Plants vs. Zombies Test: The Walking Dead Against the Immobile Living

05/17/2014 04:00 am by Marcel Wuttig in TestsTower DefenseCartoon

Plants vs. Zombies

Plants vs. Zombies

The apocalypse is upon us. The living dead have taken over the world and are constantly looking for delicious brains to eat. You have sought shelter in your house, desperately trying to hide from the horde of zombies right outside your property. Hiding was not enough, however, as you come to realize as soon as the first walking dead climb over your garden fence. Now, it is up to you to efficiently defend your house using … plants!

There is no way to deny that the mobile game Plants vs. Zombies features a very unique and wacky take on the zombie apocalypse trope - a theme that has been a regular staple in horror movies, television series, and video games for more than half a century. The folks over at PopCap have reinterpreted this trope by allowing players to fight the walking dead in a tower defense game with innocuous flowers and fungi. The idea itself sounds quite absurd, and we here at have to admit that we somewhat ignored the mobile app largely due to its confusing title for way too long. In an ambitious attempt to catch up on mobile games that have managed to entertain millions of players, we decided to take a closer look at Plants vs. Zombies to find out if it is simply a silly waste of time or an innovative gaming gem.

Plant Defense

We mentioned above that Plants vs. Zombies is a tower defense game (or should we say plant defense game?). Its gameplay can be described as a simple, yet entertaining take on the genre. You will find yourself on a battlefield that is divided into 5-6 horizontal lanes. The title features several game modes, each of which includes a certain variation of the core gameplay.

This is your first battlefield - the "regular" backyard.

The core gameplay can be found in the Adventure Mode. In these levels, you will find your house on the very left side and the fence that separates you from the zombies on the right. You have several plants at your disposal, which you will strategically position to protect your property against the slowly approaching zombies. In order to sow plants, you need to collect sunlight, as each species costs a certain amount of light in order to grow. Sunflowers have the ability to periodically produce sunlight. In daylight levels, these sun icons will also fall from the sky (check out how to easily succeed in the tower defense game).
You only start out with a hand full of different species, but it won't take long for your collection to grow. After each level, you are rewarded with small prizes, most of which are new plants that will help you defend yourself against new types of zombies. We found it quite easy and very intuitive to start the game. Only a few minutes into the title, we felt like we had gotten a good understanding of what it took to defend our garden. Very early into the game, we also came up with a pretty safe strategy to make it through pretty much every level in the Adventure Mode.

While that gave us a certain sense of accomplishment, it also proved to us that this mode is quite simple overall. Not once did we fail to win a level. Even if a zombie happens to make it through your army of plants (which has happened to us a few times), you have one last weapon before your lose a level. Each horizontal lane is guarded by a lawnmower which will dash across your garden once and run over every zombie in its path when one of these creatures happens to make it past your defense. Usually, we didn’t even have to rely on our lawnmowers to succeed a level.

That changed, however, when we came to the final boss. Not only were there no more lawnmowers anymore to rely on, but it was just overall much more difficult to succeed against him. We found it quite surprising that there would be such a imbalance within the difficulty of the game.
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