PopCap Games has long been known for releasing addictive casual games, be it Bejeweled, Peggle, or the 2009 PC and Mac release of their most recent game, Plants vs. Zombies. In an effort to reach a wider audience, an iPhone/iPod Touch version of Plants vs. Zombies has been released on the iTunes App Store.
Plants vs. Zombies is essentially a twist on the long standing (and overpopulated) “tower defense” genre. The gameplay consists of collecting resources (drops of sunlight that fall from the sky or are spawned by sunflowers) in order to grow plants on your lawn, the plants then serve as means of defending your home from an encroaching zombie horde. Throughout the many levels you add several new plants to your arsenal, which in turn add to the level of strategy you can employ when fending off the zombies.
The game’s mechanics switch from time to time, thus preventing it from getting stale. A good example of this is the transitions from day to night levels as you progress. The night levels introduce the element of graves scattered about the lawn, where more zombies can pop out and help the horde overwhelm your forces. The night levels also create a situation where drops of sunlight don’t fall from the sky, so you are forced to rely on sunflowers and other sunlight generating plants in order to build more units. As you progress you’ll also come across times when a chunk of your yard has a pool, introducing water-based zombies, and fog. All of which force you to rethink your strategy for the new scenario.
Much of the game remains unchanged from its original PC/Mac release, save for some touch controls in lieu of a mouse input. The game controls are simple and effective: tap the seed packet on the left hand side of the screen to select the plant you want to use, then tap the empty plot of grass in which you want to plant it.
As far as presentation goes, the game employs a very stylized, cartoony look. The plants and zombies all animate well: the zombies stumble and stagger in a manner consistent with the games visual style.
Overall, Plants vs. Zombies serves as a breath of fresh air to what is (especially on the iTunes App Store) a severely overcrowded genre. It serves as an excellent distraction, which is exactly what a mobile game should be, and is full featured enough to be considered a steal at its $2.99 price point.