The Walking Dead has it all wrong -- zombies aren't just interested in human flesh, they also have an appetite for plants and sunflowers, and pretty much anything you put in their path. So we were taught when Electronics Arts published the highly addictive Plants Vs. Zombies game two years ago this month. If you happened to miss out on the fun, now's your chance to give it a go -- Plants Vs. Zombies is available for free on PC and Mac until May 28, 2014.
Ok, we have a confession to make. We beat the whole thing – twice – in the process of writing this article. Sadly (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), the in-browser PvZ is only a small hit of the virtual narcotic. With three gameplay modes, 14 levels, and 12 plant types, it’s a tantalizing taste of wild vegetable-on-undead action, but certainly not a full game’s worth.
So it’s great for lunch breaks and other perfectly innocent on-the-job uses, right?
What? You’re going to play when you should be working? No! What are you thinking? Work time is sacred.
Plants vs. Zombies takes the familiar desktop tower-defense formula—defensive towers line a path and shoot at endless waves of mindless automatons—and turns it on its side... in your backyard. In typical tower-defense games, you manage one path (and one set of baddies at a time). In Plants vs. Zombies, you have to manage five or six lanes and you have to plant your botanical towers in the same lanes the undead baddies walk.
The game starts simply; you have a few lanes to manage and one or two types of zombies. The number of lanes you have to manage and the number of plants you have at your disposal increases quickly, although the difficulty ramps up slowly over the first several hours of play. You’ll eventually unlock about 50 different plants, each with a different function. Some will form the backbone of your sun economy (sun is the currency you exchange for each plant you place), some are purely offensive, some are purely defensive, and some fill various support roles.
To keep you in check, new zombies are continually introduced. Each different zombie type has new (frequently hilarious) powers, ranging from simple helmets and screen-door shields that let the undead absorb more damage, to Pogo-Stick and bungee zombies that can leap over your defense. Each type of zombie has multiple plant counters; for example, the balloon zombie, who floats happily over your defenses, can be countered by balloon-popping cacti as well as by the Blover, which generates a mighty wind that blows away flying zombies.