Plants vs. Zombies
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Game Reviewed: Plants vs. Zombies
Platform: PC/Mac (also on Xbox 360, PS3 & DS)
Category: Strategy/Tower Defense
ESRB Rating: E
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“There’s a zombie on your lawn!”
So goes the song that announces and ends this wacky new game from Popcap, the makers of such classic casual/puzzle games as Bejeweled and Peggle. Fun fact: this game was announced on April Fools day with a music video displaying the cute graphics and ridiculous premise. Seriously, look it up on YouTube: it’s a music video sung by a sunflower about keeping zombies off your lawn so they do not eat your brains. Naturally, everyone thought it was a joke, and it got many mentions on various gaming sites as a great prank. Imagine our surprise when we finally realized this game was actually being made.
Plants vs. Zombies is an endearing little game in which you plant a garden to combat the zombies who are trying to get across your lawn and into your house to eat your brains. Yes: you plant various shrubberies that will fight off hordes of zombies. There are 5-6 rows that the zombies will walk along (or shuffle, run, pole vault, or even dance, depending on the zombie), and you must gather sun, which you use to strategically place various plants in order to fight them off. These vary from the sunflower (generates sun, which you can use to make more plants), to the peashooter (shoots peas at the zombies) to the doom shroom (explodes colorfully, taking a huge amount of zombies with it). There are a huge amount of different plants to use, and strategy changes depending on whether it is day or night, and whether you are in the front yard, the back yard (which has a pool), or even the roof. To match, there are many different types of zombies, each of which varies in use, power, speed, etc.
The game has its tongue firmly planted in its cheek with a strange sense of humor that you just cannot help but love. Sure, it is about zombies, but what other game allows you to go zombie bowling with giant walnuts? It is this measure of silliness that downplays the playful gore in the game.
What Parents Need to Know
When a zombie reaches half his health, his arm will pop off. When he dies, his head falls off (with a little popping noise). If a zombie gets past your defenses, there is a one-time saving grace: a lawn mower that will mow over all the zombies in its path. There are other animations for death too, depending on how the zombies are defeated, but they are all simple and cartoony.
This all sounds pretty bad, but it is not graphic at all, there is no blood, and it is so cartoony that it is more funny than disturbing. Even more so if you use codes to give the zombies mustaches and funny glasses.
No bad language.
No sexual content.
Voodoo zombies are just myths anyway: these zombies are assumed to be biologically infected, like zombies are supposed to be. There is a “zen garden,” where you can grow various plants free of zombies, in which case these plants give you money over time. But the use of the word “zen” in this case is just to mean it is tranquil: no spirituality is involved.
I suppose that the whole zombie motif might scare some younger children, particularly on the rare occasions that they moan “Braaaaiiiiiins” in typical spoof-zombie fashion. I cannot really imagine this being the case, however, since it is all so playful and cartoony.
If plant violence disturbs you, you may want to be aware that the zombies will eat your plants if they get close enough. Not violent, but kind of traumatic: I like my plants…
A Child’s Perspective
I was not able to get a specific kid to try the game, nor could I find anyone below high school who had played it. However, my 4-year old nephew has watched it being played, and I can say that he was not bothered by the content. As for enjoyment, younger kids probably could not fully appreciate the strategic depth of the game, but they may be able to enjoy it anyway (though the relatively slow pace may turn more impatient kids off).
This is one of the most entertaining wastes of time since time-wasting was invented. It is simply fun. It has a great style, hilarious design, strategic gameplay, varied play modes… everything one could ask for in a good “sit down and relax for a while” game. Beware, this game will steal hours of your time: it is both addicting and fun, and developing new strategies to adapt to changes throughout the game is both challenging and entertaining. Even if you have read The Zombie Survival Guide, and know everything there is to know about these fictional, infected, undead bringers of the apocalypse, this is a surprising and downright strange twist on the formula.