Plants vs. Zombies

It starts out small. So small, in fact, that it’s hard to imagine it ever growing into anything. When the first level of Plants vs. Zombies rolls out a single lane of grass, and asks you to click falling sunbeams for fuel to grow a pea-shooting plant that can hold off a line of slow-marching zombies, it’s easy to assume the worst. They’ve dumbed down the tower defense game! They’ve over-simplified things for the Bejeweled crowd! They’ve turned a proud, new strategy genre into a glorified click-fest with cutesy graphics!

But then the game adds new branches to this simple trunk. First it lets you harness more sunbeams with crucial, resource-producing sunflowers. Then it introduces new, tougher zombies that require more firepower from new, tougher (and more expensive) plants. Then you’re battling it out on nighttime levels where short-range fungus shooters can grow like weeds (except where there are zombie-producing gravestones). Before you know it, you’re deploying watermelon catapults to drive back rows of Zombonis (those are zombies on zambonis, don’tcha know?) while simultaneously erecting a protective canopy of palm trees to protect your balloon zombie-popping cacti from an overhead assault from zombies on bungee cords.

The change is so gradual that it barely registers from level to level, but at some point you look up and realize that Plants vs. Zombies has grown from a small, insignificant seed into a complex, chaotic, fast-paced strategy game that’s as addictive as the best in the genre.

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