PopCap's Plants vs. Zombies has been released on quite a number of platforms already, so it certainly wasn't a surprise to see the game make an appearance recently on Nintendo's DS system. But what does seem a bit surprising is that only two months later the company has now chosen to release a slightly stripped down version of the game for DSiWare service after many fans already went out and purchased the DS retail release. So does this lite version of the DS release have enough punch to make it worth your Nintendo Points, or would gamers be better off ponying up the extra money for the retail release?
In Plants vs. Zombies, you take control of a huge variety of plant life in your effort to stop the impending barrage of zombies from getting into your house. Each plant has its own unique firepower or function and it's up to you to figure out which plants work better for the myriad of situations you'll find yourself stuck in. Some plants pack some serious firepower, but they tend to require a lot of sunshine, something that doesn't come easy throughout the game. In fact, planting the more docile sunflowers plays a key role in the game, as many situations will place you in a position where sunshine will be in very short supply, sometimes unavailable at all during nighttime levels.
Adventure Mode is the meat of the game and allows you to play through the game's increasingly more difficult levels. As you complete a level, you'll be given access to a new plant, generally one that will be extremely useful for the upcoming levels. You'll also be able to choose which sets of plants you take into battle with you, another strategic part of the game that will require some thought and careful planning. As you play your way through the Adventure Mode, you'll unlock not only new plants and tools, but also a host of fun mini-games.
The DSiWare version of Plants vs. Zombies loses the VS., Puzzle, and Survival modes of play, but all four of the retail DS mini-games are intact. There's even a brand new and exclusive mini-game called Zombie Trap for you to play. The mini-games are generally fairly simple in their design and feel more like a fun diversion than any type of additional gameplay mode. Home Run Derby puts you up against the zombies where you'll try to hit home runs using your stylus. Each home run awards you valuable sunshine that can be used to pick up the very plants you'll need in order to stop the zombies that are headed towards your house. There's also a rather fun Air Raid mini-game that turns the game into a horizontal shoot 'em up in which you'll match firepower with the zombies and their oversized spacecraft. While mini-games sometimes end up being rather forgettable add-ons to a game, the mini-games in Plants vs. Zombies are all quite playable and entertaining.
The touchscreen controls the game makes use of work very well in handling the intense action you'll be facing. Much of your work will be done by merely touching the plant you wish to make use of and dragging it to the spot on your lawn where you wish to plant it. It might have been nice to be able to just touch the plant you wanted to use and then tap the area you wish to position it in, but the dragging scheme works well enough once you get a handle on it. The simplicity of the game's controls make playing the game a lot of fun since you won't have to spend your time trying to learn an overly complicated control system, something you'll soon appreciate when the action heats up in later levels.
From a visual standpoint, nothing has really changed from the DS release. The game features all of the vibrantly detailed 2D visuals found in the retail release, including all of the assorted plant and zombie animations. There's plenty of striking scenery to behold, not to mention a nice level of variety between the different areas you'll battle in. Given how much sprite movement is generally taking place onscreen at the same time, there will be the occasional bout of slowdown, but all in all it's quite minor and certainly doesn't detract from the otherwise solid graphical presentation.
Much like the visuals, the audio package remains unchanged from the retail release as well. All of the eerie musical tracks return and they do a perfect job of carrying the slightly foreboding theme the game makes use of. Even the creepy sound effects and zombie dialog are intact and do nice job of complimenting the musical score. You'll definitely want to crank up the volume on this one in order to fully enjoy the game's impressive audio/visual experience.
Plants vs. Zombies is a fantastic tower defence-style game with some unique and engaging gameplay ideas and enough length to keep players coming back for more. The omission of the Vs. and Survival modes is a bit disappointing, but the sheer number of levels in adventure mode coupled with the enjoyable mini-games should make the losses a bit easier to swallow. If you already own another version of the game, you likely already have an equal or superior version, but if you've been considering trying out the game, this affordable download might be the perfect opportunity to do so.