Plants vs Zombies

Even before taking the Plants vs Zombies cartridge out of the box I knew there was going to be a criticism to make. Mastertronic have set £24.99 as the recommended price, which seems awfully steep for a game which was originally designed to be a small and inexpensive PC download. Even a boxed copy of the PC version on CD-ROM will only set you back a mere fiver. I guess we should just be thankful we’re able to have this little rant – PopCap’s Peggle Dual Shot on DS wasn’t ever released in Europe.

This is PopCap’s take on the tower defence genre – which is especially well suited to mobile gaming platforms – only instead of building gun turrets and whatnot to fend off enemies you have to strategically place plants, weeds and mushrooms to stop a zombie horde who have decided to scuff their feet all over your lawn. If the zombies make it to your front door (or later back door, via your swimming pool) then your brains proverbially get spilled all over the patio.

The zombies come in different flavours; pole-vaulters are a pain because they can jump over your arsenal. Zombies with buckets and traffic cones take more hits to take down than the regular dead folk, and then there’s the aquatic zombies to take into account, one of which attempts to attack while riding a dolphin.

In order to construct plants you need sunlight gained from either planting sunflowers or catching it as it falls from the sky. There’s a short period to wait – which varies between plants – before you can root another of the same kind to the ground. Every plant takes a different amount of sunlight to create which lends a tactical element – sometimes it’s better to save sunlight and buy, say, the three way pea shooting plant rather than just the regular one.

Following the golden rule of good game design, Plants vs Zombies regularly gives you new items to experiment with. A couple of hours in a shop also opens up where you can buy items to assist, while some levels put a twist on things. During one level you can only kill zombies by tapping the screen to hit them with a hammer; in another you have to shout “Hey!” into the microphone to stop your plants from wilting.

The humble DS copes with the carnage admirably. The amount of zombies on screen at once can be quite impressive and although there’s a slight dip in frame rate when things get hectic it’s not to a horrific extent. There are a few extra modes too, including mini-games and survival, and much like the Xbox 360 version there are achievements to unlock which are quite challenging to get.

PopCap are one of the few companies around that have the ability to make games that please both hardcore and casual gamers. This has to be one of their best efforts yet and it’s a very fine version of a very fine game. You’d be brain dead to miss it.

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