Plants Vs. Zombies iPhone Micro-Review: Touch The Dead

PopCap Games' unlikely match up between the walking dead and the powerful flora that keeps your brains and well-kept lawn intact is more than just an attention-grabbing title. Plants Vs. Zombies is simply an excellent "tower defense" game.

And now it's on the iPhone. Trading towers and cannons for stalks and stems, Plants Vs. Zombies gives the player a substantial arsenal of deadly plants, funghi, seeds and roots to sow upon their yards, protecting the inhabitants of a residential home from a similarly wide variety of shuffling, brains hungry zombies. It does so with familiar tower defense mechanics and barely-there resource management; and it does it with highly polished charm.

Despite one major shortcoming, Plants Vs. Zombies transition to the iPhone is simply outstanding.

Loved
The Best Porch Defense $2.99 Can Buy: Plants Vs. Zombies offers an incredible amount of value for its price, with an extended Adventure mode, quick play and a selection of challenging Achievements that will make some levels worth revisiting. PvZ packs in an incredible number of units on both sides of the undead-vegetation war, layering that with gorgeous animation, catchy tunes and a damn fine sense of humor. If you're going to buy one tower defense genre game for your iPhone or iPod Touch, zombies included or not, this is the biggest bang for your buck.

Tutorials Disguised As Mini-games: When many of the game's levels throw a new zombie type (there are 26 total), a new plant type (49 of 'em) or some a new twist on the playfield (some levels occur at night, some feature a backyard pool, some are drenched in fog), the game's infrequent mini-game modes that shun resource management and feed randomized plants help players experiment with new units, new gameplay tactics and they help switch up the action. There are still a handful of units I felt reliant upon, like the sun-emitting Sunflowers and floating Lily Pads for pool levels, but it was during these mini-games that I understood the value of the defensive Tall-nuts and scorching Jalapenos.

Hated
Too Many Peas For 3G: The iPhone port of Plants Vs. Zombies features some horrendous slowdown, at least on the 3G model iPhone that I played it on. That's particularly troublesome when you unlock the triple shot Peashooter plant (aka the Threepeater) and the zombie hordes start to get thick. On my iPhone 3G, the game reaches near unplayable status, although the touchscreen controls perform admirably under pressure. I can't speak to its performance on a later model iPhone or iPod Touch, but the game becomes an ugly slideshow near the end of many rounds. The initial load time also kind of sucks, largely because I want to play Plants Vs. Zombies now.

Despite it's technical issues, purely framerate related, as the game is easy to control and registers touchscreen taps perfectly, Plants Vs. Zombies should really be installed on every iPhone and iPod Touch. The game's style of tower defense, which may appear to be simple at first but shows its complexity soon enough, is highly addictive. Just like the original, which we also loved, the iPhone port of Plants Vs. Zombies features glorious tower defense gameplay with some of PopCap's most enjoyable presentation to date.

Plants Vs. Zombies was developed and published by PopCap Games for the iPhone on February 15. Retails for $2.99 USD. A copy of the game was given to us by the publisher for reviewing purposes. Played through adventure mode, found some Chinese zombies.

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