At some point in Plants vs. Zombies, you're going to wonder just when it ends. But I'm not necessarily talking about the main game or even any of the swarms of the undead encountered therein. I'm referring mostly to all the upgrades, mini games, play modes, and other surprises. This may look like a simple Xbox Live Arcade title you can blow through in an afternoon, but there is so much more to it than you probably expect.
The first zombies you'll encounter will probably be in the adventure mode. Here, you and a friend can mow down fifty levels of shuffling, moaning creatures who would like nothing better than to break into your home and eat your brains. Your weapons are almost entirely from the plant kingdom. Before each round, you have the chance to select what plants you'll be using, based on the layout of the playing field and which enemies are lurking around. Each plant requires a certain amount of sun before it can be planted. Early on in a level, you'll be limited by the default sun availability, but you can plant sunflowers or special mushrooms to produce sun at a far faster rate.
Once you know what you're doing, you'll be able to set up a fairly impenetrable defense. There are forty-nine different plants available and multiple ways to set up your field. Even on harder levels, you aren't forced to follow some recipe to get by. Given the variety of offensive and defensive tools, there's never an excuse to fall into a rut in the main storyline.
The true artistry of Plants vs. Zombies is the nearly perfect rate at which new content is made available.
Of course, there are also bonus rounds, based on bowling and Whac-A-Mole, and different environments to keep you alert. Some stages take place at night, some are on a slanted roof, and some have a pool in the middle, so you have to take into account which plants thrive where.
As the game progresses, more plants and more play modes are unlocked. The true artistry of Plants vs. Zombies is the nearly perfect rate at which new content is made available. There always seems to be a new item to play around with in adventure mode and a new activity to enjoy outside it.
I don't even want to tell you half the things you can access, because the joy in discovering a clever little mini game or a special technique shouldn't be spoiled. But I will tell you that PopCap Games worked overtime in piling on the extras to keep you playing, both alone and with a friend. And besides drawing on common elements of pop culture like zombies and suburbia, PopCap had its own history to use as inspiration. The sophistication and self-confidence evident in Plants vs. Zombies is irresistable.
There is no online multiplayer available, but if you're itching to connect with the invisible others, you can always check out the leaderboards. As you accomplish more in the game, your leaderboard entry - represented by a house - will become more elaborate. Rather than just giving you scores to compare, the developers injected a visually compelling yardstick that gives you yet another reason to play . . . one . . . more . . . round.
So what more do you want? Pick-up-and-play gameplay, insane variety, catchy music, and undead hordes. Plants vs. Zombies won't stop until it's claimed your brain, too.