Plants Vs. Zombies – Xbox Live Arcade Review

If you’ve ever read any of my reviews before, you’ll know that I’m a huge Plants Vs. Zombies fan. PopCap’s tongue in cheek lawn defence is easily one of the most addictive games of the last few years, providing entertainment for all ages and proving that imagination really is the strongest weapon of a game developer. Most importantly, PvZ has successfully risen to fame, spreading from PC to console to mobile, meaning literally no one is safe from the horde.

So, the scene is set; zombies want to eat your brain and frankly, you aren’t happy about it. What’s more annoying is that they intend to make their way to your house VIA THE LAWN. If there’s anything worse than zombies wanting your brain, it’s zombies trashing your garden while trying to eat your brain. So you, as some sort of horticultural Ash Williams go on a one man crusade to save your lawn (and meatiness) from the zombies. Zombies make their way across the lawn via four paths, each defended by a lawnmower. If a zombie reaches the house the lawnmower will take down any enemies on that path, but will then leave that path open for a zombie to go into your house, which basically means game over.

Lawnmowers are really a last minute defence though; by gathering sunlight, you earn points that are then used to purchase defensive plants to fend off the enemy throughout each level. The early levels of the campaign only show off a few of the plants available, and more open up as the game goes on.  If you’ve played the game before, the campaign is essentially exactly the same, so it moves pretty slowly if you’re used to how things work. That being said, for new players the game flows perfectly and it gives you chance to get used to everything before the chaos of latter levels takes place.

The array of plants available is what is really impressive about Plants Vs. Zombies. They’re all entirely useful, from early entries such as sunflowers which give you an extra boost to your income, to pea shooters that provide a basic attack that hurts enemies, you’ll find yourself using them all late into the game. Plants abilities vary differently, with most providing offensive and defensive traits. Offensive plants come in all shapes and sizes, with some firing from a distance and some bringing a more instant death to the enemy, while defensive plants such as the Wall-nut slow the enemy down by providing a useful blockade. Completing a level often unlocks you a new plant, but some can be purchased and upgraded later in the game to help out in the later and definitely more punishing levels. There are over forty plants in game, so if I was to tell you about all of them it would take up the entirety of this review, but they’re all fun to use and get to grips with, and after a while you’ll develop favourites that you’ll use time and time again.

As the main campaign progresses, so does the terrain, with the environment opening up new challenges that effectively alter the main game. Some levels incorporate a swimming pool, and the latter part of the game sees you take the fight to the rooftops, but the main change is the use of night battles. The lack of natural sunlight means you’ll have to focus on creating more units that can create sunlight for you to use and the inclusion of night-time specific plants such as nocturnal mushrooms. It’s a sign of Plants Vs. Zombies offering something fresh, and it ultimately stops the gameplay from becoming repetitive and stale.

The overall design of the game compliments the ideas behind it, and you’ll notice that through and through as new zombies and plants take form. It’s childish, silly and downright ridiculous, but that is what Plants Vs. Zombies is all about. Zombies come in all shapes and sizes, from pole vaulting zombies to zombies reading the paper who get pretty annoyed when you disturb them. While each one’s characteristics effect the gameplay, and their perks often vary how you need to combat them, the simple fact they’re heaps of fun to watch and ultimately take out adds to the game’s overall charm and appeal. Frankly, Plants Vs. Zombies is one of the few games that benefits from being very tongue in cheek.

The great thing about the console port, is the inclusion of multiplayer options that were, until now, none existent. Co-op lets you and a friend have a go at defending a variety of maps and plays very similar to single player. The main difference is that you both control a different set of plants, meaning you have to rely heavily on the other player to place the correct plants at the correct time. You don’t share a pool of sunlight, but rather have to collect it separately, meaning you have to be careful on who has what and who needs sunlight the most. While it’s still fun to play with a friend, competitive play puts a whole new spin on the game and gives you or a friend a chance to play from the point of view of the undead. The only downside to multiplayer is that it’s local only, and you won’t be able to play online over Xbox Live.

When you’ve seen through the single player campaign and had a go at multiplayer, you’ve still got loads more to keep you occupied. The real beauty with Plants Vs. Zombies are the almost endless opportunities that the developers have given you, and this shines through when you turn your head to the puzzle and mini-game sections.  Some of these mini-games crop up in the campaign mode, offering a welcome break from the constant lawn-defending, but you’ll find many more unlock as the game goes on. Mini-games include ZomBotany, where enemies have the heads of plants and therefore act like the plant that they have the head of, Whack a Zombie, where you use a hammer to take outenemies, and Walnut bowling, where you shoot Walnuts to take out incoming zombies. There’s loads of mini-games to hand, and you’ll find yourself revisiting one or two more than others.

There’s simply a lot to talk about with Plants Vs. Zombies, and that’s one of the great things about this game. It’s constantly offering something fresh and new, mostly silly but totally absorbing. The game is nigh on limitless, and you’ll find yourself whittling away hours on silly, none-important mini-games that are satisfying to waste time on regardless of not benefiting the overall outcome of the game.

There’s no doubting that Plants Vs. Zombies on the Xbox 360 is a fantastic port of what is already a blinder of a game. There really is something for everyone here; new players will experience a seriously addictive and charming tower defence game, whilst experienced gardeners can relive a classic from a different perspective. With great character and level design, addictive gameplay and heaps of options that will keep you going for a long time after the campaign is over, Plants Vs. Zombies is worth picking up if you’ve never played it, or you want to relive it all over again.

Score: 9/10 – Excellent

REVIEW CODE: Here at Brash Games we have a strict Review Code policy, Paul Ryan owner / editor is the only member of staff at Brash Games permitted to obtain review code and distribute it within the Brash Games review team. No other person is permitted to request review code and or send review links or contact the publishers in any way whatsoever. Should you wish to send us review code please email paulryan-at-brashgames.co.uk.

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