How many versions of PopCap Games’ loveable tower defense puzzler Plants vs. Zombies does a household really need on different gaming platforms? It’s a question raised yet again by the arrival of Sony’s newest handheld. But even if you’ve already waged leafy war against hordes of goofy, road cone-topped zombies from start-to-finish in multiple formats like we have, you may find yourself enticed into just one more download. With its ultra crisp presentation and a few subtle but welcome updates that make good use of the new control options, the Vita showcases Plants vs. Zombies at its finest.
The franchise’s core formula remains unchanged on the Vita, though that’s a good thing. You'll have to defend your sunny suburban home--and the delicious brains contained within--from being trashed by rampaging zombies by plunking down a medley of adorable flowers and other smiling plant life across your backyard battlefield grid. Meanwhile, waves of shambling attackers slowly march their way towards you each round, and keeping them at bay requires a mix of careful planning and quick thinking.
Your effervescent floral menagerie spews bullets, launches veggie bombs, and even scarves down nearby zombies in a lighthearted showdown to the death, but you have limited resources to work with in each stage. To generate the solar power needed to purchase your small army of green troops, you plant sunflowers and harvest their energy when it pops-up on the screen. The Vita’s touch screen and gyroscopic sensors make this task much more enjoyable than in the past. Instead of poking individual suns and coins to collect them, you can swipe the screen with your finger or simply tilt the handheld in a quick motion to nab everything all at once. It works perfectly and feels natural without detracting from the fast-paced action. Placing your plant defenses using the touch controls is equally fluid, though we also appreciate the option to use the directional pad and buttons to play too.
A constantly evolving range of both zombie foes and fun friendly units for fending them helps to drives Plants vs. Zombies’ blissful warfare. As more unusual enemies – like zombie pole vaulters, dolphin riding zombies, and zombie bobsled teams – are thrown into the mix, you unlock wilder and weirder defenses to use on them. Nuke-like doom shrooms, carnivorous plants, and cabbage launchers that fling produce are among the 49 plants at your disposal. PopCap’s creative wackiness really shines throughout Plants vs. Zombies’ design, and every minute detail looks gorgeously vivid on the Vita’s bright screen.
Like with most of the previous editions, expect to find lots of unlockable diversions and extra play modes beyond the main campaign to noodle with. Mini-games, the Zen garden, puzzle challenges, and survival mode make a return, bolstering potent fun. Leaderboard integration and the option to create your own custom zombie avatar that carries the flag into battle are nice touches, even if they’re not substantive upgrades. Excellent control options aside, a lack of major platform-specific extras doesn’t hold Plants vs. Zombies on Vita back from being one of the best versions yet.