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Plants vs. Zombies

Line up your lawnmowers and batten down the hatches, for the zombies are on the march once again. After spreading its infection across a handful of other platforms, Plants vs. Zombies makes what is likely its final stand on Nintendo DS. Does this endearing tower-defense adventure rise from the grave intact on the dual screen?

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Considering the nature of the DS’ touch screen, one might wonder why it took so long for the game to come home to this particular system. Whatever the reason, Plants vs. Zombies (PvZ) on Nintendo’s handheld may just be the definitive version. The controls feel fluid and natural, and though the fidelity takes an obvious hit, the miniaturized gameplay translates particularly well to gaming on the go. PvZ on DS packs in a few DS-centric extras that add increased value to a game already overflowing with things to do, and if you haven’t yet experienced this latest zombie craze, now’s your chance to see what all the undead stirring is about.

For the uninitiated, PvZ is an action/strategy game based on tower-defense gameplay. You’re tasked with defending your home against wave upon wave of zombies. Your arsenal is comprised of a quirky selection of garden life, everything from snow peas that shoot frozen projectiles in order to slow down the zombie procession, to jalapenos, which will burn away an entire lane of undead. Each plant has its use and value, and the game balance is darn-near perfect, allowing players to build up a blockade that suits their particular tastes. Additionally, the zombie horde comes in a massive variety of flavors that will keep you on your toes right up until the credits roll.

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Setting plants on your lawn, roof or pool is as simple as dragging a plant with your stylus and pulling away from the touch screen to drop it. Admittedly, it had been a few months since I played the PC version of PvZ, so I decided to go back and compare. Though the differences in control are subtle, I found the DS version of the game to be easier to manipulate. Sliding with the stylus allows for faster planting, and I never found myself falling behind because of the controls. That being said, the plant sprites are pretty tiny, and on more than one occasion I accidentally planted in the wrong square. On the whole, however, I now much prefer playing the game on DS.

Luckily, I don’t have to compromise when it comes to content, either. All of the previous features of PvZ are included in the DS version, along with a few new mini games that make mostly smart use of the system’s unique features. Certain mini-game mechanics – being forced to yell into the microphone, for instance – I could live without, but most of what’s here is genuinely clever and fun. There is an absolute boatload of gameplay to keep you busy long after the adventure mode comes to a close; three gardens, a wisdom tree, puzzle games and survival, as well as a versus mode that allows one player to play as the zombies.

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The only real drawback – and it’s a minor one to be sure – is that squishing PvZ down to size for the DS means a loss in visual and audio quality. The colors aren’t as bright, and the animations seem to have fewer frames. The creature sprites are still every bit as adorable as before, but I’d be lying if I said I don’t miss the gorgeous graphics of the PC version. The sound effects and music make the transition mostly unfettered, in spite of missing a few subtle nuances. Play the DS version for even a short time, and you’ll forget all about these trivial differences.

Already played Plants vs. Zombies? Yeah, so have I. Playing the DS version, though, has gotten me hooked all over again. In terms of gameplay and features, PvZ on DS edges out ahead of pretty much any other version out there. The question is, of course, do you need yet another copy of the game? For me, the answer’s easy. I loved PvZ before, but it was a drag being tethered to my PC. Now, I can take the game with me anywhere I go, and it just feels more at home on Nintendo’s handheld. If you already own a portable version of the game, this probably isn’t worth another dip. For everyone else, this is the version to pick up.

9 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is a Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in August 2008.

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