Plants vs. Zombies is a tower defense video game developed and originally published by PopCap Games for Microsoft Windows and OS X. The game involves homeowners who use a variety of different plants to prevent an army of zombies from entering their houses and “eating their brains”. It was first released on May 5, 2009, and made available on Steam on the same day. A version for iOS was released in February 2010, and an HD version for the iPad. An extended Xbox Live Arcade version introducing new gameplay modes and features was released on September 8, 2010. PopCap released a Nintendo DS version on January 18, 2011 with content unique to the platform. The PlayStation 3 version was released in February 2011 also with added new co-op and versus modes found in the Xbox 360 version. An Android version of the game was released on May 31, 2011 on the Amazon Appstore, while it was also released to the Android Market (now Google Play) on December 14, 2011. On February 16, 2012, a version was released for BlackBerry PlayBook. Later, a BlackBerry smartphone version of the game was released on January 2013 following the launch of BlackBerry 10. Furthermore, both the original Windows and Mac version of the game have been re-released with additional content in a Game of the Year version. In January 2015, a free ad-supported version of the game was released for iOS.
The game received a positive response from critics, and was nominated for multiple Interactive Achievement Awards, alongside receiving praise for its musical score. A sequel, Plants vs. Zombies 2: It’s About Time, was released in 2013 for iOS and Android.
The cover of the PC version of Plants vs. Zombies with a main zombie from the game.
PopCap Games Electronic Arts
Plants vs. Zombies
PopCap Games Framework
Microsoft Windows[ OS X[ iOS[ Xbox Live Arcade[ PlayStation Network Nintendo DS DSiWare Bada Android Windows Phone PlayStation Vita BlackBerry Tablet OS[ BlackBerry 10[
May 5, 2009
In Plants vs. Zombies, players place different types of plants and fungi, each with their own unique offensive or defensive capabilities, around a house, in order to stop a horde of zombies from reaching their house. The playing field is divided into 5 to 6 horizontal lanes, and with rare exceptions, a zombie will only move towards the player’s house along one lane (the main exception is if it has bitten a garlic, causing it to move to another lane). Planting costs “sun”, which can be gathered for free (albeit slowly) during daytime levels and by planting certain plants or fungi. Most plants can only attack or defend against zombies in the lane they are planted in. In later levels, players can purchase upgrades with different offensive and defensive abilities.
The game uses several different level types and layouts. The game starts out in a front yard, and progresses to nighttime levels, where the gameplay is more challenging without any replenishing sun unless specific plants are used. Other levels feature the backyard, with a pool added. The final levels are nighttime pool levels (where fog fills the right half of the screen except when specific plants are used), a lightning storm level in pitch black (except when illuminated by occasional flashes of lightning), and rooftop levels (on the final level, the player must face a huge robot operated by a mad scientist zombie known as Dr. Zomboss). At set points throughout the game, the player is either warned through a letter by zombies or addressed by Crazy Dave to prepare for an ambush, where the game takes on a bowling style, using Wall-nuts to bowl down zombies, or a modified version of regular levels, where random plant types come up on a small selection, and the player can use the plants without spending sun.
The player starts with a limited number of seed pack types and seed pack slots that they can use during most levels. The number of slots can be increased through purchases with in-game money. At the start of a level, the player is shown the various types of zombies to expect and given the opportunity to select which seed packs to take into the level. Several plants are nocturnal, such as mushrooms, having a lower sunlight cost, and are ideal for nighttime levels. Certain plants are highly effective against specific types of zombies, such as the Magnet-shroom, which can remove metallic items from a zombie, such as helmets, buckets, ladders, and pogosticks.
The zombies also come in a number of types that have different attributes, in particular, speed, damage tolerance, and abilities. Zombies include those wearing makeshift armour, those who can jump or fly over plants, and a dancing zombie able to summon other zombies from the ground. At various points, the player will be inundated with a huge wave of zombies.
If a zombie reaches the end of a lane, a lawnmower will shoot forward and destroy all the zombies in that lane. However, if a zombie reaches the end of that same lane for a second time, it will reach the player’s house. When this happens, the music changes and the other plants and zombies stop moving while that zombie enters the house. Crunching sounds will be heard, accompanied by a scream and a message saying “The zombies ate your brains!” The game will then end and display the Game Over dialog box along with an option to return to main menu at the upper-right side of the screen.
Game modes The primary game mode is Adventure Mode in which the player can earn money to spend at an in-game store to buy new seed packets and other bonuses. There are also minigames and puzzles. In the Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network, and Nintendo DS versions, there is also a co-op mode, as well as 2 player minigames and a Versus mode (but not in the Nintendo DS version).
Adventure mode The adventure mode consists of 5 different areas and 50 different area levels (each area contains 10 levels). they are shown with the area number first, followed by the level number (i.e 1-10) in the game. Each level in this mode has a certain amount of flags and one final wave. The adventure mode is the first game mode and is also the main mode. Mini games are unlocked from here.
Mini games Mini games are unlocked during the adventure mode and are mostly for fun. Some of the minigames are inspired by earlier PopCap games.
Puzzles Puzzles consist of 18 levels from 2 different “modes”, Vasebreaker, where you break vases that either contain a plant seed or a zombie, and I, Zombie, where you create zombies to destroy cardboard cutouts of plants.
Survival Survival is the second largest game mode in Plants vs Zombies. It involves two difficulties as hard and normal and also has different areas. Each normal round has 5 flags and each hard round has 10 flags. It also has an endless streak level as the final level. Survival is the last game mode in the game itself.
There is also a page of cancelled mini-games called the Limbo Page which can be accessed using the Cheat Engine.
Zen Garden The game also features a Zen Garden, where players can care for plants they previously purchased from Crazy Dave’s Twiddlydinkies. Players can also buy other Zen Garden areas for different plants. Fertilizer, water, and bug spray are necessary for a plant to grow. Plants will only grow when the game has been running for enough time.
Development Concept Plants vs. Zombies director George Fan intended on balancing the game between a “gritty” game and a “sickeningly cute” game. Strong strategic elements were included to appeal to more experienced gamers, while keeping it simple to appeal to casual gamers, without needing too many tutorials. He was inspired to make it a tower defense game after both thinking of a more defense-oriented version of a previous title of his, Insaniquarium, and playing some Warcraft III tower defense mods. While he was looking at the towers in Warcraft III, he felt that plants would make good towers. He wanted to bring something new to the genre with Plants vs. Zombies, and he found common tower defense game play elements such as mazing and juggling to be too awkward, causing him to use the five- and six-lane set-ups that were used in the final version. The game was initially going to be called Weedlings, but as the tower defense concept took off and the personality of the game as a whole evolved, the title was later changed.
George Fan included elements from the trading card game Magic: The Gathering, which he had played with his girlfriend Laura Shigihara. Showing her how to customize their card decks inspired him to design Plants vs Zombies with seed packets rather than his original idea of using a conveyor belt that produced randomly selected plants, due to the greater complexity of the seed packet method. Another influence on Plants vs. Zombies besides Warcraft III and Insaniquarium was Tapper, crediting the use of five lanes to this game. Various members of PopCap Games contributed to the development of Plants vs. Zombies through an internal forum where they gave feedback.
Some of the characteristics that defined Insaniquarium influenced the development of Plants vs. Zombies. Players advance in a similar pace by receiving new plants. Also, the way plants are chosen at the beginning of each level was derived from the way pets are chosen in Insaniquarium. Other inspiration for the game’s mechanics came from the film Swiss Family Robinson, especially where the family defends against pirates. This was the inspiration for the Potato Mine; Fan stated that it was satisfying to watch a zombie step on the mine, being defeated and covered in mashed potatoes.
Design The team wanted to bring back the aliens from Insaniquarium, but in the end they were changed to zombies, which players could react to more easily because of how slowly they moved. George’s favorite zombie was the Pole Vaulting Zombie, due to the hilarity involved when a player encounters it for the first time, using a specific example where a player tries to block it with the Wall-Nut, only to have the zombie jump over it.
During development, it was discovered that newcomers to the genre of real-time strategy may have a hard time learning the concept behind sun collection. So, the price of the income generating sunflowers was dropped from 100 to 50 to encourage players to buy them over the attacking peashooter. As a result, the balance between plants and zombies had to be restructured—a move that Fan said was definitely worth the effort. Programmers focused on Adventure mode for much of the first year of development. Upon finishing some items ahead of schedule, one of the programmers, Tod Semple, began working on ideas that would later be used for the minigame section. Some ideas for the puzzle mode section would later be tweaked and moved into adventure mode; “Vasebreaker” and “I, Zombie”, for example, came from single-level minigame concepts. During testing, Fan found that minigame and puzzle modes seemed to detract from the focus on Adventure mode, so some of the additional modes and minigames were locked requiring advancement within adventure mode to become unlocked.
Fan stated that every game he worked on had only him designing the prototype, adding that he used to draw a lot before he made games, where he made pixel art. The final designs of the zombies and the first plants are similar to how they were initially. After searching for an artist, they discovered Rich Werner, who Fan thought clicked with what he intended for the design. He attributed the intrigue of the design to its animation scheme; Tod Semple suggested that they animate it in Flash and export it into the game. Fan worried that this would look like it was cut out from paper, and would resemble South Park too much, but was satisfied in the end, attributing this to Semple and Werner’s talents.
Fan was most proud of the Tall-nut, Torchwood, and Cob Cannon plants. He explained that the Tall-nut has character, citing its “determined gaze” and how it sheds a single tear when hurt. Laura Shigihara could not stand to see this, and protected it with a protective plant called a Pumpkin, which can protect plants inside it. He felt that the Torchwood – which gives Peashooters flaming ammunition – required players to think of how plants interacted with each other. Another favorite plant of Fan’s was the Squash, due to how its name suggested its purpose; to squash things. A plant was proposed that is similar to the defensive item Umbrella Leaf, which would be planted above other plants to protect them from bungee zombies and catapult zombies. However, it was difficult to visualize their positions.
Cultural references Plants vs. Zombies uses many cultural references in its names of stages and others. The gravestones’ inscriptions (“Expired”, “Ceased to Exist”, “Just Resting”, etc.) were taken from Monty Python’s “Dead Parrot sketch”. Three of the mini-games—”Zombiquarium”, “Beghouled” and “Beghouled Twist”—take their names from two other PopCap games: Insaniquarium, Bejeweled and Bejeweled Twist respectively. Two levels in “vasebreaker” puzzles, “Scary Potter” and “Ace of Vase”, take their names from Harry Potter and Ace of Base. Similarly, the “I, Zombie” (a reference to Isaac Asimov’s “I, Robot”) puzzles have levels called “Dead Zeppelin” (resembling Led Zeppelin) and “All your brainz r belong to us” (a play on the gaming meme “All your base are belong to us”). The name of the Torchwood plant is a reference to Doctor Who and its spin-off show Torchwood. Originally, the dancing zombie resembled Michael Jackson from the short film “Thriller”. Though the Jackson-inspired zombie was present in the game before Jackson’s death, the estate of Michael Jackson objected to its inclusion more than a year after his death; PopCap agreed to remove the Jackson-inspired zombie and replaced it with a more generic disco-dancing one for all future patches and releases of the game. A “disclaimer” in the game’s almanac states “Any resemblance between Dancing Zombie and any persons living or dead is purely coincidental.” Some Plants vs. Zombies advertisements parody controversial Evony ads, showing a drooling zombie instead of a voluptuous woman.
A planned name was Lawn of the Dead, a pun on the title of the George A. Romero zombie film Dawn of the Dead. For legal reasons it was changed to Plants vs. Zombies. It spent three years in development, and was released for the PC on May 5, 2009. Since it was released, it has been released for multiple platforms, including PlayStation 3’s PlayStation Network, Xbox 360’s Xbox Live Arcade digital distribution service, Nintendo DS, Android, and iOS.
Plants vs. Zombies itself was referenced in “The Passing” campaign of Valve’s fellow zombie game Left 4 Dead 2, in which the player can stumble upon in-game graffiti attributed to the character of Crazy Dave. A five-level quest chain culminating in a quest entitled “Lawn of the Dead” in the massively multiplayer online game World of Warcraft: Cataclysm is based on Plants vs. Zombies, using Warcraft elements to recreate the gameplay. Blizzard Entertainment had contacted PopCap about the inclusion, and Laura Shigihara was able to record some new music for the Warcraft version of the game.
Characters Crazy Dave David Blazing, known within the game as “Crazy Dave”, serves as a narrator and an instructor during Adventure Mode, introducing the player to certain levels and explaining some of the mini-games and bonus levels. He is later abducted by a Bungee Zombie on level 5–10 right before he can tell the player Dr. Zomboss’ weaknesses, and reappears during Sunflower’s rendition of “Zombies on your Lawn” after Dr. Zomboss’s defeat at the end of the game. He has a shop known as “Crazy Dave’s Twiddydinkies” that he runs from the back of his car once the player finds his car keys after Level 3–4. He sells several plant upgrades, extra defenses, and Zen Garden items. Crazy Dave’s notable features include a rugged beard and a pot always worn on his head, as well as his signature babbling speech.
Dr. Zomboss Dr. Edgar George Zomboss is the main antagonist and the leader of the zombies in Plants vs. Zombies, and reappears in the sequel, Plants vs. Zombies 2: It’s About Time. He is battled on the Night Roof during Level 5–10 as the final boss in Plants vs. Zombies. The name “Zomboss” is a portmanteau of the words “Zombie” and “Boss”, meaning “Zombie Boss”, while the Zombot, the machine used by Dr. Zomboss in the game is the portmanteau of the words “Zombie” and “Robot”, meaning “Zombie Robot”. His middle name, George, is after the name of the game’s creator, George Fan.
Soundtrack The soundtrack for Plants vs. Zombies was composed by Laura Shigihara. It borrows elements from the pop music genre, as well as console chiptunes. Before the inception of Plants vs. Zombies, Director George Fan asked Laura if she would like to compose the music for his next title after following her for some years. She accepted, owing to his creativity. Shigihara described the music as “macabre, yet goofy”. Using the night stage as an example, she used a combination of “Big Band” and swing beats with “several haunting and serious melodies”. The songs “Loonboon” and “Brainiac Maniac” were written towards the end of production. The song “Ultimate Battle” also appears in the game Melolune. She stated that these were reactionary songs that she wrote to fit the feel of the game after having played through it twice. She tried to make the game have a Danny Elfman feel to it, while mixing in melodic tunes and funky beats. She describes a song early in the game, which uses marching band percussion and swing beats. She described another one which used techno beats with organic sounds. Shigihara also composed and performed the music video shown during the credits of the game, titled “Zombies on Your Lawn”.
Plants vs. Zombies has received a positive reception from critics, garnering an aggregate score of 87/100 from Metacritic and an 88% from GameRankings. IGN editor Andy J Kolozsy commented that it featured a lot more content than other games in the genre, as well as praising its addictive nature. However, the DS version was criticised for its lower quality graphics and expensive price point. GameSpot editor Chris Watters praised the design of the plants and zombies, as well as the visuals and its overall value. However, he found fault in the learning curve. 1UP.com editor Alice Liang found the game enjoyable, commenting that the lawnmowers that protect the left side of the screen strikes a good balance between ease-of-use and in-depth game play. Edge’s review praised PopCap Games for adding an imaginative touch to every little detail of the game. He also credited them for taking the tower defense genre and making it their own.
Laura Shigihara’s music video also received praise, with Hatfield attributing his interest in the game to the video. Liang also praised the song, asking how anyone could not want Plants vs. Zombies after seeing the video.
To date, Plants vs. Zombies is the fastest-selling video game created by PopCap Games. Plants vs. Zombies director George Fan estimated that half of the game’s sales are from hardcore gamers. According to PopCap, the iOS release of Plants vs. Zombies sold more than 300,000 copies in the first nine days it was available on the App Store, generating more than $1M in gross sales, and considered it “the top-grossing iPhone launch”.
Awards Plants vs. Zombies has been nominated for the “Casual Game of the Year” and “Outstanding Achievement in Game Design” Interactive Achievement Awards from the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences. The game received nominations in “Best Game Design”, “Innovation”, and “Best Download Game” for the Game Developers Choice Awards. Plants vs Zombies was picked by Gamezebo as one of the ‘Best games of 2009’.
A version of the game was added in patch 4.0.3a of World of Warcraft which used similar mechanics as an homage to the popularity of the game. A reward of a non-combat pet singing sunflower is given to those who can beat the minigame. The success of the game has led to the creation of Plants vs. Zombies lottery tickets. Since the game was partially inspired by the Magic: The Gathering card game, a Magic card called Grave Bramble has been released in the Innistrad expansion. It is a Plant with the Protection from Zombies ability. Zen Pinball 2 for Wii U, PlayStation 3 and PS Vita and Pinball FX 2 on Xbox 360 feature a Plants vs. Zombies pinball table.
Sequels and spin-offs In late 2012, PopCap announced that they were working on a sequel to Plants vs. Zombies. However, the game’s status was in doubt shortly after the announcement when the company went through a period of layoffs, which included series creator George Fan. Plants vs. Zombies 2: It’s About Time released August 15, 2013 as a free-to-play title, and was a time-limited exclusive title for iOS systems before moving to Android later that year.
In May 2013, the Facebook game Plants vs. Zombies Adventures was released by developer PopCap Games and publisher Electronic Arts. The gameplay is a tower defense game, players no longer had to defend a single home in front of the zombie horde, and could travel to new locations and engage with new characters. On July 14, 2014, it was announced that Plants vs. Zombies Adventures would close down on October 12, 2014. The Facebook game was removed by November 2014.
In 2014, Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare, a multiplayer third-person shooter based on Plants vs. Zombies, was released for Xbox One, Xbox 360, Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, and PlayStation 4. On May 5, 2015, it was revealed by Electronic Arts that a new Plants vs. Zombies game would be released in Q1 2016. EA CEO Andrew Wilson said that the upcoming game would be a follow-up to Garden Warfare and that it would be a bigger and bolder console experience.
In June 2015, Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 was announced at Microsoft’s E3 press conference by Peter Moore. It was made available on the market on February 23, 2016.
Since 2013, Dark Horse Comics published an ongoing series of official tie-in comics to the games in the Plants Vs. Zombies series, starring a boy named Nate and Crazy Dave’s niece, Patrice. The comic’s stories is written by Paul Tobin and drawn by various of artists for some stories. The books are available in paper form and in a digital format in the Plants Vs. Zombies: Comics app, available of iOS and Android devices.
On March 10, 2016, PopCap revealed Plants vs. Zombies Heroes, which is a card game in the series. It was soft released to certain countries on the same day, and was fully released internationally on October 18, 2016.