There are counter-plants for each, but the more effective ones only counter one or two types. You tend to learn the hard way which zombies absolutely have to be crushed the second they show up, and which will generally succumb to raw firepower despite their special abilities. Since the mix on each level is different, PvZ never lets you settle into a comfortable build order for your garden, or preferred set of plants.
The drip-feed of new toys is what keeps the Adventure exciting, but very quietly, another side to PvZ is building in the background. Sets of levels are punctuated with silly little minigames, and mysterious options appear on the main menu. By the time you finish the Adventure, the obscene wealth of other things to do already outweighs it for entertainment value.
These minigames, challenges, shops and pet projects are all tied together by an economy: some zombies drop money when they die, all minigames give cash rewards, and your Zen Garden generates a steady stream of income. Your profit from all of these can be spent at Crazy Dave’s car boot sale. Some extremely expensive but extremely tantalising plant upgrades give a powerful impetus to play any and all modes that make you money.
A few of the extra ways to play deserve special mention: Beghouled is a pitch-perfect mash-up in which you play Bejeweled with your plants even as the zombies try to chomp through them, adding strategy to which types you choose to match. Last Stand lets you take as long as you want to design the perfect garden with an enormous budget, but leaves you helpless to watch once the zombies pour in. Our favourite is I, Zombie: a delicious reversal in which you have to choose which zombie types to purchase to strategically decimate a preset garden.
We love Bejeweled and Peggle, but we stop playing those games when we tire momentarily of their singular mechanic, or get irritated by their random elements. We stop playing Plants vs Zombies when someone makes us. It has neither of those limitations, and more substance, invention, humour and depth than either game. It’s not a hardcore strategy game, nor is it a hard strategy game, but it is a strategy game. And a strategy game by PopCap turns out to be a frighteningly compelling thing.
May 13, 2009
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