Plants vs Zombies – Nintendo DS Review


Game Name: Plants vs Zombies
Platform(s): Nintendo DS (Also available on iOS, PC, XBLA, and soon the PSN)
Publisher(s): PopCap
Developer(s): PopCap
Genre(s): Tower Defense
Release Date: January 18, 2011 (US) March 25, 2011 (EU)
Price: $19.99

After making a strong debut in 2009 for the PC, PopCap’s Plants vs Zombies has been one of the biggest success stories in recent years. Continuing the trend of porting this addictive tower defense title, we now have Plants vs Zombies on the Nintendo DS. While not a whole lot different from the original, this port still brings a few minor changes to utilize it’s newest platform. Does the DS version keep the same addictiveness and charm that we know and love? Here is my review for Plants vs Zombies on the Nintendo DS.

You start your crazy adventure as a homeowner simply trying to protect your home from a zombie invasion. Using a wide variety of plants as well as being assisted from your neighbor, “Crazy Dave”, it is up to you to fend off the Zombies as they approach wave by wave. The story pretty much has not changed a bit from the previous versions of the game as it is simply ported over. The good news though is that most of your favorite herbal friends and the many variations of zombies still retain the same charm so thankfully this new portable version did not fall victim to hardly any cuts other than one less seed packet and a couple of other minor (and barely noticeable) retractions.

Of course this is where Plants vs Zombies packs a punch the hardest. The main adventure mode plays almost exactly the same except with a few new add-ons that take advantage of some of the Nintendo DS’ features. I will get to those in a minute, but for the gamers out there that haven’t tried it yet, I will rundown exactly how this title plays out.

You start out in the main adventure mode in your front yard which has a grid like set-up with a set number of rows. The main plot of the game is to drop plants on your yard to perform various tasks to defend your house from zombies who slowly trot down the rows, on a mission to break past your defenses, break into your house, and then eat your brains. The whole game is about proper placement and strategy as every move is crucial to your survival.

Using a Sun system, the player must gather suns through plants (or through dropping sun icons during the day levels) so you are able to place more plants on the field in order to properly protect your house. Each plant is also on a timer as well so you must wait for a recharge in your seed packet before planting another ally on the field. The strategy to all of this madness comes in with the zombies themselves though. As you move through out the game, you unlock many new plants which spit or throw projectiles, gather sun, blow up, slow down, and even block out zombies for a short period of time. While you unlock these charming new members of your army though, the Zombies also get better equipped with powers enabling them to counter many of these attacks so it soon becomes a matter of quickly assembling an army of plants in the appropriate spots and hammering the horde as it approaches until there is no zombies standing. All of this is handled using the Nintendo DS’ touchscreen as now you simply just drag and drop each plant on to the battlefield. This method is played out perfectly as the touchscreen was always 100% accurate and made placement a breeze.

As you move on in the adventure, the gameplay also changes in a few different ways. After so many levels, it soon grows night over your area, which means most of the solar powered plants can no longer be active. Mushrooms and nocturnal plants quickly take the stage with a similar defensive strategy though, but these require less sun (or no sun at all) but pack a little less of a punch to the ongoing horde providing the need for a new strategy from the player. With other areas including a backyard which brings in some aquatic madness with a pool, rooftops that require flower pots for placement, and the continuing rotation of day and night, everything soon comes together as the game grows in challenge and intensity.

As I mentioned, you unlock a new plant after nearly every level in the adventure mode, but you also have a store ran by Crazy Dave who supplies you with upgrades on your journey which can be purchased with the coins found on the field during battles. Each of these are all useful so another challenge in itself is saving up and purchasing the right items needed for whatever zombie danger that may be ahead.

From time to time in adventure mode, different mini-games will come into play which change up the gameplay with some unique ways to destroy the zombies. From bowling, blasting, and other zombified versions of some familiar titles, these are all fun to try. One of the most unique in this area is an exclusive mini-game that lets you cheer on overheated plants, powering them up to better fight the zombies by the name of “Heat Wave”. Even after you complete the main adventure mode, you can access any of these for later play through the main menu. The incredibly addictive Survival and Puzzle modes are also back adding tons of re-playability and local wireless single & multi-card multiplayer are also great additions where a friend can instantly take the other side and join the zombies in their quest for brains. This version stands strong with the other Plants vs Zombies’ titles with the same addictive formula players should expect and with the minor additions is now even more accessible for those wanting a better portable option.

While the sprites in this DS port may be a bit smaller, the details in the artwork are still very visable and look great on the system. I really thought with all of the constant animation that is on the screen, Plants vs Zombies might have suffered a frame-rate death on the system but very little slowdown took place even in some of the busiest scenes. With all of the battles taking place on the bottom screen, the top screen was used to show off enlarged and charming animated zombies approaching as well as various other animations which all looked very polished as well.

The audio certainly did not take any hits either as the same memorable tunes are all played throughout the game and sounds crisp and clear. Sound effects did seem a bit lighter in tone but like the frame-rate, this really was not too noticeable and had no effect on the game altogether. The whole presentation as a whole though was surprisingly well made and really showed that this “port” was just as enjoyable as the other offerings already available.

While not a whole lot has changed, Plants vs Zombies still has the same addictive gameplay that fans of the series love, just in a bit of a lighter form. The way the DS is utilized throughout the game makes everything flow smoothly, allowing the player to concentrate on the frantic gameplay instead of any unnecessary gimmicks like some ports bring when they come to the system. While the new mini-games are not too advanced, they definitely deserve to be tried on this version as well. With a nice budget price-tag as well as a beautiful presentation, there is now no reason not to tote the zombie madness with you everywhere you go.

I Give Plants vs Zombies:

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