Friday, April 02, 2010

Braaaaiiiiins!

Between the rest of my life and my work for Bytten, I rarely buy computer games. I receive review copies of games on average every fortnight and work on a computer all day at my office job, so understandably I don't really have much time for my own pursuits.

So it's a rare game that manages to slip into my life and extract cash from me at the same time. Even in this case, I took advantage of my Paypal account (useful tip, developers - many people have Paypal and any money in that account is often not considered "real" money, so offer Paypal as a payment method... it'll boost sales!).

This is "Plants vs Zombies", a tower defence style game available from Popcap. It was my partner that first located it, buying it for a new iPhone, and I was hooked. It's fun, it's easy to get into, the difficulty curve is pitched perfectly, it is FULL of little features, bonus games and so on, and it's utterly insane. So I bought it for the desktop machine.

The premise is simple enough. Zombies are attacking your house (no, we don't know why). The only thing between them and your delicious brains is your garden, in which you plant a variety of defensive flora to fend off the attack. These vary from the pea-shooter (a basic gun emplacement of sorts) and the cherry bomb (one-shot explosive, good for large numbers of zombies) to cabbage-pults, wall-nuts, mushrooms, potato mines, garlic... there are about fifty! Zombies too vary - from the garden-variety (ahem...) to tougher zombies in football gear, pole-vaulters, snorkel zombies in the swimming pool, dancing zombies, zombies with balloons, insane exploding zombies, zombies on bungee cords... and the terrifying Zomboss!

As you unlock more features in the main adventure mode, you'll gain access to puzzles - smashing vases which contain plants or zombies, or taking command of the zombies and getting past an army of plantlife - and a range of bizarre minigames, including a Bejeweled homage, a Zombiequarium and many more besides. You also have access to a Zen Garden, where you can grow your own plants from seedlings and gain coins for keeping them fed, watered and happy.

This is what I'd consider a good example of a gold star game. The attention to detail is astonishing, the range of features is incredible and even when you've completed the main game there is plenty more for you to do. Why stop at a simple match-three puzzler? You don't need ray-traced graphics and tons of content generation to produce a top game; all you need is plenty of imagination and a new take on an existing genre.

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