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Plants vs Zombie on XBLA – the least great version? (review)

It’s no secret that Plants vs Zombies from Pop Cap is one of the favourite ‘go-to’ games in the RGB Filter bullpen.  Solid gameplay and great visuals, along with with a good sense of humour (and zombies) is a winning combination, and PvZ is proof of that.  When Pop Cap announced that it was shambling over to Xbox LIVE Arcade, with new game modes and a truly HD visual makeover, we had our 1200 MS Points at the ready.

Does the the game hold up in its console incarnation, or does the controller interface dampen the joy of smashing the undead?

John’s take:  I dunno how many times I’ve finished this game: on the PC, on the iPhone and on a touch-enabled computer.  I should be sick of it to be honest… but let’s get real.  It’s PLANTS vs ZOMBIES, probably the videogame equivalent of Snakes On A Plane, name wise.  So now that it’s hit the console I have to say, hands down the best looking plants vs zombies incarnation, but unfortunately it’s also the least playable.

I say this with love though, and to be frank Plants vs Zombies not as bad of a console game as I thought it would have been so hats off to Pop Cap.  Beyond the first few levels, there is little that’s intuitive about the gameplay. It works when you’re on the first few levels with limited plants, as in, not having to fuss about plants much, but once you accumulate your seed packets, it becomes a bit of a mess.  I actually laughed out loud that Survival Endless mode is an option.  The Survival mode on the PC is taxing enough, where you at least benefit from a mouse.  I’m not gonna even go there on a console.  Sorry.

So it ultimately wins because it looks great and it works, for what it is, but it’s without a doubt the least satisfying way to experience this game.

Doug’s take:  I more or less agree with John’s assessment.  Pop Cap has done a great job of delivering high def graphics for the game, and they’ve added some new game modes, for those who’ve played it elsewhere, but a game controller is a tough way to play.  To alleviate sun gathering, Pop Cap implemented a sort of ‘sun magnet’ with the triggers, so that you don’t miss out on gathering the precious resource.  Choosing seed packets using the bumpers worked fine for me, and I soon found I was developing a strategy for what order they go in.

Planting is a whole different story though.  Sure, the thumbstick for your cursor work smoothly enough, but it’s very easy to lose your place when things get really hectic, especially on daytime levels.  It’s not so bad that I didn’t play it for 4 hours straight, not noticing the time go by, but if Pop Cap can find a way to make the current cursor location more visible, I’d be much happier.

Plants vs. Zombies is a great game, and the XBLA version is a solid console adaptation, with hours of fun in it. At the same time, I have to say that despite the Xbox 360 having better graphics, the mouse scheme of the PC version is probably still a better bet.

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