While tower defence games have seemingly been done to death, there's still room for innovation in the genre. Like the kind that PopCap Games' Plants vs Zombies provides.
Plants vs Zombies is to tower defence what Nintendo's Advance Wars is to turn-based strategy: a game stripped of everything but the raw tactical essentials, then pumped so full of charm and neat little touches that hours, days, even weeks of your life may just be lost to it.
Simple Works Best – Plants vs Zombies appears simple, even simpler than many other tower defence games. You lay plants out across a small grid to stop the advancing zombies. Who, generally, only come at you from the one direction. But the map's basic layout belies the game's deeper complexity, with the number of enemies you face and ridiculous number of plants at your disposal making every level a deeply strategic affair.
Play It Again, Zombie – The game has a "campaign", where you move around the outside of your house battling the undead. While playing, you think it's the main event, but really, it's just a tutorial for the game's other modes: mini-games, puzzle and survival, which include things like a Horde mode, games where you play as the zombies and even a Harvest Moon-style garden, where you water your plants and...play music for them.
Oozes Charm, Not Brains – Most tower defence games are, to be kind, bland. Cheap visuals, dud designs, a legacy of their Flash game heritage. But PvZ is gorgeous, each zombie full of character, each plant a wildly unique botanical weapon. And I advise everyone to stick around for the pop song conclusion to the game.
Sure, at first glance, Plants vs Zombies looks like just another [name your favourite tower defence game]. But PvZ's beauty lies in the fact that it is just another tower defence game: the perfect tower defence game, balancing boundless strategy and frantic mouse-clicking better than any other title in the genre, while keeping a smile on your face the whole time through.
Plants vs Zombies was developed and published by PopCap Games, for the PC & Mac. Retails for $20. Played Adventure, Mini-Game, Puzzle and Survival mode to completion (barring "endless" levels).
Confused by our reviews? Read our review FAQ.