As much as I identify as a hardcore gamer, I admit I’m highly guilty of engaging in casual gaming. Can you really blame me? There are days that I’m so tired from school and work that I just want (and some days need) a game that is completely lighthearted and provides instant rewards. As such, I go online for flash games. So how does this explain why I have enjoyed Plants vs Zombies so much? The answer is simple: It provides a lot of fun while having a higher degree of challenge that is rarely seen in the casual genre.
The premise behind Plants vs Zombies is simple: Out of all the houses on the block, the zombies chose your house. Well, it could be your house as the game never really specifies who the hero of the game is. Anyway, the zombies didn’t think that the natural world of plants would come to your aid — or that somehow you got genetically engineered plants to kill them all (take whichever sounds cooler to you).
Thus, you’re thrown into a tower defense game. You must protect the house at all costs. Plant your allies, which range from simple sunflowers and pea shooters to coconuts and cacti to mist-shooting mushrooms to keep the zombies at bay. So how can you do this? By using sunlight, an uber-important resource that falls from the sky during the day while sunflowers and sunshrooms generate them the rest of the time, you’ll be able to plant them.
Each plant requires a different amount of sunlight in order to be planted and have different response rates. Pea shooters constantly fire a single pea, a piranha plant can gobble a single enemy yet takes some time to digest the zombie and jalapenos who burn all zombies on a line. You’ll use each and every single one of them in your quest, and you’ll probably have your favorites as you adapt to each level. (I like the potatoes the best as they act like mines.)
The thing is, tower defense games are exceedingly popular and every free online game website has at least one awesome tower defense game. Unlike the generic clones that can easily be found, Plants vs Zombies has a sense of humor (albeit a bit B-styled. I mean, where else can you find a ’70s disco zombie dancing his way across the screen?) and creativity. Every few levels, the game throws something new into the mix whether it is a zombie or a plant or some sort of minigame like whack-a-zombie. This keeps the learning curve scaling and interesting from start to finish.
Graphically, Plants vs Zombies looks like a high-end Saturday morning cartoon. There’s no blood and guts here or anything too spooky (other than fog), so no need to worry about supervising your 6-year-old while the child plays. In fact, the game has a cute sense of horror: bouncy sunflowers that never stop smiling, exploding cherry bombs, zombies looking all charred before disintegrating into dust and the simple eeriness of fog. It has its own charm that cannot be denied.
The same also can be said of the music as well. In fact, it was the music that helped inspire my all those months ago to truly give a game a go. And I’m referring to listening to the official soundtrack that I picked up as part of a bundle all those months ago. These are tunes that are fun and perfectly fit the campy nature of the game while still being able to stand on their own two feet. There’s the ever popular spooky piano and strings for choosing seeds. In fact, the piano is a common instrument (natural and synthetic) as it switches between melody and harmony. In fact, it’s an another instrument Laura Shigihara uses well to mix with strings, horns, and xylophones to create moods between cheery and downright creepy. Plus, the track “Watery Graves” (played during the pool levels) is essentially the same tune for the uber-catchy “Zombies On Your Lawn” video.
This all makes Plants vs Zombies a force to truly be reckoned with. It has cute graphics, keeps the traditional tower defense genre tropes while shaking it up, sounds great regardless of the season on the calendar and, believe it or not, actually has some challenging moments. The demo does not do the game justice as the first few levels make it seem quite easy and a quick “casual game” cash in. While the “casual” part might emphasize the pick-up and play nature, the game is anything but “casual.” It’s no wonder that players and reviewers who give Plants vs Zombies an honest try ultimately enjoy their time with it.