08: Plants Vs Zombies

Think back, back before the bundles, when games were more tightly segregated into “hardcore” and “casual”. Popcap pushed the success of the casual game like nobody ever before. Bejewelled can be played on over four thousand platforms, Peggle crept into PC Gamer’s top fifty that one year, and then there was Plants Vs Zombies, simple tower defence that pits you as immobile plants against aggressive zombies. If they get through, then they eat the brains of your gardener and we wouldn’t want that now, would we?

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There are a fair few aspects of this game that are genuinely good. The mechanics are tight and the visuals are crisp and clear enough that you can easily survey your kingdom of mushrooms and tell what needs reinforcements deployed. The faces of the plants as they are gradually eaten are actually pretty funny and the script, such as it is, isn’t all that bad. When you’re up against it, you have to weigh a lot of different options against each other and figure out what the best one is, that’s solid tower defence gameplay.

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Unfortunately, to get to these reasonably enjoyable challenges, Popcap insists on serving you plate after plate of shit. When you load up the game, all you can use is Adventure mode and I suppose fair enough, you want to have a bit of a learning tutorial environment at first, but it just never seems to end. Every possible outlet of time is squeezed to make progress as slow and boring as possible. It took me nearly ten hours to get through adventure mode, ten hours of boring, easy missions where you hone your dance of efficient zombie removal to a fine art. Sunflower, sun, sun, sunflower, sun, sun, sunflower, sun, sun, sunflower, sun, sun, sun, sun, ATTACK THINGY, sun, sun, and so on. I’ve played that opening a hundred times already, dammit. Give me something worth thinking about. Give me waves of bobsleds.

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When you near the end of adventure mode, the challenges, minigames and puzzles open out and some of these, I do enjoy. One gamemode which sets you as the zombies attacking the plants, is I think actually better than the main game. Others add in genuine survival challenges, or limited funds, or themed missions. All little sparks of interestingness that the Adventure mode was completely devoid of. And by then I’m more or less too fed up with the game. It’s an opportunity missed, I think, more killer needed, much less filler.

2 stars, 12 hours played

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