Thanks to addictive action and strategy of this iPhone game, whenever the zombie hordes come after this writer's brains, we'll be whipping out seed packets to defend ourselves and our loved ones.
The core action of Plants vs. Zombies is quite simple and not radically different to the PC version of the game. Your lawn is divided into a grid and each square can hold one plant. Zombies shamble up the rows of the grid toward your house and if they get past your defences, well, you know.
Never has anything involving zombies been so damned cute.
On the left-hand side of the screen there are a number of slots that house the various plants at your disposal. Setting a plant down in a square costs sunlight, a resource that falls intermittently from the sky, but can also be grown, somehow, by sunflowers. Your basic attack units shoot peas down the row that they are planted in, so you'll need one in each row before too long.
As you progress through the levels the zombies come in larger and larger waves, and there are naturally ever more sophisticated zombies, including ones that can pole vault, snorkel and drive icing machines. Helpfully the game gives you a new plant or skill each level to help you protect your grey matter.
Along the way you'll meet your neighbour Crazy Dave, a character who's happy to admit that the only reason he paid $1000 for a taco is because he's craaaaaazzzy, and who'll sell various plant upgrades and items to help to stem the tide of zombies.
Partway through you'll be given an almanac detailing the strength and weakness of each plant and zombie. Not only is it informative, but it's a hilarious read in its own right. This is the almanac entry for the cherry bomb plant:
"I wanna explode," says Cherry #1. "No, let's detonate instead!" says his brother, Cherry #2. After intense consultation they agree to explondonate.
Addiction and faults
From beginning to end there are around 40 levels, including a number of bonus rounds like wall-nut bowling. This doesn't seem like particularly much, but the game's good for at least a solid day's play from beginning to end. If you're like us you'll be hooked after the first 10 minutes and the subsequent hours will pass by in a food-free, waterless blur — so much so this reviewer nearly skipped a housewarming party for more Plants vs. Zombies action.
There's a few minor issues that prevent this little app from scoring a perfect 10. The most annoying is that whenever someone calls you — not an unlikely scenario if you're using an iPhone! — the game won't save your in-level progress, even though it will happily do this to the nanosecond when you drop back to the main menu or press the iPhone's home button.
There are five stages: front yard, night time, backyard with pool, the backyard at night (pictured) and roof-top.
Once you've completed the game once you can play any level again or replay the story mode, albeit with slightly more difficult versions of the original levels. Obsessive compulsives will attempt to attain the game's 13 achievements. While there's no multiplayer mode, Plants vs. Zombies can save the progress of up to five players.
Our only other gripe is that the game is a little too simple, especially towards the end. Once we discovered a basic winning strategy, we only had to do a basic amount of tweaking to accommodate new zombies, obstacles and plants.
For an AU$4 game Plants vs. Zombies is an absolute bargain — even more so when you realise that the PC version is AU$25 and doesn't offer much more in terms of gameplay. It's addictive, fun and cute, and just one phone call away from perfection.