The Vita's launch line-up is a dizzying array of familiar faces from some of this industry's most popular game franchises. In a matter of days we saw Uncharted, Marvel vs. Capcom, wipEout, Rayman, Ninja Gaiden and plenty more known properties. But the biggest name doesn't come on a $40 game card. The game with the biggest cachet is none other than a port of a two year old iPhone release. Clear the lawn and lock the doors, because here comes Plants vs. Zombies for the PS Vita.
Despite finding its way to a number of platforms over the last 24 months, I have largely missed Pop Cap's top selling phenomenon. I've been charmed by the adorable art direction and simple mechanics, but for whatever reason the whole tower defense genre has passed me by. There's a deep and engrossing game in Plants vs. Zombies, something that took two years for me to discover.
In case you're like me and late to the scene, Plants vs. Zombies is a simple game where you use plants to fend off the house from a zombie invasion. It turns out that plants have special abilities that can take down the walking dead. Your job is to use the various foliage like a small army set on killing any zombies that dare to cross the yard. The lawn is separated into a 9 by 5 grid, allowing you to place up to 45 offensive and defensive plants.
Of course, it's not as easy as it sounds. By planting sunflowers, players will be able to earn sun pellets. This is your currency, so it is important to earn sun so that you can afford bigger and better armaments. Some plants will mimic guns, shooting at oncoming zombies. Other plants wait for an enemy to get close to strike. There are also boulders you can add to the board to slow the walkers down, as well as bombs you can toss if things get hairy.
You start the game with only a few plants, but plant cards are given out as you play through the single-player storyline. There are some truly inspired plants, both from a visual and gameplay point of view. The Chomper is a large zombie-eating plant that looks like it came directly out of Little Shop of Horrors. The Hypno-Shroom will confuse a zombie and make him fight his own kind. A Squash sits in wait for just the right time, then he leaps forward and squashes his enemies. What else would he do? And don't forget about the Jalapeno pepper, throw him into the mix and he'll set fire to a whole column of zombies.
In a perfect world you could take all of these cards into battle. Sadly, this is a zombie-filled nightmare world and not a perfect world. As it is, you only get to bring a handful of plants with you, which means that you'll have to make some tough choices. Thankfully the game gives you a heads-up about what type of zombies you'll face.
And just like a real zombie attack, you'll always need to think fast when an unexpected obstacle stands in your way. Players will be forced to put up yard pools, fog and rough terrain that can't be used in combat. The game will also throw a lot of types of zombies at these poor houses. You get the speedy football zombie, the pole vaulting zombie, the zombie with a bucket on his head, the snorkeling zombie, the disco dancing zombie and even a crazy jack-in-the-box zombie. And don't even get me started on the walkers that drive vehicles. With so many different types, you'll need to be on your toes if you expect to make it through this onslaught alive.
It turns out that Pop Cap's simple tower defense game is a fantastic showpiece for the Vita's large touch screen. The five inch OLED screen is larger than most cell phones and music players, making it easier to read text and move plants around. The touch controls are flawless, allowing players to quickly place items and pick up pieces of the sun. The high definition hand drawn visuals also shine. It may not be as ambitious as Uncharted: Golden Abyss, but Plants vs. Zombies has never looked better than it does on the Vita.
On top of the lengthy campaign, this game features a number of mini-games and challenges. The most exciting mode involves players making their own zombies in the ZOMBATAR! Other modes include a puzzle mode and survival mode, both of which are unlocked as you play through the storyline. Leaderboards are also available, just in case you wanted to compare your scores with your friends and the world. Add in trophies and you have a good value for the $15.
Plants vs. Zombies may not be the most exciting launch game, but it's the type of game that you'll come back to long after you've completed Nathan Drake's adventure and collected everything in Rayman. The game's quick levels make it a perfect choice when you only have a few minutes to play and the evolving campaign keeps things interesting for anybody that sees it to the end. As shocked as I am to say it, Plants vs. Zombies is a must-buy for early Vita adopters.