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Weekly iPhone App Recommendation: Plants vs. Zombies

February 23, 2010

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Plants and zombies. Botany versus the living dead, what’s a zombie lover with a green thumb to do? It’s an unlikely pairing for a tower defense game, but in PopCap Games’ highly rated “Plants vs. Zombies” computer to iPhone port, it’s the perfect match.

Title screen

Martha Stewart's and George Romero's cage match

The goal is to ward off a zombie invasion by strategically placing plant life around your grid-like yard as a means of defense. Once they reach the house, it’s game over for you. The initial stages of the game are fairly easy, with one strip of lawn to defend against a simple zombie attack. Eventually you’re job is to protect the entire lawn, using an arsenal of plants ranging from sunflowers, tiny pea shooters to purple venus fly traps, potato bombs and more. Each plant serves a specific purpose, along with carrying a weakness. Sunflowers will add sunlight, allowing plants to grow faster, giving you more weaponry at your disposal. The more sunflowers planted, the more beneficial for arming yourself. Some pea shooters will shoot one pea, others will shoot multiple peas or peas that will stun the zombies. The purple venus fly traps will take out a zombie with one bite, but wind up incapacitated while it chews, leaving the rest of that strip of lawn open for an attack provided there isn’t any backup.

This brings us to the zombies themselves. Of course these brain craving zombies (think “Return of the Living Dead”) aren’t just your normal, slow walking, plant hungry creatures. This batch of undead will come at you using various methods. One will come at you with a pole vault, springing himself over what you’ve already set up. Another will wear a bucket over his head, rendering him impervious to numerous pea shooters. There’s even a Thriller Michael Jackson zombie who crawls from under the ground to disco-type music. I like the ornery old zombie who gets his rotted flesh in a bundle after you knock the newspaper out of his hands. The levels themselves will also begin to work against you, having to defend around a pool, fog, daytime and nighttime.

Plants vs. Zombies

Send...more...paramedics...

There’s enough strategy in this game, too. Do you plant a pea shooter or another sunflower to speed up the growth of other plants that do more damage, yet still take longer to grow? Do you want to lay out a cherry bomb, or save your arsenal for a heavier wave? Sometimes, in an act of desperation, throwing a walnut in the way will buy you just enough time to grow another plant or take out another zombie. It could all backfire, the zombies reach your house, and you become one of them. Plant wisely, young gardener.

Graphically, the game is a marvel on the iphone. There’s been more than enough attention paid to detail with numerous zombies having visual idiosyncrasies (wearing clothes they were buried in, carrying a window screen as a method of defense, etc.). Even on a screen as small as the iPhone, the layout works perfectly. Soundwise, the game is a real hoot, with eerie music and zombies groaning out “brains” every so often.  Control wise it’s a breeze. No hand-eye coordination is necessary, only a quick tapping finger and quicker thinking. If there’s one complaint, it would be the slight slowdown once the screen is filled with shooting plants and dying dead people. It’s a minor quibble, spotted only if you’re really looking for it.

At 2.99 it’s one of the pricier game apps in the iTunes store, which adds a little weight as to whether or not an app is truly worth the purchase. Even at that price, with 50 levels, it still feels as though PopCaps could charge more and easily get away with it. If you’ve played the Mac and PC versions, you know what to expect. If you haven’t, it’s the same thing as the free demo minus the mini games which, hopefully, will be added in future updates. It’s one of the highest rated apps for purchase and three of the best dollars you’ll ever spend.

Maybe the next update will have a setting inside of a shopping mall….

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