Have You Played… Plants Vs Zombies?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

I’m struggling to think of a game’s name that has gone from being one of eliciting such joy to such uninterest. The flagship title of PopCap’s collapse from astonishingly successful casual game developer to the fragmented remains left behind after an EA-destructo-buyout, Plants Vs Zombies was once a cult PC delight, making tower defence accessible to all. Now it’s a third-person shooter or something.

But wow, what a time we had with that original game. In 2009, when RPS was young, we were gobbling up all the mad titbits that appeared about it, and not least the wonderful song from Laura Shigihara. And then thankfully, the game was just lovely. A genre few at RPS had time for was taking up all our time, as we defended the house from invading hordes of zombies, with only plants as our friends.

Bursting with PopCap’s (then) vibrant silliness, and guiding a casual audience carefully down the path to some properly tricky difficulty, it sits alongside Portal and Peggle as one of the most important cultural moments in our site’s development. And a rather lovely game while it’s at it.

39 Comments

  1. colw00t says:

    It was a brilliant little game. I feel bad for PopCap.

    • Frank says:

      You mean you feel bad for George Fan, right? You know, the guy PopCap could have made into their Sid Meier, but instead opted to lay off.

  2. Chris Cunningham says:

    I bought it because I liked the snippet of the song murmured by the sunflower pet you won from WoW’s mini-game that was, in effect, a functional recreation of the original. I do dread to think how that actually came about.

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    pertusaria says:

    I played it while it still had definitely-not-Michael-Jackson-from-‘Thriller’ in it. It was a great game. I still don’t like most tower defence games, but this one is special. So sad about PopCap.

    • rabbit says:

      yep =)

      RIP hopes & dreams for what-coulda-bin-PVZ2
      had so many brilliant times
      even the thing of improving your little garden & growing that big tree – things which would have been implemented & identified as timesinks in pretty much any other game – had me hooked. such a brilliant game & such a total shame.

  4. Crafter says:

    It is weird to think back about PvZ.
    I adored the first game but EA’s PvZ 2 ?
    I would have been ready to buy it for 5-15$ but I have not paid a cent for this game. I strongly dislike having to buy consumable or new weapons to win a level, not to mention that the game ‘economy’ is balanced in order to push you to buy them.
    It seems that they are still regularly pushing new levels, but they completely lost my interest.

    • Erithtotl says:

      I’m not sure how much time I’ve put into PvZ2 but its a lot. And I never paid a cent. In game purchases are totally unnecessary. And they keep releasing new content essentially for free.

      If you liked the 1st one, its more time killing goodness.

      • Spuzzell says:

        I would never attempt to tell someone their opinion was wrong, but here’s mine on the subject.

        The difference between PvZ and PvZ2 is that the first game is joyful and surprising and chock full of fun and gameplay choice and unexpected surprises, and the second is none of those things.

        Even for free the second Plants vs Zombies is not worth what it costs to play in terms of time and frustration.

        Just play the first again, and be sad that the second is so diminished in scope unless you wish to pay and pay and pay.

        • Jalan says:

          I’m of the opinion that second game is filled with needless frustrations designed to try and rope a player into dropping real money on something that (supposedly) might make the game less frustrating (until the dev team finds a new way to repeat it all again).

          I gave it an honest chance right to the point they released the first half of the beach levels. Up to that, I’d had a pretty sizable stash of regular coins socked away from regular play, just in case I needed them to bail out of a situation I found too much to deal with. Then, by the time I’d reached the end of the half-set of levels that were out for it, I’d had maybe 2,000 (down from near 88,000). The ramp in difficulty with each level set release just pushed me over the edge – not that it was “too hard” to continue (if I gave up easily every time something got hard, I’d just piss away my free time playing games with no objectives/etc.) but more that it was evident that it was never going to become different. It was just a hollow slog from a game poorly attempting to recapture the charm of its successor waiting with its mouth open so that I might stuff a few bits of cash in.

          I sincerely hope, should it ever see the light of day on PC, that it’s just a full game – no currency purchases or anything, just a full game with everything unlocked or otherwise able to be obtained through means of normal play. The difficulty ramps would be more justifiable in that sense as far I’m concerned.

          • Jalan says:

            predecessor, I should have written. Not successor. Oh well.

            Summing it up: I agree with sticking to playing the first game, since the second is not worth the time.

  5. Capt. Bumchum McMerryweather says:

    I find a bit silly that PopCap are getting such sympathy from this article and from the comments. They made the choice to sell to EA, it’s not like they had their company spokesman of to them. They als got $650 million, so I’m pretty sure that they are doing just fine.

    • Arathain says:

      I have some sympathy for PopCap. I doubt they realised how completely they would be consumed.

      What I mostly am, though, is sad for what might have been. PvZ, Bookworm Adventures, Peggle, even Gyromancer- titles that showed a powerfully creative team with a distinct style, doing brilliant, funny, accessible games in a way that no-one else was. EA buys them and that spark goes out like a switch was flipped. What would a PopCap game be today if they’d remained independent?

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        Aerothorn says:

        If this was the first time EA had bought a company, I’d share your sympathy. But EA is famous, above all other publishers, for absolutely consuming the companies it buys. The PopCap buyout happened LONG after Origin, Westwood, Bullfrog, etc.

        • Arathain says:

          Sure. This is one of those slightly generic sympathies, in which I always feel bad for good people when bad things happen. We don’t have to think about PopCap as a single entity, anyway. Obviously talented people got screwed because the bosses took the enormous cheque.

        • carewolf says:

          Well, consuming is nicely put. Destroying would be more accurate, EA is where game studios go to die.

        • rabbit says:

          yup.

          little pangs of sadness on reading the names bullfrog & westwood. still remember finally buying NOX after playing it at my cousin’s house – got it on the way to watching My Dog Skip at the cinema, from WH Smiths I believe. brilliant game, criminally underrated in my opinion

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      oggnogg says:

      > They also got $650 million […]
      I wonder who “they” are — usually “they” aren’t many, and IMHO most of the time “they” are just a few.

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    Harlander says:

    Interesting choice of header image considering the Game of the Month selection further down the page..

    • Nevard says:

      I was coming here to say exactly that.

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      Oakreef says:

      Flowey vs Zombies

    • Shazbut says:

      Indeed. My immediate reaction was exactly this:

      “OH MY GOD SOMEONE HAS MODDED UNDERTALE….oh no, it’s just Plants V Zombies”

  7. Noirpunk says:

    It’s too bad this game hasn’t been remastered. The consoles got a nice widescreen HD version years ago, but the PC is stuck with the old 800×600 version, which even in 2009 was disappointing.

  8. JimmyG says:

    I teach in China, and PvZ characters are still pretty commonly found on flyers or stationery or phone cases around here. Along with Totoro, Gru’s minions, and Baymax.

    But boy, the game had atmosphere in every corner. I remember all the music, the variety of colors and designs, the mushroomy night levels, the roll-of-sod loading bar … Definitely worth a good 10 or 20 hours for those who never played it. Completionists can spend longer.

    My favorite was always the potato mine.

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    Bluerps says:

    I still play that occasionally. It’s lovely!

  10. J. Cosmo Cohen says:

    I played it to completion three times because it was such a delightful game.

    Also, the shooter is rather fun, I think.

  11. xTheJim says:

    As someone who’s currently hard at work on the “third person shooter or something” and who’s actually extremely proud of the quality and hard work that’s being put into it…. ouch.

    • draglikepull says:

      I’m sure everyone who’s working on it is trying to make it the best game it can be, and I’m sure they want it to be great (and maybe it is). But I think PvZ is the perfect example of what everyone fears will happen when a mega-publisher buys a beloved smaller developer. They took a tiny, quirky game that did everything it needed to do and nothing else, and tried to turn it into a FRANCHISE (TM) that has nothing to do with what people loved about the original. The 3PS may be fun as what it is, but it isn’t Plants vs Zombies, and now that EA owns PvZ we’re never going to get that again.

    • Foosnark says:

      The game industry is a harsh mistress. I spent years of my life working on “another damn MMO with elves” that was redesigned approximately 27 times and never saw the light of day. And its engine which we licensed to other developers but never really made it big.

    • melancholicthug says:

      Don’t feel bad, at first I thought it was ridiculous, but after playing it a while I was pleaseantly surprised at how fun it is. It’s really cute and colorful, unlike most manshooters out there.

    • foop says:

      I was playing PvZ: Garden Warfare this morning with my son before taking him to school. We haven’t played for a bit, and after getting back into the swing of things I realised to my surprise that it’s probably my favourite multiplayer shooter (maybe tied with Planetside 2).

      We’re both pretty excited about the arrival of PvZ: Garden Warfare 2.

    • Kamahlk says:

      Seriously. I was completely and utterly surprised by how much FUN Garden Warfare was! I played it as much as I played Dark Souls 2 when it came out and it’s still a blast to play. I’m a bit skeptical on the $60 price tag of 2, but if it’s anything like the first I’m sure I will get a lot of enjoyment from it. I can’t stress enough how great the first was. I just got on and had fun regardless of how well I was doing.

  12. Jenks says:

    I’m no fan of PvZ 2, but Garden Warfare is a great game and a fantastic use of the license.

  13. alms says:

    For the all the good things about PvZ, I never quite liked it as much as other people expected me to.

  14. Scrape Wander says:

    I more or less detest TD games, but some of the ones that try something interesting (this one and Anomaly come to mind) are able to effectively communicate their strong ideas quickly. It’s immediately apparent a few levels in.

    I disengaged from PvZ after not-too-long, but I can’t doubt the game’s relevance. I also loved seeing those Zombies at PAXeast, they were always good for a laugh.

    I’m waiting for that magical TD game that makes me take back all my TD disinterest, but I haven’t quite found it. This one came sort of close.

  15. welverin says:

    “In 2009, when RPS was young”

    So, you’re talking in geologic terms, right? I wouldn’t consider a hundred and thirty some years young.

    • rabbit says:

      you’re only as old as you were in your industry headshots =)

    • guygodbois00 says:

      Why did they remove that “playing pc games since 1876” or some such, anyway? I thought it quite … intrinsic to RPS.

  16. oceanclub says:

    Gosh, I loved the first one. Played it to bits on three formats. The second, free to play edition, I gave a chance but just got bored with it. How to ruin an IP in ten easy steps.

    P.