Plants vs. Zombies: Batty but brainy

Grade school trends include the sockless look for boys, hair feathers for girls, use of the phrase “epic fail” and fighting zombies on the playground and in video games. Zombies seem to be the choicest of enemies.

Therefore, without a doubt, a video game titled “Plants vs. Zombies” attracts 4-footers. Surprisingly this gruesomely goofy game, where players actually manage warring plants, has more strategy than the name portrays. It even has some pretty nice music.

I played this game on the Nintendo DS, but it’s available on the iPhone/iPod Touch, the iPad, Mac OS X, Windows 2000/Vista/XP and the Xbox and Xbox 360 (PopCap Games under $20 for all versions).

Hand coordination required for this game is minimal. Touch-screen play controls the majority of movement and action. Oddly, Plants vs. Zombies is more of a thinking game – action strategy in what’s called a “tower defense” game. Appropriately rated “E 10” for everyone older than 10, Plants vs. Zombies is a more advanced strategy game requiring players to choose varieties and positioning of defense plants.

The premise is fairly disgusting. Zombies are attempting to attack residents inside a home in order to eat their brains. You’re job is to protect the front and back yards including a swimming pool, preventing the gray ghouls from devouring your humans. And the zombies are … well, they’re zombies. They’re fairly disgusting, too, but at the same time kinda silly — ugly fang-toothed drooling drones that could possibly scare a younger child.

I found the game incredibly creative, laughing out loud at the Zamboni riding zombies and the zombies who rise from the ground Thriller-like, dance and have backup dancers.

There are zombies who wear multi-colored sunglasses and float in rubber ducks in the swimming pool; zombies who wear hula skirts and others who wear football uniforms; zombies who have cone heads or bucket heads; and zombies who send messages, like, “How about I come over for a midnight snack – ice cream and brains?” LOL, right?

Preventing the zombies from brain feasting are the plants, 49 varieties, each possessing characteristics that ward off and destroy the mindless, undead creatures.

After purchasing seeds from Crazy Dave’s shop, you can grow peashooters that merely hurt zombies or corn cannons that offer an instant kill. There are walnuts that are difficult for zombies to pass through but would be no line of defense against a pole-vaulting zombie. If you’re faced with a balloon zombie, better have a cactus planted in the yard. There are sunflowers, necessary for capturing sun so your plants can grow but at night fungi like mushrooms grow. Multiplicities of shrooms contribute to your plant protagonists, as does a lawn mower on occasion. “Shrooms” that like fume-shroom can pass through screen doors and doom shroom that can instantly kill a zombie have the attributes needed to win the war against the zoned-out horde of zombies.Shrooms are as advantageous as the tangle kelp that when planted in the pool instantly kills zombies and marigold that is an instant moneymaker, allowing you to buy more plants/defense.

There are several other variables that come into play affecting strategy, like cost of the plants, sunlight needed to grow and growth rate, etc. These factors must be weighed along with types and positions based on the battle at hand.

The creator of Plants vs. Zombies, George Fan, teamed up with his girlfriend, Laura Shigihara, who has composed music for 25 video games. Shigihara wrote music for this game. Songs “Loonboon,” “Brainiac Maniac” and “Zombies on your Lawn” among others are award winning, featuring swing beats with haunting melodies. These tunes are also available with other Plants vs. Zombies songs on a soundtrack.

Action and strategy combine in Plants vs. Zombies for amusing, thought-provoking play for those 4-footers in the double digits.