There’s a zombie on your lawn – and on your highway!
There are very few video games out there that have managed to reach such a loved and dedicated fan following as PopCap’s Plants vs. Zombies. It seems like every time I log onto Facebook these days, I see fans of the cutesy “flower defense” game posting pictures of PvZ birthday cakes, elaborate zombie setups in their backyards, or their newborn babies dressed up as little Peashooters. Plants vs. Zombies Adventures takes this fun-loving obsession on the open road in a new social setting, and if my time spent with the game is anything to go by, then we’re going to be seeing plenty more creative ways to express our love of this franchise for many miles (and brains) to come.
Plants vs. Zombies Adventures manages to retain the core essence of the original game, while adding tons of fun new twists and gameplay alterations to always keep things fresh and interesting. The new “road trip” scenario works wonderfully well, as you will leave your home to embark on dozens of flower defense stages in all sorts of varied environments, before returning back to home base to cultivate more plants and set up shops to generate coins or “Zombie Bucks.” The original Plants vs. Zombies was known for its impressive wealth of content, from dozens of mini-games and survival modes, to the addictive Zen Garden: and in that regard, PvZ Adventures does far from disappoint. You’ll be guided through your wild adventure by your wise and knowledgeable mentor, Crazy Dave, which uh, goes about as well as you would expect.
But let’s start with your first burning question: yes, PvZ Adventures features both new plants and new zombies, and they are all wonderful additions to those steadfast garden towers and beady-eyed, little brain-hungry tykes we all know and love. My personal favorite so far is the deadly “Beeshooter,” who looks like your typical Peashooter, but in black and yellow face paint, and who fires devastating homing bees at any zombie in its path. Be wary of the new “Barrel Zombie” though: because once you break his outer shell, let’s just say he gets a little frantic (and naked). The new art style might come as a surprise to some at first, but the designs are all extremely thoughtful, and they do an incredible justice to the look and feel of the original game; not to mention it gives the series an exciting breath of fresh air.
Perhaps the biggest gameplay difference in this game is that now the zombies will approach you from all four directions, so no Sunflower is ever safe! Lawnmowers are no longer luxuries, as sometimes it will take you until the end of a level to truly feel oriented towards the zombies’ winding paths that get them mowed down by those grass-trimming saviors. Placing your Walnuts has never been more strategic, and the zombies will continue to munch on every plant they pass as they slowly make their way to your camper. The new setup may seem a bit confusing at first, but it won’t be long before you’re completely eating up these new level scenarios, and the new gameplay twist is well-envisioned and perfectly executed.
I’ll admit I was actually a little worried to see how PopCap would incorporate free-to-play elements into the PvZ universe, but the developers have pulled it off flawlessly: and they even used some of the basic aspects of freemium games to add another layer of challenge to the flower defense stages. For instance, plants are no longer in abundance as long as you have the sun to keep growing them. In PvZ Adventures, you need to grow each and every one of your plant defenders yourself at your house, and use their limited numbers wisely during battles. It also presents the thrilling decision of choosing to add just one more plant into the fold, or to save it for the next level if you’re feeling confident that you can hold out for just a few zombies more. If you are underprepared in a level, it’s very tempting to add another plant you don’t have in the heat of the moment, which will cost you a hefty fee of red diamonds, the game’s premium form of currency.
In fact, the only real times you’re ever forced to wait in the game is when you’re growing more plants, or waiting for your buildings to generate more coins so you can buy new plant seeds. Another cool thing about the game is that when plants go down in battle, you can actually revive them a few seconds later for a small fee of sun. You can also use some of your sun to boost a plant’s power and range for a short amount of time. But spoiler alert: it’ll still break your heart every time you see a Walnut go down.
There were only a few minor gripes I had on my Plants vs. Zombies road trip adventure, which managed to put a slight damper on all of the quirky zombie fun. For one thing, if your game locks up or you accidentally close out of your browser window in the middle of a flower defense bout, you will lose all of your progress in the stage: and worse yet, you’ll lose all of the plants you lovingly grew and used in that stage as well! At one point, I had finished one stage and was in the middle of collecting my bonus coin rewards from my exploding plants when the game client crashed. Upon recovery, not only did the game not register my completion of this level, but it had also stripped away all of the plants I had used to complete it, which set me back a handful of hours in progress.
While the new “zombies from all directions” viewpoint is certainly neat, sometimes the top-down perspective hampered my overall visibility in the game. The first time I built a new house, for instance, I inadvertently obstructed one line of my planter boxes that are used for growing new plants on a regular basis. To fix this, I tried to move or rotate the house afterwards, but the game would only let me build it in one of two designated square areas: both of which still obstructed my boxes so I couldn’t plant any more seeds. So to bypass this, I actually had to move each and every one of my planter boxes away from the house, which proved to be a difficult task itself because sometimes only a miniscule corner of each planter was available for me to click on. The game options allow you to zoom in and zoom out, but the lack of being able to rotate the camera will be one feature that is sorely missed.
But these little things aside, Plants vs. Zombies Adventures is a completely fitting take on the traditional flower defense formula, and is sure to please PvZ fans both young and old. The game packs in so much fun and exciting new content, and takes advantage of its new social home in all the right ways. But the best part is that it always still feels like a Plants vs. Zombies game, which I think is perhaps the game’s strongest achievement. It will not only help make the wait for Plants vs. Zombies 2 just a little more bearable, but also stand on its own as a formidable and long-lasting installment in this much-loved franchise.