In the good old 'zombies equals gold' scenario, we see many games come and go that simply use brain munchers as a plot device. PopCap Games does pretty much the same thing in their colorful tower defense game Plants Vs Zombies, but does manage to squeeze in much needed variety throughout its whole.
As the yards of the quirky neighborhood get terrorized by the cartoonish assailants, the power of the sun must put a stop to this attack, by laying down rows of plants. By usage of sun as currency, plants can be bought that provide more sun, spit seeds, explode or provide an always alternative mode of stopping zombies. By putting these in lanes, a strategy must be planned to create an impenetrable barrier from the undead.
In turn, these corpses also provide a wide selection of evil, but always in style. From the regularly fashionably clothed zombie, hard-hitting quarterback, aquatic dolphin zombie to the huge brutes wielding masts and menacing Zomboni ice pavers; each require their own tactic. In general, it's astounding the amount of variety that is available in Plants Vs Zombie, as each level will introduce something new and exciting and even these stages will offer some variation. The common tower defense will be altered through weather, day cycles, switched for bowling or a plant frenzy and even include an epic boss fight in the end.
The usual levels will be paced through waves of zombies advancing with periodic huge waves of many enemies. As comical foes approach plants, they'll munch down and eat anything in their reach, until they step onto the patio of doom. Luckily, a lawnmower provides a do-over and will mow down an entire lane once it hits home. It's a bit lenient, but it never spoils any of the fun.
To prevent the undead to come in and eat some brain matter, players will need to collect sun and put down plants, which all have their own reload time before more become available. This prevents a spam of some weapons and requires more planning on the defense portion. Additionally, each plant has its own strength and weakness, as some plants can only be placed in water or sleep during the day. Planning will also take on an additional level, once roof stages provide slopes in terrain and pots are required before planting. And to amplify this even more, these slanted environments will also be plagued with bungee zombies striking from above and snatchin' yo people, err, pots and plants up, because these zombies are eating everything up in here. That didn't make a lot of sense, but it's zombies fighting aggressive plant life; it doesn't need to make sense!
Although the 50 level campaign already provides a decent amount of gameplay, the main Adventure mode is only the beginning! By progressing and unlocking new things in this mode, the world of Plants Vs Zombies becomes exponentially larger, not only with plants and zombies, but also with shops, additional modes, upgrades and so much more. In an amazing move, PopCap has taken the basic game most will see and then provided players with a set of dozens of variations on the theme; creating several new games in one. A Puzzle mode offers some additional levels in which players need to crack the code to complete goals. But the star of the show is the Mini-games option, where a dozen new ways to play become available, with even a hint at Portal or PopCap's other hit Bejeweled. Once that's all done, there's still a Zen Garden to maintain, upgrades to strengthen plants and a load more content spread out to prolong the longevity of this addictive monster of a game.
The only real downside from the portable version is that the upper screen from the DS isn't really used for anything else than a timer, which is a bummer. Also, the screen is very tightly cropped, which can lead to some minor confusion here and there as hoards approach. But to counterbalance this, the DS version does provide instinctual stylus use and offers multiplayer for both Multi and Single-card use, which is always a classy move. More games need to adopt single-card multiplayer!
As far as casual games go, PopCap has mastered the craft and set a bar so high, they're games can hardly be thrown in with a lot of casual games with a pejorative denotation. Plants Vs Zombies is a powerhouse of a game, with charming scenery, fun gameplay and a load of variety. Even if some modes are less enjoyable than others, the selection available is bound to find something for everyone. And let's face it; no one can ever get enough of an educated zombie in boxers clamoring "Brains!"