Sunday, October 25, 2009

This is horticulturally significant

Zombies, eh? Blimey, they're scary. Shuffling along like pensioners clogging up the aisles at Mark and Spencers, these relentless denizens of the undead are relentless and remorseless. And much like HP Customer Services, they absolutely can not be reasoned with and will not rest until you are dead.

What defence to use in the inevitable zombie uprising, eh? Machine Guns? Unreliable and wasteful of ammo. Flamethrowers? Have you any idea how long flesh takes to burn? Do you really want a big walking molotov cocktail shambling towards you? What? You do? You're an idot then. Think about what you've said, and when you're ready to join the realms of the sensible again you're allowed to carry on reading.

Pop cap games have the right idea on how to keep the zombie menace at bay - by enlisting the aid of a species we happily share the planet with, albeit a species that doesn't really owe us any favours. Perhaps it was because some bright spark invented Baby Bio, for in the forthcoming holocaust it shall be the humble plant that aids us in our time of need.

The quite literal title of this foliage versus undead simulator is Plants Versus Zombies. In its simplest terms, it's a (sort of) variation on the old tower defence game - and is one of the most fun, lovingly presented and maddeningly addictive (and stupidly cheap) games I've played in an age.

The sirens have sounded and at the first sign of panic you've holed yourself like some survivalist Alan Titchmarsh straight up in your house, leaving the door wide open for some crazy reason. All the stands between the shuffling decaying masses and your tender delicious brains is your garden - and this is where the fun starts.

From your arsenal of seeds you'll plant your offensive and defensive plants on your lawn as a variety of zombies slowly advance on your position. You'll catch sunbeams as they fall from the sky (or plant your own sunflowers to generate more solar energy) which in turn are used to activate your stalwart arboretum. Need firepower? Plant some peashooters to spit deadly peas at the horde. Need some extra defence (or are of an Irish bent)? Plant some potato mines or Wall-nuts. Each new level unlocks new seed types, until you have a total of 48 different types at your disposal - which is more variation that David Attenborough could ever cover in a six part documentary. Some generate resource, some provide short or long range firepower, some counter particular zombie types and some are just there to earn you extra cash.

The environment changes every couple of levels; at first you're defending your front lawn, but later on you'll be defending your back garden (with its swimming pool) and even your rooftop. Day becomes night, which stops sunlight appearing so you're forced to generate your own.

As well as the considerable number of levels, there are a variety of puzzle modes (the best of which lets you play as the zombies) and endless challenge modes in which you'll take on a never ending stream of the undead attempting to find the perfect combination of defence and offence. And no Charlie Dimmock either, which can only be a bonus.

If there is a criticism, the game never becomes that difficult. On the plus side however, it looks gorgeous, is low-spec to play on the weakest of laptops and absolutely oozes with character, and it's infinitely classier and entertaining than you. And it's fun. And isn't that really what it's all about? And don't you like sentences that start with an "And"?

It's available for a relatively cheap download from the Pop Cap site, and it can even be found on the budget PC shelves (if you insist on getting a lovely box) for a pathetically cheap £5.99.

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