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Plants vs. Zombies (Xbox 360) artwork

Plants vs. Zombies (Xbox 360) review

"The cob cannon is a thing of beauty."

The cob cannon is a thing of beauty. It takes up two spaces on your lawn, which is double anything else in your plant repertoire, costs an expensive 700 sun to build once it’s all said and done, and launches kernel-coated cobs of mass destruction upon brainless zombie hordes with the simple tap of a button. The cob cannon should be the front line of defense for any serious homeowner. When the dude from those Under Armour commercials enthusiastically chants “WE MUST PROTECT THIS HOUSE,” he has the cob cannon in mind for how he plans to do it. For when the chips are down and the zombies so clearly alluded to in the title of Plants vs. Zombies come barreling across the screen as thick as thieves, you’ll be thanking your lucky stars you had the foresight to plant no fewer than half a dozen of these WMDs with the intent of stopping the throngs of undead doofuses salivating at the prospect of chomping down on your sugar-coated brains.

Plants vs. Zombies asset

Wait a second, if the cob cannon is so great, why aren’t there any in the defense formation above?

I took this screen capture from my iPhone because I had originally intended to review that version of the game. Clearly there is not a single plant-like structure resembling corn to be seen – be it on the cob or not. Playing Plants vs. Zombies’ brutal endless mode on any other platform seems to be an exercise in futility without the all-powerful cob cannon. But using cob canons in the iOS version of endless mode is simply one of several ways to achieve near limitless success. My strategy above just so happens to be a method that otherwise would lead to an early demise in any of the other versions’ endless mode.

You have the blueprints in front of you for building an A+ lawn defense for the iOS Plants vs. Zombies endless mode, but chances are you’re not playing that version. Chances are you’re playing the Xbox Live, PSN, or Steam versions (all three are virtually identical, with the only noticeable difference between the three being that in the Steam version you’ll have to click the mouse to pick things up or uproot improperly placed plants), and you’ll need all the help you can get by way of spamming the hell out of your cob canons. If you look at the image below, you’ll see a different kind of lawn defense, one that employs cob cannons and other things. Is it a better build than what I offered above?

Plants vs. Zombies asset

In a word: nope.

The beautiful thing about Plants vs. Zombies on any format in which it resides is that it always maintains an element of randomness. The zombie build-up is consistent, but the manner in which it plays out can differ from one session to another. This is most noticeable during endless mode. During the course of the regular game, not so much. But we all know that playing through the regular campaign is a frivolity compared to what lies in wait after that. Endless mode is some pretty sweet action. The balance in power, at least for the non-iOS versions of the game, resides in plant upgrades scaling in cost as more are built. The cob canon upgrade alone is 500 sun for the first purchase (not counting 200 additional sun for the two corn catapults used as the base). Build a second one and you have to shell out 50 additional sun on top of the original amount for a total of 550 sun spent. Build a seventh one and suddenly you’re really breaking the bank at 850 sun just for the canon upgrade.

That’s why protecting your plants from starving omnivorous zombies is so integral in Plants vs. Zombies. You may be able to afford losing a few heavy hitters here or there, but doing so beyond the first few rounds will almost certainly spell your doom. Then it’s back to the drawing board to hopefully devise a better strategy for protecting your brains.

You’ll be tempted to try a variety of different plant combinations. Some plants sputter undead flesh-piercing peas. Others turn those pea sputters into pea streams (tee hee). And still another plant turns the peas in fireballs that dish out double damage upon contact. Do you take the route with the peas or do you grow powerful, multi-formed mushrooms capable of secreting toxic haze in every direction? Do you grow melon-flinging catapults and then upgrade them to launch freeze-inducing winter melons that slow zombie hordes down to a crawl? Maybe it’s best to go with some combination between peas, melons, and mushrooms? Or maybe you’re a renegade and you’d rather not use any of those.

Trial and error methodology is part of what makes Plants vs. Zombies so endearing. There are many plants to choose from, and each has its own personality, in spite of speaking no dialogue in the game save for a perplexing music video, offering nothing to advance the game’s simple story (protect brains to live longer), and generally doing nothing other than acting as an instrument of war in a series of epic battles waged over your house’s lawn. Does that mean every plant is useful? Absolutely not! There are more than a few plants that are all but pointless to the overall success of defeating zombies. But I won’t tell you which ones they are. You’ll just have to figure it out for yourself.

On the opposite end of the spectrum are the zombies. Their silly presentation and unorthodox attacking methods contribute to the other element that makes Plants vs. Zombies such a unique game. Zombies come riding on bobsleds, take to the pool in inner-tubes, dance to the tune of disco, wear metal buckets on their heads, and team up to form valiant though ultimately futile attacks against your lawn. The zombies in the regular campaign are spaced out to the point in each round where they’ll scarcely give you any trouble. But, as you probably have already gathered, they really amp things up in endless mode. Nothing like taking on a string of zombie cave trolls with no end in sight!

I’ve played a ton of Plants vs. Zombies, first on Steam, then on Xbox Live, and now on my iPhone. The iOS version is the weakest edition in terms of overall content, unless portability is what you’re looking for, at which point this would have to become the definitive version of the game to own. Otherwise you’re pretty much flipping a coin as to whether or not you should be playing it on Steam or a home console. By now, if you haven’t played Plants vs. Zombies, then know you’re in for one of the most popular tower defense games to have ever been released. Even if you have already played it in one form or another, its ubiquity is so timeless and alluring that you might just end up like me and own several versions of the same damn game.

Regardless of the version you go with, know that the main campaign is still the same, offering subtle yet consistent build-up from the very first stage all the way to the ultimate showdown with Dr. Zomboss and his incurable determination to eat your cerebral matter. The game’s mini-games and additional modes of play are also the same. You’ll still bowl walnuts, smash vases, engage in zombotany, and carry out a litany of additional goofy side quests and such. Similarly, the Zen Garden will always exist as a nurturing ground for building up coin by growing potted plants for wholesale to Crazy Dave and his inexplicable existence. Only endless mode and its incorporation into several of the aforementioned mini-games seems to harbor any real change from the iOS version of the game when compared to the PSN / Xbox Live / Steam renditions. Well, that and having to go through a tedious money-building process to unlock side content within the iOS version.

Otherwise you’re getting essentially the same damn game one way or another with additional consistency in knowing that the cob cannon is always king.


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Community review by Fiddlesticks (March 05, 2013)

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