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I'd heard a lot about Plants Vs. Zombies prior to purchasing it, but couldn't quite understand what made the game so special. But with just how much publicity the game has received, I couldn't resist picking it up when the GOTY (Game Of The Year) version went on sale on Steam. After 30 hours of gameplay now put into it, I can say I am very happy with my purchase. I've put more time into this simple little game, which is now available for £4.99, then I've put into many full price retail games.
Gameplay in Plants Vs. Zombies is very tower defense-ish, but it's also very involved to keep you interested and in the action. The tower defense genre of gaming has become very overdone as of late, but Plants Vs. Zombies has mixed things up by continually doing things like dropping sun (which is used to purchase plants, your towers) and coins (used to purchase things like more plants and other unlockables from Crazy Dave's shop.) In addition, you're also going to need to keep watch on what kinds of zombies are approaching, for different plants will work better at defeating different zombies. There are also different maps which bring in a whole new variety of strategies you'll need to employ. This includes your front yard, your back yard (which happens to have a pool, which means you'll need special water plants), and your roof (you'll need special plants to compensate for the angle.) In addition, each of these maps has two versions, a day time and a night time, and each one is as different as, well, night and day. At night you'll be using mushroom plants which would normally be sleeping at night. All of these changes ensure that one strategy will not work for any two levels, which means every time that you play it's going to be something different. Furthermore, every so many levels of Adventure mode they like to mix things up with a different game mode such as Zombie bowling or Vasebreaker. Even after you've beaten all of Adventure mode, the game challenges you to go back and beat it again while handicapped- as Crazy Dave will be picking out half of your plant arsenal, and his choices are not always the best to equip you for the level, so you'll have to compensate and work around that as well.
In addition to Adventure mode, there are also 20 Mini Games for you to enjoy. These mini games really allow for all kinds of crazy spin offs of the traditional Plants Vs. Zombies gameplay that you will be used to after 50 levels of Adventure mode. These game modes mix things up by bringing back memories of other popular video games. For example, one mini game, called "Portal Combat" will bring back happy memories of Valve's first-person puzzle game, while other mini games like "Beghouled" and "Beghouled Twist" references developer PopCap's success with the Bejeweled series. Beating all 20 Mini Games will get you an achievement, but the fun appeal should be more than enough to get you through each and every one of them.
Puzzle mode is essentially a bunch of levels leading up to two big challenges: Vasebreaker Endless and Zombie Endless. Vasebreaker is a nerve-wracking game mode in which you break a variety of bases all across your lawn. The vase could contain a zombie that will immediately start making its way towards your house, or it could be a plant to help you out. What makes the game interesting though is when you do let a zombie out of a vase by accident, because the only way to stop is to make more vases, and there is no guarantee that you'll be letting out fellow plants, it could be more zombies...
Zombie mode allows you to turn the tables and play as the zombies. You select what kind of zombie to send in what lane at what towers. You'd think this would be simple but it turns out that playing as the zombies may be even more difficult to play as then the plants! Zombie Endless is the last challenge of this game mode, in which your sun (used to purchase zombies rather than plants) carries over from level to level. Things can get really challenging, and after 30 hours of gameplay I still have not reached the streak of 10 needed to complete the achievement challenge for this game mode, and it isn't for lack of trying.
If you have a certain preference towards a particular map, or you just want to play Plants Vs. Zombies and see how many rounds of the onslaught you can last through, then this is for you. You'll need to pass a certain amount of flags (each time a huge wave of zombies approaches you it counts as a flag) to unlock Survival Endless, which means going back and employing some serious strategy on each of the maps, both day time and night time.
There are lots of things that will get you to keep coming back and playing Plants Vs. Zombies. The initial game play sessions that challenge you to beat adventure mode will suck up a good 15-20 hours of playtime. Even after that though, there is the challenge of beating the game again with Crazy Dave handicapping you, something I am still in the process of still doing. The mini games and puzzle challenges will also take you some time.
In addition, with the game of the year edition, there are 20 unlockable achievements (21 if you buy it on Steam, though the extra Steam one is not really a challenge so much as a little Easter egg.) The achievements will truly be a challenge, as I still have only unlocked 16/21 (76%) after 30+ hours of gameplay. They will require skills at the game itself, as well as a bit of in-game money, as well as a bit of a luck with some of the puzzles (or at least I think...). My only gripe with these achievements are ones like the Tree of Wisdom one, which require you to basically just buy a bunch of growth food from Crazy Dave's shop. This is just a bunch of grinding money from different game modes and your Zen Garden, and I found it to be rather un-creative in comparison to the rest of the game.
Regardless, I think I've made my point in that this game has plenty of lasting appeal. I've certainly put much more time into it than I have full retail games like Duke Nukem Forever. And right now for £4.99 it's hardly taking a financial risk, and with thousands and thousands of players already enjoying it, why can't you just be another one of them?