Plants vs. Zombies is a game I've been eyeing for a while. It regularly tempted me at $10 Steam with even cheaper sale prices. This summer's sale finally put me over the edge. Every so often you need some good tower defense action, and PvZ seemed like a unique yet highly praised take on the genre. Its cartoonish, Popcap/flash feel and simple five-lane setup makes things perfect for beginners. And it has enjoyed massive success over a huge variety of platforms. Originating on PC, PvZ has since expanded to every modern platform imaginable, both traditional and mobile. Popcap is undeniably a casual gaming powerhouse. The Bejeweled and Feeding Frenzy creators certainly know how to make products and pricing that clicks with the average consumer. They've been so successful that EA recently purchased the company for ~$750 million.
For the most part, PvZ exemplifies this success. It creates a casual-friendly atmosphere with calculated progressive learning combined with enough longevity and a tad of optional difficulty to round out the complete package. The game starts slowly, at first holding your hand with only a couple plant options (towers) available to defend your house from a weak zombie horde on a completely barren level. With only five lanes to defend, beginners will learn quickly what it takes to operate. In case they make mistakes, the game includes a get-out-of-jail-free card, in the form of zombie-clearing machines that activate and clear the lane should a zombie make it past the plants. For a while, the game introduces a new plant on almost every level, encouraging the player to try them out and discover what they're worth. Soon enough, juggling several plant types on more obnoxious levels will be a requirement.
Few games on the iOS platform get me excited. There's just such a surplus of bad that even when you hear about Super Popular Game X, you wonder if the masses are just falling for more of the same. When Plants vs. Zombies was announced early this year as a port of the PC/Mac release, I didn't think twice about picking it up. The $3 price tag didn't even make me think twice.
I had watched my brother in law play the full version on his Mac last year, and was intrigued by its porch defense gameplay. I had never even played a tower defense game before Plants vs. Zombies. A genre virgin so to speak. It was easy to see without even playing it why the game was so popular. The zombies would walk slowly from right to left and it's your job to fend them off with some bizarre garden variety plants.
This review will just be on the iOS version (played on a second generation iPod Touch). I have no experience with any other version (though I'm secretly planning to replay it on the Nintendo DS).
New Game Plus is probably one of the coolest, most obvious, and underused features in video games today. There is no better way to get me to immediately replay your game than to give me every single item, weapon, magic, and point of experience that I finished the game with at the start of the my next playthrough. Yes, it makes everything Win Button easy, but it is so very satisfying returning to the boss the gave you so much trouble the first time and one-shotting him into oblivion. New Game Plus should be a required feature of every RPG and adventure game.
For the unaware, New Game Plus means starting the game over but loading your characters from when you last beat it. You generally retain most non-story items and weapons, and keep your existing level and stats. It's generally a nice reward for conquering a game, but as we'll see, can also be used for a variety of reasons.