Plants Vs. Zombies™

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The basic back yard playing field, where an orange capped zombie (harder to kill than a bare headed zombie!) has emerged from the shrubbery, is advancing on the house and is being pummeled with peas shot by cheerful pea plants. The gardener moves a cursor (yellow triangle) between a selection of plants and tools, the garden, and a pursuit of the sun power that must be collected as the plants harness it. In this photo the player is just planting a flaming torchwood in front of a pea shooter, to make airborne peas more deadly 

A game to bridge gardening generation gap

Your kids or grandkids won't take an interest in the garden, and that's getting you down? Here's a way to share your passion and open a different gate to the garden.


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Our daughter inherited both gardening talent and a maternal disability -- she's unable to make hand-brain connection through a game box joy stick. Yet X Box and Wii are major pastimes in her social groups. She's of that clan, but sympathetic to us outsiders. Recently she told us, "I found the game for you, Mom. Plants vs. Zombies™."

We've seen it, tried it, enjoyed it, and "the kids" liked it well enough to buy a copy. We like the cleverness, and that we can have fun even just watching it played. That's us, on the sidelines: "Oh, look! The squash can flatten a zombie as it approaches but also as it goes past." "Quick, plant more thorn plants - they're making the Zamboni Zombie's tires explode!"

Basic play, like gardening 101

The premise is simple. You, the gardener, defend your home against zombies of various kinds. Your weapons are plants and garden tools, the first earned by collecting solar power and requiring varying amounts of time to grow into their zombie fighting ability. The latter come with your turf or as purchases from a peddler, Dave, who shows up now and then to give you reason to spend the bounty money you win by killing certain troublesome zombies.

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Above, left: The player selects plants to use in a round, such as the basic pea shooter plant (a; less deadly but also less costly of solar power than blue pea plants or multi-shot pea plants), the sun-harnessing sunflower (b) whose output makes all other planting possible, a walnut (c) so tough to crack it slows a hungry zombie, a squash with an attitude (d) and zombie-stomping ability, a chili so hot (e) that it can ignite a whole line of zombies, and the torchwood (f). (Larger, please)

Above, right: An escalation of the zombie attack, where (A) zombies come in packs, (B) the gardener has turned first-level defensive peas into flame balls with the right plant combination, (C) a zombie in an inflatable swimming toy eats a plant that failed to knock it out in time, a wet-suited zombie breaches the last line of defense (oh, why did we waste the mower power earlier?!), and the garden is littered with fallen foes. (Larger, please)


So: The hedge in your back yard rustles - zombies are entering! You must plant sunflowers to harness solar energy, collect those suns and convert that energy into plants with defensive abilities: A walnut that slows a zombie's advance because it takes so long to be eaten. A potato that explodes like a land mine. A squash that enjoys flattening invaders. Aquatic plants that entangle and drown swimming zombies. Pea shooter plants. Chile peppers so potent that every zombie in their row ignites and is destroyed.

Thinking required!

The player must deploy plants and tools wisely, too. You protect energy production units with defensive plants. Place plants that must grow into zombie-killing ability so they will not be eaten before maturity. Remember to set lily pads in the pool to support plants otherwise unable to grow there. Use your zombie bounty to replace mowers and pool cleaners. And so on!

Difficulty increases as a player moves through the game. There is a pool in the back yard, so aquatic zombies join the invasion and the gardener must change plants and techniques. Nighttime attacks involve defensive mushrooms, and installing lights to counteract fog. Zombies come in bigger groups, more frequently. The gardener's plant catalog grows, complicating the choices at the beginning of each round.

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Above, right: In nighttime levels, fog confuses things, the gardener obtains energy to keep planting  by swooping a cursor past solar power (a) collected by growing mushrooms . Some of the fungi shoot zombie-knocking spores, others such as this psychedelic 'shroom (b) are not aggressive but when eaten, turn zombies against their own kind. The gardener contends with real garden woes, such as the inability to plant in craters -- this one (c) formed when a potato mine exploded. (Larger, please.)

Above, left: Earn enough zombie-killing bounty money and a garden tool and supply peddler shows up with new gadgets for your zombie defenses.

X Box, I-Pad, computer versions

There is Plants Vs. Zombies™ for the X Box, the I-Pad and plain ole computer (Windows and Mac). Why not get the game and let your kids or grandkids give it a try? They won't need your help, but they will enjoy the challenge, the diversity, the comedy in the zombie attackers, and they'll appreciate your laughs and companionship.

Yes, we think you will laugh. Cheerlead, too. What gardener wouldn't get into non-stop horticultural puns and fun as cherry bombs explode -- they're slow to mature but quite lethal when ripe -- and fast-growing pea plants snap into action to shoot peas at approaching zombies? We'll bet you will relate to fancy tools that work just once and expensive plants that prove their worth in the pinch.

We think you'll also see the value in tiny lessons sown by the game designer, who makes the player harness the sun, wait before planting where exploding vegetables left a crater, but grants the right to transplant what was misplaced -- in exchange for precious time.

We can imagine using this game to enhance our real garden time with kids. Doubtless, six year old Dee will like the game. So when we're next outdoors with her, we'll tell her about our burning bush. Between the three of us we should be able to dream up awesome powers for it, two or three levels beyond the game's "torchwood."

Thanks, PopCap games!


Plants Vs. Zombies™
from, available at stores and on line
Link to free trial download or to purchase