Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: you’re hanging out on your front lawn, when suddenly you hear a hoarse, almost animalistic groan. You turn, startled, and see zombies beginning to push through your hedge. Panicking, you begin planting flowers along the length of your yard, which begin to combat the encroaching zombie hoard.
If this does sound familiar, it’s for one of two reasons: one, you may be delusional, and want to see your physician about the hallucinations you’re having. The second is that you’ve played Plants vs. Zombies before. PvZ, (as it’s so adroitly named on the PSV’s LiveArea screen), is a tower defense game in which you plant a variety of shrubbery on your lawn in order to stop the approaching zombies. Originally developed by PopCap, that wizard of the casual games market, for the PC and Mac, it has seen a release on almost every conceivable (modern) platform, and has now made its way to Sony’s new handheld, the Playstation Vita.
The gameplay itself is extremely simple, and was pretty much summarised in the above paragraph: zombies on one side of your yard, your house on the other, use an assortment of plants to make sure zombies don’t reach house. Nice and easy. But, of course, there is a little bit more to it than that. Some zombies move faster than others; some zombies are wearing helmets, or other gear which makes them harder to kill; some zombies float in on balloons; a few ride in on Zambonis. There’s a whole cavalcade of the undead on display here, and you have over 75 different plants at your disposal to try and deal with them all. Some plants shoot pellets that slow down the zombies, others eat the zombies whole, but take a while to chew the corpses, and so are fairly useless when large numbers of those shambling zombies are around. There’s enough variety in the plants and zombies to ensure that you aren’t always staring at the same thing, which is nice, and there’s even some variations on the environments. You go from your front yard, (just a plain empty lawn), to your backyard (a lawn and a pool), to your roof, (where you can only plant your zombie-killing herbs into flower pots). Crazy Dave (wearing a pot on his head), shows up to give you a little exposition, and you can buy some new plants at the store in the back of his car. Seems kind of dangerous when there are zombies attacking, but whatever.
Should you get bored with Adventure mode, which is basically the game taking you through stage after stage of zombie onslaught, each a little more difficult than the last, there are a variety of other modes to play. There are puzzle modes, where you have to think your way through the scenario presented to you. My personal favourite of these is ‘I, Zombie,’ where there are an assortment of flowers already planted, and you have to choose which zombies to place in which lane to try and get past them all. There are no lawnmowers here, though, so once you get past all the plants, you’re in the clear. Next to puzzle modes, there are mini-game modes, which are basically plants vs. zombie themed takes on other games. There’s one where you use a wall-nut to bowl zombies out of your yard, and also satirical takes on other PopCap games, such as bejeweled. There’s enough here to keep you going for a while, and, as always, this feels more at home on a handheld device than it does on consoles, because all of the games modes have the simple controls and the rounds are over pretty quickly, which is what all good on-the-go games need.
Graphically, the game looks pretty similar to the way it always has. The colours pop, and the sunflowers look oddly happy for being in a yard that’s being attacked by flesh (and flower) eating zombies. It doesn’t push the envelope graphics-wise, but there’s nothing wrong with the art style. It fits the tone of the game perfectly, which is nice to see. The game also doesn’t make use of any of the other exotic features of the Vita. The game is entirely touch controlled, but PopCap didn’t put in any tilt-sensor or reach touch screen moments in, either. This is probably a good thing: shoehorning those kinds of gimmicks into a game where they don’t belong generally equates to the game to ruination.
There’s not much else I can say about Plants vs. Zombies. The game remains just as cutesy and fun as ever, and is a good choice to take on the road with you. The multiplayer modes that existed in the console versions of the game are gone, but it isn’t really a game that screams out for multiplayer action, anyway. There’s nothing in the Vita version that you couldn’t find in earlier versions, so if you have this game on some other platform, it’s probably not worth your money to get it again, unless you really enjoyed it. All in all, it’s an entertaining, bite-sized romp featuring semi-sentient plants attacking hordes of zombies. You can’t really go wrong.
Title : Plants vs. Zombies
Format : PS Vita
Developer : PopCap Games
Publisher : Sony Online Entertainment LLC
Release Date : 02/21/12
*SOE provided SlimGamer.com with a promo code for a review copy.