Updated: Plants vs Zombies Review

Plants vs Zombies received a huge update last week, adding new gameplay modes and an in-app purchasing system for coins. So what does the new virtual currency buy you?

PvZ now has a Zen Garden mode, a freestyle minigame where you can patiently water your plants and watch them grow. This is definitely a change from PvZ’s frantic adventure mode and minigames, which are all action based. Zen Garden doesn’t seem to add much to PvZ, except to give you a way to spend your coins, which you’d probably rather use on the new minigame packs.

The new minigames are much more exciting than the Zen Garden. In I, Zombie, you actually get to play as the zombies, earning more sunlight when you munch on those pesky plants. In Vase Breaker, you’ll uncover both plants and zombies randomly as you smash vases. Both gameplay modes give you one free level, and then you must unlock the rest for 150,000 in-game coins (or between one and two dollars in in-app purchases).

There’s also a new pack of regular minigames– Slot Machine randomly assigns you new defenses, and you can download three more (including one that is Portal-themed) for 50,000 in-game coins.

We’re not wild about locking the extra content away behind in-app purchases. You’ll have to play for hours and hours (or just pay extra) to earn enough to access much of the new content. And Zen Mode isn’t especially compelling, either.

Plants vs Zombies is still one of the App Store’s best games, and the extra content doesn’t change that fact. We just wish it wasn’t so hard to access, even after you’ve beaten the game. Unfortunately, PvZ’s new bonus content might be out of reach for most players, unless you’re willing to spend a little extra.

Today’s health-conscious undead know that a diet heavy in brains can result in high cholesterol. Therefore, it’s better for them to eat their way through a salad bar’s worth of vegetables before indulging in brains. To promote healthy eating habits for zombies, PopCap has developed a game that makes learning nutrition fun: Plants vs. Zombies.

Ok, so it’s not actually educational, but the quirky premise of Plants vs Zombies remains entertaining throughout its 4-5 hour adventure. You must defend your front yard, backyard, and rooftop from the shambling Zombiepocalypse by planting Little Shop of Horrors specimens that will shoot, explode, or consume zombies.

Zombies will march directly up to your house in rows, and you have only a certain number of spaces in which to plant your defenses. You have access to plants that generate sunlight, Sunflowers, and by capturing this sunlight with a tap you can order more plants. Also, each plant has a countdown timer, keeping you from ordering too many at once.

Feed me, Seymour!

Some of the more common defensive plants are called Peashooters, which actually shoot peas, but there are also roadblock-style Wall-nuts, greenery-tossing Cabbage-pults, and exploding Cherry Bombs, along with over forty more.

At night, you have to rely more on mushrooms, some of which don’t need sunlight, and later on you’ll require plants that can light up or blow away fog, or aquatic plants to defend your backyard pool. Each plant has its own unique animation, and they’ll bob and sway as they prepare to defend your turf. You’ll also unlock a new type of plant nearly every round, which continually opens the game up to new strategies.

The zombies are equally varied. Early undead sport traffic cones on their head as a helmet, but you’ll also fight newspaper-wielding business zombies, padded football zombies, and zombies driving zambonis and bobsleds. The game always does a good job of letting you know when a big attack is coming, and it also gives you hints ahead of time to let you select the right plants.

Night of the living veggies.

What makes Plants vs Zombies an absolute gem is the loads of personality and unique animation for each plant and zombie. It’s also very well-suited for the iPhone, with your inventory in a convenient sidebar and a glowing marker that will light up the row and column you’re about to place your plants in. You can either drag or tap to plant your defenses, and this helps prevent mistakes in the midst of battle.

With a lengthy adventure mode, plus an unlockable quickplay mode, minigames, bonus items, and achievements, Plants vs Zombies offers an excellent value for the low price. We would like to see an endless survival mode or some form of online high scores, but the current package will entertain you for a long time.

Remarkably, Plants vs Zombies starts off great and gets even better as you play. By the time you’re done with adventure mode, you’ll have unlocked most of the game and still be happy to start over, with your plants unlocked and a chance to earn even more goodies. This is a very special game, full of personality, and both thoughtful strategy gamers and zombie hunters alike will love it.

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