Jun 1, 2011
NOTE: Plants vs. Zombies is not yet available on the Android Market; it is exclusive to the Amazon Appstore as of publication. Click here to download the game.
Took them long enough. PopCap has finally brought their much-beloved take on tower defense, Plants vs. Zombies, to Android. The player must defend a house from oncoming zombies, by using nature’s finest plant defenses to repel the mindless hordes from trying to consume the brains of those unfortunate saps in the house. What really makes Plants vs. Zombies different is its lane element – instead of enemies traveling down a winding path, they travel through a lane on screen to the house; if a zombie reaches the end of a lane, a mower is started that kills all the enemies in the lane, but if they reach again, it’s game over. The player has sunflowers to collect sunlight, the resource used to buy other units, pea shooters of various types, potato mines, explosive jalapeÃ±os, mushrooms that only come out at night, zombie-eating venus fly traps, and even more. There are countless units in the game that get introduced, and success is based on choosing the proper units for a level, as each stage introduces new elements to account for, like darkness, water, and rooftop levels where specific catapult plants must be used on certain spaces.
This sounds very complex, and not very casual-friendly, as is PopCap’s usual MO. However, the thing that makes Plants vs. Zombies work is the way that the game gradually introduces elements in a way that never makes it feeling overwhelming. It introduces one or two new elements at a time, such as a new enemy or new defense unit, but continuously does this throughout the game. What this means is that the game is constantly expanding and providing something new. It takes a long time before the realization that there is a fair amount of complexity to the game. It just has that PopCap secret sauce that just make it so addictive, to compel players to pick it up and keep going at it until they absolutely must stop. Even I found myself suckered back into the game on Android, not too long after my first long-term experience with it on iOS, using it to pass time on long train rides. PopCap are just masters at making games that are fun to play, and are accessible to all audiences, even for atypical gamers. Give a non-gamer Plants vs. Zombies and they’ll still likely have fun with it. The Android port is faithful and identical to the iOS version of the game, and it even appears to run at a smoother frame rate than the iOS version on my iPod touch 4G. This doesn’t necessarily make a difference in gameplay, it just makes the animations look much smoother.
The one nagging issue with the Android port is that the visuals are stretched out for wider phones, like the Galaxy S’ 800×480 screen. This is a shame, because the game doesn’t deserve to unnecessarily lose crispness this way. While the game’s consistent introduction of new elements, it rarely ever takes any time to feel comfortable; there is always something new coming, and that is the tradeoff PopCap made with the game to keep players engaged, and to make the game feel perpetually fresh.
However, as far as tower defense games go, this one is quite different and extremely addictive, thanks to that PopCap touch. Brilliantly designed, with a charming concept and aesthetic, Plants vs. Zombies is instantly one of Android’s best games. Just fix the stretching, PopCap!
Plants vs. Zombies Review Rundown
App available on the Google Play Store »