I begun playing this game over six months ago, so I am very familar with the gameplay. This is also my first game review, so I am choosing something I am familar with. I have to admit that I have also played the iPhone version, but much of the gameplay is different as well as the overall gameplay (using your finger instead of a mouse). Please only consider this to be a review of the PC version.
The game, overall, has a perfect mix of cute, cartoony graphics and a slightly macarbe, spooky style. This makes it prefect for teenagers, kids and adults. There is no violence or blood, however when the zombie's head falls off you can see a red neck with a white spinal cord. The game, in my opinion, has revolutionised tower defence games by using colourful, intriguing graphics, innovative gameplay and concepts and having a large amount of character and charm.
Plants vs Zombies is a tower defence game, but it is not like most others. Instead of having multiple paths for the adversary to travel along, it is divided up into five rows, each with a zombie or zombies attacking.
You (mostly) play by planting plants down to stop the zombies from eating your brains. As the levels progress, tougher zombies, or zombies with special abilities, begin to advance and thus more plants are released. A new plant is made available after each level, and this immediate reward is a big part of what makes this game so addictive. Each level gets progressively harder, so the first few levels are really easy. The game gently eases you in.While the basic concept of the main levels remains the same, every five levels there is an arcade level, which breaks up the gameplay and adds a good change of pace. At the start of the game you select seeds to plant. You have a limited number of seed slots, and the selection of seeds can determine your success with the level. This presented a problem in some of the arcade style levels where plants would be presented on a conveyor belt. Sometimes there would be no appropriate plants available at the start and then the zombies would eat your brains!!!
The musical score, which is varied and can easilly be muted, is really good. It contains elements of latin, big band, and pop with a somewhat spooky feel. My favourite is the 'Night music'. As a big wave approaches, the music intensifies, drawing the player in. The composer, Shigihara, also performed the music video during the credits.
The game is really fun while you are continuing to unlock plants and minigames, but once everything is completed and unlocked, the replayability really looses it's value.
Now, there are heaps of minigames. The minigames is actually what I spent most of my time playing. All of the minigames are different, and each possess their own challenges. Some of them are really difficult, for example there is one minigame whereall the zombies are invisible. Another minigame is when everything (including the music) is sped up. All though the game there are references to other PopCap games (the developer of Bejewelled. FYI), in jokes and little humourous tidbits that make the whole experience very enjoyable. A previous version of the game feature a dancing Michael Jackson Thrillar zombie with Thrillar zombie backup dancers, but a year after his death the zombie was replaced with a generic '70's disco zombie at the agent's request (or something to that extent).
The game is available for about $20 online and as a hard copy.