The Plants vs Zombies Adventures beta has begun! EA and PopCap decided to capitalize on the success of Plants vs. Zombies and social networking sites to bring a spin-off of one of the best tower defense games to the masses. While the beta is naturally geared towards making progression easy and doesn’t feature constant wallet grabbing (yet), I have to say I’m honestly impressed with the app so far. I got a beta invite via my mom, who plays every Facebook game ever, and decided to talk about my first hour with the game.
Plants vs Zombies Adventures begins with Crazy Dave. The two of you are in an RV in the Boonies, one of the Road Trip areas. He says zombies are coming and briefly launches into a tutorial. Zombies, be they in Road Trip level areas or in surprise town attacks, will walk along a set path from their graves to the RV, as in any respectable tower defense game. Plants are placed along the route to halt their advance. As usual, Sunflower just sits looking pretty and providing sun and a Wall-nut occupies a plot on the path, but plants like the Peashooter and new Aspearagus have ranges. If a zombie walks into their area of attack, they’ll start attacking. The goal is to protect the RV until all the waves of zombies are complete.
As I went through the first few levels in the Boonies and Dire Spires, the first areas on the Plants vs Zombies Adventures Road Trip, I immediately noted the differences between it and the source game. You know, aside from the more standard tower defense gameplay. As usual, plants are picked before a level begins. However, you can only use plants you’ve grown in town, I’ll get to this later, and are only able to place up to five of each plant in a level. In addition, most plants don’t “die” in a level when eaten by a zombie. With the exception of Wall-nut, who exists to be eaten, other plants can be “revived” with 25 sun after waiting a few moments. There are also power-ups that can be used with 25 sun. A Plant Perk extends an offensive plant’s range, while ZombiFreeze causes zombies to slow down. Finally, plants explode, transforming into coins, at the end of a Road Trip level.
Now, let’s go to town. In Plants vs Zombies Adventures, each player gets his or her own town. This is where homes and buildings can be built to spawn coins or other essential items. It starts out as one area, with a single house, but after level two in the Boonies, I was able to expand to the Plantagon plot that had a greenhouse that gave extra lawnmowers and an additional house on it.
Of course, town serves a more important function than just coin and bonus-spawning. This is where you grow your plants. Players start with 10 planters, which must be filled with plants to fight the zombies. Each plant has a growth time and a cost. For example, the Peashooter costs 25 coins and takes one minute to grow, while a Sunflower is 50 coins and takes 2 minutes. Of the plants I’ve unlocked so far, the Wall-nut is most expensive and takes the longest to grow, at 100 coins and 2 hours. Players can have up to 15 of each variety of plant in their inventory, so it’s advised to have as many as you can afford on hand. That way, you’re prepared for Road Trip levels and town surprise attacks.
Yes, the zombies will attack your town. Every few minutes, you’ll get a 30 second warning that zombies are coming. At this point, you have to place offensive and defensive plants along the paths that lead from the street to your buildings. Don’t bother with Sunflowers though, as all your preparation for these attacks must be done before the zombies come. Once they arrive, you have to watch and hope you put down enough plants. If you didn’t, the zombies will nosh on the plants and destroy a building. On the plus side, the plants don’t disappear and transform into coins after a fight. I only had to put down plants once.
Now, let’s get into the real money aspect. This is a free-to-play game, so you have to expect a cash shop. Fortunately, the beta version of Plants vs Zombies Adventures isn’t too money-grubbing. The cash shop is there, with players able to purchase gems or Zombucks. Zombucks are used to buy and repair buildings, paths and decorations. Gems are used to speed up building repair, plant growth, buy extra plants or get coins. Fortunately, you only really need Zombucks, and these can be earned by leveling up, successfully defending town during surprise attacks and beating Road Trip levels.
Also, don’t worry about buying “energy.” The only thing that limits how much Plants vs Zombies Adventures you can play is how many plants you have in your inventory. It’s refreshing, really.
So far, I’m impressed with the Plants vs Zombies Adventures beta. I mean, I know that it’s easier right now than it will be when the game officially launches. I’m sure the grabby hands will be searching for my wallet when May 20, 2013 comes around. Still, for now I think it has the potential to be a fun game. PopCap did a good job on this spin-off and as long as the Zombucks and coins keep flowing in so easily, I’ll gladly play it after the beta ends.