I need to preface this review with a confession. I know it will likely cause many to look down on me and will make it so I lose a lot of credibility in the video game communities, but I feel it necessary to issue this disclaimer: I have never played Plants vs. Zombies prior to it's release on Xbox Live Arcade this week. Shocking, I know. The title, which has been critically acclaimed pretty much across the board, just made it's first appearance on a home console and it's making me regret not trying the title until now.
For those of you that are as new to the title as I am, Plants vs. Zombies is the epitome of a well-executed tower defense title. You are a gardener that is in charge of strategically placing defensive plants throughout your backyard to prevent invading zombies from reaching your house. You'll have a variety of plants to choose from, with more unlocking as you get deeper into the arcade mode, from peashooters, which are the most basic defensive unit, to sunflowers, that are used to gather resources.
The game maintains a perfect difficulty curve and does a phenomenal job of easing the player into the more difficult and advanced levels, making sure the player has the skills necessary to survive before tossing them into the deep end.
Once the player is tossed into the deep end, however, they had better be prepared for all-out war. As you continue along your zombie-fighting journey, you'll encounter nearly 30 different types of adversaries looking to devour your brains.
You'll start off with normal, easily defeated zombies, but you'll eventually begin encountering super-powered zombies that have shields, armor or even special abilities. The first zombie that will likely knock you down is one that comes out and dances, which summons four zombies that will walk through and wipe out any plants in their path.
The developers seem aware of the issue with most tower-defense titles: the fact that the formula is so simple that the gameplay tends to get old slightly quicker than games in other genres. With that in mind, PopCap has brilliantly diversified the gameplay by adding new dynamics for levels that take place during the nighttime. It's more difficult to plant new plants due to the lack of sunlight, so you'll be required to get a little creative.
PopCap has even helped those that get bored quickly by throwing mini-games in for good measure. Every now and again, you'll have the chance to go zombie bowling or play whack-a-zombie, which are surprisingly fun.
The biggest addition to the game has to be the Co-Op and Vs. modes, which make the game Xbox Live worthy. Co-Op mode is exactly what you would think it is, but Vs. mode actually allows you to play as the zombies for the first time in the series' history. The mode definitely adds a new twist to the game and will give fans of the previous iterations of this title something to really look forward to.
There's no denying that Plants vs. Zombies has unbelievable staying power. Most people who have played this game have bought it through several formats, which is further testament to this game's greatness. At $15, you can't really ask for much more in way of gameplay. If you've never played Plants Vs. Zombies, but, like me, have been wondering what all the hype is about, go download the Xbox Live Arcade version of this title now!