Positive Video Games

Positive Video Games

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Plants Vs. Zombies

Another positive video game post, and yet another mobile game, I know, I know, I need to get to other genres/platforms. The truth of the matter is, though, that while I do still play "core" games like Halo, Mass Effect, Borderlands, etc. -- many of those games aren't that positive, and/or I haven't been playing them nearly as frequently lately as I have the mobile games. The next game I review will either be a console game or a PC game though, I  promise :)

So, that being said, let's talk about Plants Vs. Zombies -- my first mobile gaming love.  I got my first mobile device capable of running Android applications back in June of 2011. The game had hit the Amazon App Store at the end of May 2011, and it was at #1 in the downloads list, and everyone was talking about it. So, of course I had to download it and give it a try.

I have been a long player of PC strategy games, cutting my teeth on Command & Conquer (back when Westwood was running the show), Age of Empires, Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds, Dune 2000, and the like. I had heard of tower-defense games which basically reduced the standard PC Real-Time Strategy game into just defending the base against attackers. With tower-defense, there is no base building, and you get no armies to build and send against your attackers. Your only goal is to survive and repel the attackers. Very similar to those who play Real-Time Strategy games with the "turtling" strategy. And I have to admit, I am a turtling player :)

So, needless to say, I took to the tower-defense mode of strategy gaming like a fish to water. Plants Vs. Zombies actually has an interesting take on the genre. Most tower-defense games just have a stream of enemies wandering through a predetermined path across the screen, and if they reach your base they damage it, and if they damage it enough, you lose. You combat them by building towers along their path to eliminate them/slow them down/redirect them, etc.  However, in Plants Vs. Zombies, there is no "path" the attackers follow, and if even one reaches your base (your house) then you die (because they ate your brains), and you lose the level. It is like they zoomed in on the area right in front of the base in a "standard" tower-defense game, and that is where the gameplay for Plants Vs. Zombies takes place. You are just defending the door to the base, and your health is at 1.

So, with that being said, obviously the strategies employed will need to be different than in your standard tower-defense game. It's a good thing that the game knows this, and arms you well. In addition to the standard pea-shooter plants you get on the first level, you get tons of additional ones (so many, in fact, that once you find your favorites, many of them you will never use again). My basic strategy (owing to years of PC real-time strategy games) has always been to start cranking out resources as fast as possible (sunflowers on the day levels, sun-shrooms on the night levels), and using the cheapest one-shot kill plants to deal with the first 5-10 zombies. The potato mine, squash, tangle-kelp, & chompers. You can also throw explosive plants into the mix once your resources are rolling in at a steady rate. I would use wall-nuts and tall-nuts to stop an incoming attacker if I didn't have resources to combat them yet, then either deploy a one-shot, or start laying out my shooter plants. My shooter plant mix was almost always a combination of the snow-pea (to slow them down), and the repeater (to take them out). Depending on how long the level was, I would often times have them multiple columns deep. I alternated between using heavy fire-power and lighter fire-power but with walls in place.

Of course, the various level settings force you to change up your basic strategy. The pool levels in the backyard require the use of at least 1 water plant if you don't want to struggle on the level (the lily pad). I would generally use lily pads, tangle-kelps, wall/tall-nuts and pea-shooters (of various types) to keep my pool clear.

The night time levels were my least favorite, I don't like how under-powered most of the mushrooms are, and how slow the resource rates are forced to be on those levels. Yes, you CAN plant day-plants on night levels, but because of their higher costs they tend to not work very well on night levels. I tended to plant as fast as I could, alternating between the sun-shrooms, and the free puff-shrooms, that would last me through the first 5-10 zombies, after that, I would start to throw in potato mines, explosive plants, wall/tall-nuts, and either pea-shooters or the heavier mushroom shooters, depending on the length of the level.

The roof levels I liked, both because of the monkey wrench they threw into the game mechanics (the level is sloped (because it is a roof) so your straight-shooting plants will only work on your front-rank of the sloped part of the roof, or if you build out to the flat part of the roof) forcing the use of the catapult plants (at least for the first couple of rounds), and the use of the pots to plant in (because, you know, no grass on the roof).

After you clear a stage (front yard, back yard, night, etc.) you play a bonus game. These included standard levels where you don't gather sun to build any more, the plants are provided to you on a conveyor belt in a random order, and you just place them. That makes the levels fast paced, and chaotic (but fun). The bonus levels also included zombie bowling (same conveyor belt concept but just wall-nuts you roll, and explosive wall-nuts), a form of whack-the-weasel (in this case zombies), and a version of memory but instead of memorizing stuff you open a vase to a surprise of either a zombie, or a plant (in some cases nothing).

I was addicted to this game for months! My daughters were also addicted to it. They would alternate from asking to play it on my device, to downloading and playing it on their PCs, and we even got it on the XBOX 360. It is a fun and addicting game. It is very humorous and silly (the zombies aren't in the horror genre at all, they are just silly). The game is still installed on my tablet and my phone, and I will still play it from time to time. I highly recommend it.

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