Popcap’s most successful game, Plants Vs. Zombies, has now arrived on the Nintendo DS, after having been released on PC, iOS, Xbox Live Arcade, and Mac OS. How does it compare with the previous editions? Well in some ways, not so well in others.
For those few of you who still don’t know what Plants Vs. Zombies is, it’s a modified tower defense game in which you thwart a zombie invasion on your suburban lawn with plants, which can be “bought” with sunshine. Some plants like sunflowers generate sunshine, while others fire projectiles that damage zombies. Other plants devour, blow up, and freeze zombies, while others can cause them to attack other zombies. The zombies come in just as many varied forms. Some have road cones on their heads to protect them, while others are tied to balloons to float over the plants. Some are armed with pick axes to burrow under the ground, while others ride zombie dolphins. The goal is to prevent them from entering your house and eating your brain. Successful protection results in cash being sent your way.
During all this, Crazy Dave – who is craaaAAAAaaazy - will sell you plant and tool upgrades, while you can send your other plants to Zen gardens to earn even more money to buy more stuff. Aside from the main game, there are tons of minigames that often riff off of other Popcap games, like “Beghouled” which is Plants Vs. Zombies, Bejeweled-style.
So how well is the game implemented on the Nintendo DS?
Well, it seems clear that Popcap was presented with a choice on how to stuff the game onto a DS cart – content or graphic fidelity – and they wisely went with content. All of the stuff you have with the PC Game of the Year edition is here, including the Zombatar feature in which you can create your own customized Zombie. Not only are all of the minigames present, but Popcap actually managed to fit in four new exclusive DS minigames. Air Raid is a zombie-themed side scrolling shooter. Home Run Derby has the player having to hit home runs to earn sun to fend of zombies. Heat Wave actually utilizes the DS microphone, in which you have to coax your tired plants into cheering up using the mic. Bomb All Together gives the player a limited amount of explosive plants to deal with zombies.
As for gameplay, Plants Vs. Zombies is the rare DS game that uses only the touch screen and stylus. All aspects of the game are controlled as such. One of the unexpected delights is that it also features ad hoc multiplayer for some good old versus head-to-head action, which one player controlling the plants and the others the zombies.
The graphics, however, do suffer. The downgrade is comparable to seeing the Atari 2600 try to handle an NES game. The characters seem to have four frames of animation, while being highly pixellated. However, the gameplay and massive number of minigames as well as multiplayer makes it an easy price to pay. There’s too much game here to not be pleased with the final result, and Plants Vs. Zombies is the perfect DS game for having some quick gameplay sessions.
Plants Vs. Zombies is a welcome addition to the Nintendo DS library, and anyone who hasn’t tried this addictive gem yet – or have and want it on the go as well, should pick this game up.