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Plants vs. Zombies (DS)
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Plants vs. Zombies (DS) is the latest installment in this cartoon-like tower defense strategy game. Developer PopCap has previously released versions for the PC, iPhone and iPod Touch, Xbox Live, and more, and the heart of the game is exactly the same. What's different here are four new mini-games -- including "Air Raid," which is a side-scrolling shooter-like game, and "Heat Wave," which has players swap plants around with the stylus and encourage them with the DS's microphone. The violence in the game is too much for young children, but it's tempered greatly with humor and there's no blood shown on screen. There's no online gameplay, but players can compete in two-player versus mode with nearby DS owners, with one side playing as the plants and the other controlling the zombies.
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What's it about?
The undead are trying to invade your house and eat your brains. Rather than pulling out firearms, you'll defend yourself with a variety of goofy plants and other organics like pea shooters, giant walnuts, and cherry "bombs". It's a game that seems born of '50s B-movies, but never loses its sense of humor. Zombies, for instance, wear things like pots and traffic cones on their head as protection. The gameplay mechanics in the campaign are the same as the PC version of the game.
In addition, this DS version of the title offers a series of mini-games, including four that are exclusive to this platform. These include a home run derby title, which blends zombies and baseball, and a side-scrolling shooter game.
Is it any good?
There's a reason Plants vs. Zombies is such a popular tower-defense game. It's goofy, genuinely funny, and the gameplay is rock solid. Whether you play for minutes or hours, you'll walk away happy. What the Nintendo DS version adds is a collection of new achievements (such as blow up 10 zombies with a single cherry bomb and beat a night level without picking up any sun) and four exclusive mini-games. They're all enjoyable diversions, but ultimately, it's the main game that's the most fun. The DS does, however, add a terrifically entertaining two-player versus mode for players in the same room.
The DS version suffers on two levels, though. Because there's so much going on onscreen with Plants vs. Zombies, the DS screen size is often overcrowded, which can make it hard to see everything happening at once. Also, with the iPhone version costing just $3.99, the $20 price tag on the DS version seems excessive. That said, the game is just as addictive now as it was when it was first released for the PC in 2009.
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