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Review: Plants Vs. Zombies (iPhone) Sam's avatar
The root of all evil?
PopCap Games like their statistics and who can blame them when they include such figures as one copy bought every 4.3 seconds, fifty million units sold and one of the top ten best selling games of all time. The latest feather in the cap for the Seattle based developers arrived courtesy of Plants Vs. Zombies on the iPhone, which after shifting over 300,000 copies in the first nine days following its release, became the fastest ever selling product on the App Store.

Although a few weeks late to the party, these impressive statistics were persuasive enough to ensure that I downloaded the "Flower Defence" application, a tag-line that strongly suggests that the game was designed around a pun one of the developers came up with while on the toilet one morning. As a fan of PopCap's back catalogue and zombies but cynical about the iPhone as a gaming platform and indifferent to tower defence, my feelings on the application were mixed even before I launched it for the first time.

Is Plants Vs. Zombies the perfect mobile gaming brain food or does the "Flower Defence" application threaten to soil PopCap's reputation?

Awesome: The Midas Touch

Despite the iPhone version of Plants Vs. Zombies being a slimmed down port of the Steam based PC version, you would be forgiven for thinking it was designed with the mobile platform in mind. Being able to use the touch screen to position flora seems infinitely more efficient than using a mouse cursor, especially when things start to get a bit frantic in the later levels and you need to multi-task planting with collecting both coins and sun.

Boresome: The Engines Cannae Take Much More Captain!

While iPhone technology allows Plants Vs. Zombies to sport some intuitive gameplay mechanics, the mobile platform‘s hardware, at least for the 3G version, isn't always up to the demands placed upon it. The loading time for the game is significantly longer than any other application I've come across, which means that it's hardly worth booting the application for sneaky toilet sessions or brief tube journeys. There's also some very noticeable slowdown when the various gardens are completely filled with plants which despite not affecting the gameplay mechanics, degrades the experience nonetheless.

Awesome: Little And Often

Not since tramps discovered the hallucinogenic properties of urinal cakes has something as cheap, fun and addictive as Plants Vs. Zombies been available to the public. For around the same price as a venti skinny sugar-free vanilla extra-hot wet latte, you can guarantee yourself approximately eight hours of no-nonsense entertainment, so while it might not be the most complex game ever created, it's certainly up there with the best value for money applications.

Boresome: Easy Peasy

During my entire experience with the game I only failed to complete a level on the first attempt once and that was due to my plant selection being distracted by an obese woman trying to squeeze herself into the seat next to me on the tube. For some reason PopCap opted to omit survival mode, included in the Steam version of the game, from the iPhone application, which is a shame as it would have provided a much needed boost to the overall difficulty.

Awesome: Value Added Tasks

Happily, the lack of difficulty doesn't impact the game's longevity as there are a significant number of achievements to keep you playing long after the game has been completed. Some of these challenges require a combination of dedicated tactics and expensive new plants to complete, allowing Plants Vs. Zombies to be approached in a completely different manner than is necessary to succeed in the usual tower defence portion of the game.

Boresome: Cream Of The Crop

Unfortunately, outside a few of these optional achievements, I found myself shackled to the same handful of plants and leaving the rest untouched due to their inefficiency. PopCap go some way to addressing this issue after the game has been completed by forcing certain combinations of flora upon you during a second play-through. Sadly, frustration overcame steely resolve as I lamented over how much more competently I could complete the level if given the plants I had to leave behind.

Awesome: The Midas Touch - Little And Often - Value Added Tasks

Boresome: The Engines Cannae Take Much More Captain! - Easy Peasy - Cream Of The Crop

Plants Vs. Zombies has its faults, but when put in context with its extremely low cost and the limitations of the mobile platform, these imperfections seem a wholly inconsequential. Sure, it would be nice if the flora was a little more balanced and the levels posed more of a challenge, but the sheer value for money and raw entertainment that the title provides sets it above anything else I've seen available on the App Store. The statistics don't lie, PopCap Games have done it again and produced what must be the pinnacle of the tower defence genre.

Score of 5

Tags: iphone, plants-vs-zombies, popcap-games, sam