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All we want to do is eat your brains.
Let's say you're having a bad day. Zombies shamble towards your house, hoping to eat your brains. Your only defense comes from backyard flora. Think Little Shop of Horror's Audrey II; your garden actively shoots peas, tosses cabbage, and otherwise confronts the undead. This off-kilter premise shines in the iPhone adaptation of an excellent Mac and PC strategy game.
But like an omnivore at a fancy vegetarian restaurant, we wanted just a little something more. Touch-screen controls beat the original, but too many of the quick-play mini-games are omitted, while most of the game is directly copied otherwise. That cornucopia of snack-sized modes would have perfected this mobile game. Don't get us wrong; Plants vs. Zombies is great. It's just a little short of its potential.
The strategy within Plants vs. Zombies gradually sprouts and flourishes. Zombies stumble across the screen, staying in their rows. They'll eat their way through obstacles, but the plants fight back.
In one of the few mini-games, you'll smash jars to release either helpful plants or angry zombies.
You'll have to pick the best vegetation to combat an ever-changing roster of zombies; cactus plants shoot needles that pop zombies floating on balloons, or a tall nut will stop pole-vaulting zombies from launching over. Progressive levels introduce more than two dozen different zombie types, with most taking a special strategy to defeat.
While the game basics are right there in the title, Plants vs. Zombies kept twisting the rules just before we got bored. After starting in sunlight, you'll play at night with mushroom defenders. Swimming-pool levels introduce aquatic zombies and plants, and fog blocks your vision in some areas. You'll even battle on the roof, where you have to first set down pots before adding plants. The game's core stays familiar and fun, but variety ripens the specific situations.
Plants vs. Zombies shows off its care and craft far beyond a typical iPhone release. We laughed at certain zombie types and interstitial dialogue with the crazy neighbor. Audio cues tie back into the game; each action triggers a sound specific enough that you can tell what's happening without even watching. Because of this attention, we can overlook some of busiest action slowing down on an iPhone 3G.
Raze the roof. Zombies are attacking.
Natural-feeling touchscreen controls elevate much of Plants vs. Zombies above the computer original. Tapping welcomes beginners more than a mouse, while advanced gamers can use multiple fingers to quickly pick up on-screen items, select and lay plants, and otherwise manage the game.
But aside from the touch controls, Plants vs. Zombies partly misses its short-attention-span iPhone audience. The computer original included many quick-play mini-games that creatively remixed the premise. After you complete all of the iPhone levels, you can play basic versions of a few mini-games. But our favorites--playing as the zombies or trying to solve levels as untimed puzzles--are omitted on the iPhone. Those bite-sized extras could have been the centerpiece of this portable game.
While Plants vs. Zombies never perfectly blooms, its simple strategy, variety, and humor expertly blossom on the iPhone.