Posts Tagged ‘Editor’s Choice’

Plants vs. Zombies

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010

Plants vs. Zombies

Two words: buy it. The grueling wait is finally over – Plants vs. Zombies, my 2009 Casual Game of the Year, has now been released for the iPhone platform in (almost) all it’s glory and gets the site’s highest recommendation of Editor’s Choice. What the casual gaming experts at PopCap did with this title was to take the well-known gaming genre of Tower Defense, dissect it, distill it down to its core elements, inject it with an ever-present sense of humor, and then present the whole  package in a way that appeals to players of any skill level. It is a brilliant game; one that is beautifully illustrated and animated, one that allows for both strategic and tactical decision-making, and one that provides hours of enjoyment for kids and adults alike.

The unique premise of this game is that vile and pernicious zombies are attacking your home and you must fend them off with diverse selection of of armed and dangerous plants from your garden. Zombies enter the garden from the right side of the screen, occupying up to 6 horizontal lanes, and proceed to plod toward the home on the left, only to be stopped by an arsenal of plants that have been placed in the space between. The plants run the gambit from simple, unassuming sunflowers (which provide the precious resource of sun that allows the purchase of all plant types) to massive Cob Cannons that lob devastating bombs, which obliterate zombies en masse. The zombies are no less diverse in their presentation and function, starting with the lowly grunt to the white-gloved, moonwalking, Solid-Gold-dancer-spawning Michael Jackson zombie. While this hints at the humorous vibe that the game provides, it really just scratches the surface. There are so many hilarious puns, pop culture references, and quirky/characterful personalities throughout the course of this game that it really is more than the sum of its parts.

The core gameplay is just so perfectly balanced, tuned, and executed. The player must make choices at every step of the way; choosing the most strategic plant load-outs prior to each level, based on the zombie types present, choosing when and where to plant them, and choosing how to respond tactically to situations that arise at each encounter. While it doesn’t provide every single feature of its Mac counterpart at launch, like the Survival Mode and the Zen Garden, it’s still a must-have title that is recommended for just about anyone that owns an iPhone.

SPOILER ALERT – highlight to reveal:

After beating the 50 levels in Adventure Mode, Quick Play Mode opens, which allows allows the player to start at any stage and play a subset of mini-games: Wall-nut Bowling, Whack-a-zombie, Vase Breaker, the Final Boss, and the Conveyor Belt levels (1-5, 1-10, 2-10, 3-5, 3-10, 4-10, and 5-5). Playing thorough Adventure Mode a second time is just like the Mac version; Crazy Dave picks three of your seed packs for you, so that you’ll potentially use a different strategy than the first time you played through.

Rating: ★★★★★ icon
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Dungeon Hunter

Saturday, October 10th, 2009

This is the Diablo clone to have. There are three hero archetypes, Warrior, Mage, and Rogue, each with their own progression path and skill tree. The item game is both broad and deep, with plenty of decision-making for the hardcore guys and an auto-equip for those that aren’t. Loot is auto-pickup, as well. The controls are good, since they offer both tap-to-move and analog joystick controls, but not great. The stick could be tighter and the UI can potentially interfere with the tap controls, but your favorite of the two will probably serve you better than most games of the genre so far. Holding attack will auto-attack, which can be alternated with any of three special attacks and one of several magic fairy powers. As you can see, there is an overworld map, outdoor regions, dungeons, and a jam-packed pause screen with inventory, skill tree, magic, character info, and quests. It’s done by the Hero of Sparta guys, so the graphics are great and the gameplay is much, much deeper than that title. If you like dungeon crawls, you need this game.

Rating: ★★★★★ icon
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Jojo’s Fashion Show 2

Saturday, August 8th, 2009

I have yet to find a single other person on planet earth that is willing to play this game, besides me, but it is actually a really good game. The goal of the game is to put on successful runaway shows, all across the globe. The player is presented with a group of three fashion models that have to be suited up for a runway show. Prior to the show, you are provided with examples of three style types that are being featured at the show, such as Bollywood, Sockhop, and…uh…Military. You are then presented with a selection of clothes at the bottom of the screen that you have to identify as a certain style and then drag-n-drop onto the corresponding model. Powerups can be obtained to switch styles or wardrobe, when needed, and accessories that can compliment any outfit are opened up, as well. When a model is fully clothed, her icon will light up, indicating that you can send her to the runway. If you are fast and efficient, you can send multiple models out simultaneously to score a chain combo multiplier. When they get to the runway, they are scored for each clothing type (torso, legs, and feet), based on how well it fits the style category that she is sporting. If you exactly match one of the predefined “signature” outfits, shown on the left, you also score big.

Semi-frequent, bonus photo shoots offer a different type of gameplay, in which a large number of fully dressed models are standing around, waiting to have their photo taken. You are scored based on choosing the correct model style (and sequential hits provide additional score) and framing the photograph properly. Each of the five unlock-able cities, such as Los Angeles and Berlin, contains 15 diverse levels, each of which contain a number of different styles. Dragging clothes onto models is not always as responsive as I would like, but overall, the game is really polished. This really is a textbook example of good casual game design; great presentation and player feedback, both visually and aurally, good decision-making, good pacing and progression, and intuitive gameplay. My 3-year-old loves it and can play it all by herself, which demonstrates how approachable it is.

Update: Jojo’s now has OpenFeint social features, achievements, and awards. Downloadable Content is also now available; 2 level packs, each containing two full locations. Rating increased accordingly.

Rating: ★★★★★ icon
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