a game that I have already played extensively on the PC. The mode does hold up, with one major caveat. When too many zombies enter the fray there is a noticeable lapse in the otherwise smooth framerate. I suspect this is the reason for the omission of Survival mode, in which you can end up with a long lasting and high flow river of Zombies. While the game remains playable, it is really unpleasant to deal with these sloppy sections where the performance dips. I cannot help but feel that this flaw would have been noticed before release, and if it was I would think that some concessions should have been made within the gameplay to preserve the integrity of performance.
Performance issues and the omitted endless mode aside, Plants Vs. Zombies remains an excellent experience. The game is a joy to look at, and I was surprised to see just how well the developers translated the look and feel of the game to the iPhone. Colors pop off the screen, and watching how all of the plants move with such intricacy is entertainment in itself. While you can’t play Survival mode in this version, playing the adventure mode is a lengthy endeavor and there is incentive to replay it once finished. Interacting with the game is smooth and intuitive, and I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that I rarely if ever make mistakes with my plant placement on the smaller screen.
Plants vs. Zombies offers a massive amount of game for only $2.99, and in the end my score was not affected by the lack of Survival mode simply because at this price I feel like what the customer is getting is already a steal. Getting caught up in the hectic and addictive progression of Plants vs. Zombies is something that should be experienced by everyone with an iPod Touch or iPhone. This new release of PvZ remains an excellent timewaster, even more so now that it travels everywhere with me.
Purchase Plants Vs. Zombies on the App store: $2.99 at time of purchase. Played on 2nd generation device.