Plants vs Zombies: The Greatest Game Ever?
The greatest game ever in history?
Combining two topics that everyone loves, Plants vs Zombies allows ambitious game players the opportunity to determine who will rule the front yard. Dedicated plants work together to project their turf against advancing hordes of mindless slavering zombies. It's all fun and games, until someone can't produce their quota of ethanol corn.
Should you play this game? Probably. Certainly worse games exist, and probably some better games, but this particular online free game offers unique challenges that cannot be found in Chess or Scrabble or Twister.
Is the game scary? Cartoon violence dominates. You can't kill a few zombies without a little animated gore. It's probably OK for kids who watch The Simpsons or The Nancy Grace.
What's the Premise?
Every game must have a premise. The classic game Battleship, for example, abstracts the horror of naval warfare and reduces the concomitant death and destruction to plastic toys and orthogonal coordinates.
Plants vs Zombies lets you kill zombies. That's about it. To be precise, you are charged with raising plants that actually perform Zombie genocide.
The premise might not be earth-shaking or even mildly interesting, but it's something to do while waiting for Apple to release a new iPhone. The only good zombie is a dead zombie.
How do you get the game?
The game comes to you in a free download. Many online games can be played without downloading anything: visiting the web site is sufficient. These games usually execute in program called "Flash", which is mostly secure and hardly ever causes problems for your computer.
In the interest of wasting time and killing computer cycles, we downloaded the free version of the game. We attempted to install it on a Virtual Machine running Windows XP Service Pack 3. Installation proceeded with no noticeable problems. We clicked through the 2,833 words of the License Agreement: nobody actually reads those, do they? We may now be the proud owners of a flock of penguins or a subprime mortgage bond.
A download, on the other hand, is inherently risky. No evidence exists relative to virus or spyware problems reported by Plants vs Zombies players, but any program downloaded from the Internet and executed on a local computer does pose some risk. We suspect that this program does not intend to subvert your computer beyond the typical time-wasting distraction associated with most online games.
Any program downloaded from the 'Net and executed on a local computer assumes the permission level of the currently logged-in user. In other words, if you're logged in with administrator permissions, your cyberspace-sourced program will be capable of doing absolutely anything to your system.
The first window to appear introduced us to a "Big Fish Game Manager." This program insisted on learning our email address before continuing on to the Zombie killing. We don't recall asking for a Game Manager or anything else fish-related, but we still want to defeat the Zombies, so we'll click on anything at this point.
How's it Played?
The free version includes 60 minutes of game time. After that, we assume that the program disables itself while unfettered Zombies take over the North 40. A modicum of guilt is built into this game.
The game opens with a barren landscape, ostensibly a garden. To the left of the garden is your house. Across the dirt a cadre of zombies have assembled. Your job is to plant plants, which will battle the advancing undead. You're awarded one plant to get started, but additional plants must be earned by clicking on sunshine as it falls across the screen. Sufficient sunshine yields more plants.
These plants are seriously Genetically Modified Organisms. Monsanto and ADM scientists stay up late dreaming about these kinds of plants. Each green giant shoots murderous organic projectiles at advancing zombies. You, as the farmer, have no control over their aim or rate of fire. Your only job is to catch sunshine and plant seeds. Super aggressive plants do the rest.
Supplemental Zombie Resources
Subsequent levels offer additional cerebral challenges. Level 2 introduces Sunflowers, which do not actually exterminate Zombies, but produce more sunshine, which can be collected to 'purchase' more killer plants. Game players quickly learn that precious sunflowers cannot be left unprotected in the yard: they must be hidden behind the more aggressive flora.
The free version of the game does not include twists and turns available in the retail version. Perhaps the Zombies get lawn mowers and weed whackers.
Is it better than Angry Birds?
Yes, it's better. Angry Birds is old and tired. Aggressive avian anti-heroes hurling their progeny toward tasty pre-bacon no longer holds any interest. It's time for a new free online game to sweep through cyberspace. Plants vs Zombies just might be the greatest game in the world.