For years, there have been many great questions which have gone unanswered. What's the meaning of life? What wiped out the dinsoaurs? Does God exist? And while these questions may have addled the brains of many a great philosopher, there's one question they seem to have overlooked. When faced with an onslaught of zombies, who'd win - the undead hordes, or the seemingly battle ready flowers. The answer? Well, that depends who's in charge of them
In Plants vs Zombies, the new game from the makers of Peggle, Bejewled, and many other notorious time sinks we've come to love (or hate, when we're on deadline), it's up to you to construct a line of defence, in order to defend your house from an assault by a load of ticked off undead. And seeing as you'll be building your lines of defence across your garden, what better way is there to fight off the zombie hordes, than by planting a load of flowers?
OK, so it doesn't make much sense, but it doesn't stop Plants vs Zombies being a lot of fun. It's a game that obviously knows its audience well, as Sarah regularly ended up being doubled over with laughter when we were playing. And with the zombies sending you hand written notes, warning of their advances, and a character known as Crazy Dave (for reasons that immediately become obvious) popping up to offer, er, advice, Plants vs Zombies certainly isn't lacking in character.
The whole aim of the game is to defend your house by constructing a variety of plants in your garden. Each plant has a specific, automatic ability that'll help you to beat back the zombie hordes, whether it fires a projectile, protects the other plants, explodes, or generates little floating orbs of sunshine. Each plant costs a certain amount of sunshine to create, so you'll initially need to be very careful with the placement of your plants, as you don't want to run out of sunshine too quickly, without putting plans in place to regenerate it, or you'll quickly find yourself with zombies in your living room.
When the zombies arrive, they'll walk in a straight line, down one of the handily marked sections of the garden - and while this makes it easier to build up a constant line of defence, it does make it harder to react immediately to threats. You can never tell what zombie's going to turn up on which channel, so having a solid line of defence, with no weaknesses, is the best idea here - and something, at least on the later levels, that'll take a lot of practice, and a lot of switching out of weaker plants for new, "upgraded" versions to achieve.
But just like your plants all have different abilities, the Zombies have their own types, too. The common or garden variety is backed up by a newspaper reading zombie, who becomes enraged and charges at your plants when you destroy his paper, a pole vaulting zombie, complete with tattered vest and shorts, and a zombie with a dustbin on his head, who can take a lot more damage than your regular zombie, amongst many others. If the zombies reach your plants, they'll start chomping their way through, so taking them out before they can reach the flowers is the best way forwards.
This being a PopCap game, it's all very, very easy to get into. Every time you're awarded a new plant, the next mission will usually be tailored to, at the very least, encourage you to use it, giving you a real world example of your latest plant's abilities - all of which means you're incredibly unlikely to ever get stuck because you don't know what you're meant to do. In terms of a learning curve, and easing you into the game, Plants vs Zombies is one of the best around.
Added on to what's an already impressive package is a two player co-op mode, which lets another player drop in at any time, to help out with fighting off the zombie hordes. Add to this a selection of puzzle modes, a versus mode (which is actually disappointingly unbalanced, seeing as the zombies almost always win), and a variety of other mini games, and you've got a pretty solid looking package.
In fact, our only problem here is the price. At 1200 points, or just over £10, Plants vs Zombies still feels too expensive, especially when compared to previous PopCap games. Every other game by the company, with only one exception, has been 800 points, with a similar level of content. And with the game available on the PC through Steam for £6.99, or the iPhone/iPod Touch for £1.79 (albeit this time without the co-op modes and extra features), this does seem like an extortionately high price, for a game that you can't imagine costs all that much to make.
In the end, Plants vs Zombies is a fun, easily accessible, and interesting game to play - but if we had 1200 points, we'd probably still think twice about buying it. If it ever gets discounted, you should buy it straight away, but at 1200, we don't blame you for being on the fence. The sooner Microsoft realises the prices it charges on the Xbox Live Arcade are getting a bit over the top, the better, as at 800 points, Plants vs Zombies would fly off the virtual shelves - and probably would have got an extra point here.