Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Late to the Party

So, because Plants vs. Zombies is the free Vita game in this week's Plus update, I decided to grab it and try it out.  As possibly the last person alive who has -not- played any iteration of the game by this point in time, I am hilariously late to the point where it's almost irrelevant, but I wanted to speak on it anyway because that is sort of what I do, as you might have noticed by now.  Previously, my only exposure to the game was watching my rather young nephews play the game on a Kindle Fire, passing it back and forth between levels and/or failures.  Without an actual induction to the mechanics and such, I just sort of had to infer what was actually going on, but the relative ease of expressing how to play to the player that the game possesses made it a pretty simple task.  Now, playing it for myself, it turns out that exactly everything I suspected whilst watching it played is, in fact, correct.

To say that it's got an easy-to-use interface is to say that water is wet and other such overused sayings.  Do I even need to explain this?  No, but I'm going to anyway.  The goal is to keep zombies from knocking on your front door, which you accomplish this task by planting various plants that impede their progress.  The currency through which you buy these plants are 'suns' which appear on the screen via two methods - at timed intervals, a sun just sort of pops down, and you can plant the aptly-named Sunflowers which will generate them as well.  Every level just revolves around keeping Zombies from knocking down your door, which is not a difficult task to do, at least not at the start.  At its core, Plants vs. Zombies is simply a Tower Defense game, which is a genre I've expressed something related to displeasure with in the past.

This is not a game that has changed my opinion, unfortunately.  Plants vs. Zombies really doesn't do anything that other Tower Defense games don't do, so, to me, it doesn't really stand out all that much.  It falls into the same pitfall as other TD games so often do, where it becomes less and less about 'strategy' and reaction, and more and more about implementing the same exact spread when you can since, in 99% of the cases, it will keep you safely in the unchallenged position.  The image I've used above, taken from one of my own plays, is basically my spread.  Really, the only problem is keeping zombies away at the start, and then by the end, my offense is so ridiculously overpowered, plus a double-wall, that I could put my Vita down and go grab a drink, only to come back to my success.  At best, it's amateur strategy hour, and at worst, it's dreadfully boring.  Well, at least for now.

The game will, I'm sure, ramp up the 'difficulty' in later levels, which basically means that the hordes will appear faster and in greater numbers which isn't so much a challenge so much as it's pitting you against something that strains at the very foundation on which the game was built.  It's a difficulty spike in the same way that turning Enemy Health to 300% and Player Damage to 50% is difficult in that it's bullshit and doesn't make clever use of anything at all.  It's difficult in the same way walking in snow with weights attached to your feet is really hard to do.  What I'm saying is that I'm honestly not a fan of the way most games handle difficulty and Tower Defense genres tend to be among the worst offenders in this regard, since it is apparently an impossible task to design something of the sort with balance in mind.  Instead, it becomes Starship Troopers, in that you're kind of always going to die against an endless onslaught that you're in no way prepared for.

Regardless, the game is rather charming and, as I said, insanely easy to play.  While I can't say that I don't enjoy the game, because I certainly do in a sense, Tower Defense is still just not my bag.  The game itself has rather lovely visuals, a certain amount of charm around it and it's addicting if nothing else.  That may be in part due to how it seamlessly throws you from victory screen to set-up screen for the next level, preying on your impulse to say "one more level, just one more" until you've been playing for four hours and realize as much.  As something I got for free, it's fantastic and I can see myself throwing a good bit of time into it whilst I wait on other things, but it's not something I would have actively sought out, and especially after playing it, I'm glad that I didn't.  A little fun is still fun, of course.

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