Plants Vs. Zombies Platform: Xbox Live Arcade (Xbox 360) [Available on the PC & iTunes as well] Price: 1200 MSP / $15 Only this game manages to make what appears to be gardening, extremely fun. Gameplay: If you've played the PC version before like myself, you'll find that the Xbox Live Arcade version is quite similar with the exception of the new multiplayer mode and an extra mini-game that's currently not present in the other versions of the game. This also means that you're already aware of how awesome the game is, so feel free to skip to the last part of this segment in order to find out more about this new content. The best way to describe Plants Vs. Zombies to those who have never played it, is as a tower defense game with some RTS elements involving plant units as a form of defense against a zombie invasion. As odd as that may sound, it works well and is actually extremely fun. Rather than using cash to purchase plant units, you instead rely on sunlight in the form of a miniature sun that falls from the sky in the daytime which can also be harvested via sunflowers. Traditional money is still present but it's not used while the level is going on. It's used to purchase additional unit types from the store as well as other items of interests such as extra slots to store more unit types and so on. The way the game works is that there's a fair sized lawn with different lanes that each lead to the house. The objective is to strategically place the available units on this lawn to defend the house from zombie infiltration. There's a lawnmower at the end of each lane to serve as a lifesaver in the event that the zombies manage to munch their way through your defenses. Once it's triggered, it'll clear all the zombies currently on that lane. However, once it's used, it won't replenish itself until the next round so you want to avoid having to rely on it as if your defenses are infiltrated a second time, the zombies will go inside the house and eat your brains resulting in a "Game Over". Luckily, the game supports automatic saving so if this happens, you'll simply restart the round again and will have the option of changing unit types if you didn't choose wisely the first time. This is where having extra slots comes in handy as it gives you more flexibility. An excellent strategy for the earlier levels. This is all pertaining to the game's main mode called "Adventure" which helps you unlock other modes by progressing through it. It does a good job on varying stages by changing the environment around a bit and introducing new enemies along the way which keeps the game fresh. Occasionally, you'll encounter some mini-games/puzzles in this mode as well which can be played later on in their respective mode once it's unlocked. I found them to be quite fun for the most part as they varied the traditional gameplay. As for the environments, I won't spoil it too much but just to give you an idea of what to expect, while you initially start out with a green lawn, you'll also encounter night time, a pool, and fog which will require a special strategy that slightly differs from the "original formula". For instance, at night there's no sun so you need to rely on self-harvested sunlight from special plants while the pool will require a lily pad for certain plants that don't float. Certain enemies have a specific invulnerability as well so you'll have to keep this in mind when preparing for their attack. Zombies with a screen door for example, are immune to pea shooter attacks yet are harmed by mushroom fumes. The roof isn't as green. The unlockable modes include "Mini-games", "Puzzle" and "Survival". There are 21 mini-games present which cleverly derive new forms of gameplay from the original concept behind the game. Out of them, "Wall-nut Bowling" is one of my top favorites along with "ZomBotany" which gives zombies plant faces allowing some of them to shoot back at you. As for the puzzles, "I, Zombie" impressed me the most as it allows the player to play as the zombies against AI plants. There are also various survival stages for each of the distinct environments including an endless stage to put your skills to the ultimate test. ZOMBIES = Excellent bowling pins. Now it's time to talk about the infamous multiplayer mode which is currently exclusive to the XBLA version of Plants Vs. Zombies. By default, it's locked but can be easily unlocked by reaching 2-1 in "Adventure". It has two different options, you can either play co-op with another friend where you're both able to plant units to take on the evil zombies ("Adventure" also supports drop-in co-op) or be a bit more competitive and face off your friend by picking a faction. Those who play as zombies will find it similar to the "I, Zombie" puzzle except that there's a grave unit which is the zombie version of the sunflower. As for faction balance, I honestly was not able to determine how balanced it was since I would have required an opponent of my similar skill level to accurately comment on it but it looked like in the right hands, the zombies were quite deadly. For those wondering how a zombie player is defeated, you'll have to destroy all their remaining targets which serve as lives indicated on the bottom right portion of the screen. Unfortunately, the multiplayer is local only and those wanting to play this with their friends online will be disappointed to find out that it's currently unsupported. I personally was satisfied with both multiplayer options and found them to be nice additions to an already awesome title. The grass is darker on the other side. Graphics & Audio: The 2D artwork is colorful brilliance that manages to appeal to the non-casual game crowd as well. Everything from the actual units to the main menu were all well presented. As for the music, it's quite memorable and adds a nice touch to the atmosphere. The same can be said about the sound effects as well, especially the zombie noises. It's without a doubt one of the most polished 2D games I've played in recent years as far as presentation goes. Replay value: I personally found the "Adventure" mode not as fun the second time around when I replayed the game on the Xbox Live Arcade but did enjoy playing the other modes especially the mini-games and puzzles. These modes help rack up cash which can also be used to maintain your zen garden that's basically a virtual garden maintained for fun although it's definitely not for everyone. The survival stages on the other hand are certainly worth revisiting especially the endless one. You also have online leaderboards and local multiplayer for when a friend comes over to keep you occupied with the game. Those interested in achievements will revisit the game to acquire any remaining ones as well. Overall: The game's transition from the PC to the Xbox 360 was quite smooth as the controls were actually spot-on. There was a price increase in the game but it's justified if you're interested in the new multiplayer mode and/or simply want to play the game on your TV instead in a higher resolution. Players new to Plants Vs. Zombies are in for a treat and should definitely be able to get their money's worth out of this title. Plants Vs. Zombies successfully refreshed an apparently saturated genre and managed to plant an odd but brilliant concept that easily appeals to players of all ages when it was first released and has made a good comeback on the Xbox 360 console with the addition of multiplayer. Also, to those of you on a tight budget, I recommend looking into the PC version instead unless you're specifically interested in local multiplayer. Pros: +Awesome graphics/audio +Addictive for all ages +Plenty of content +Multiplayer co-op/versus Cons: -Costs more than the PC version (which lacks multiplayer but is quite similar) -Lacks online multiplayer, perhaps a patch might do the trick later on Plants Vs. Zombies defends the zombie invasion with a rating of 8.75/10 on the Xbox Live Arcade platform. The game was just as fun on the Xbox 360 and adapted well to the new control scheme, it's too bad it did not support online multiplayer especially at 1200 MSP. A review copy was used to evaluate the game.