Review: Plants vs. Zombies Pinball

PlantsVsZombiesPinball

Casual plus casual equals—surprise!—several freaking lawns’ worth of casual in the new Plants Vs. Zombies downloadable table for Pinball FX2 and Zen Pinball 2, the result of a creative mashup between PopCap Games and Zen Studios, two of the most recognizable names in modern casual gaming.

You’d have to be a brain-dead zombie—maybe one of those vacant-eyed digger zombies–to argue that this table doesn’t do a great job of maximizing PopCap’s mega-popular PvZ license, whether it’s the digitized zombies that pop up and begin trudging toward your flippers or the horrifyingly familiar NOOOOOO! scream that triggers when the ball drains. (And the zombies, presumably, serve your brains as bean dip.) The ball looks like a pea from the Pea-shooter plant. Crazy Dave’s sedan makes frequent appearances. The lawnmower is your ball-save feature and you can use a Melon-pult to clobber cone-head zombies.

Fun stuff for anyone who’s successfully protected their house, roof and pool from the brain-munching hordes on their PC, console or handheld. But sweet Edward G. Zomboss, this is an easy table, easily the most user-friendly thing Zen’s ever designed. Everything about it is designed to assist the player to skyrocketing high scores. Extra balls are handed out like bargain-bin Halloween candy—in my very first game, I accumulated so many I actually began to wonder if there was a software bug preventing “game over” from occurring. Thanks to the central location of the wide ramp that loops the ball into a big red mailbox and eventually triggers the table’s multiball feature, you can expect to experience multiball madness around 5-10 times per game. (Activating it once is enough to earn you the game’s lone Gamerscore achievement.)

Unlike Zen’s recent Avengers movie table, where right- and left-side ball drains were a constant and frustrating hazard, Chomper plants are parked on either side of the PvZ table to snarf up and spit the ball back into play. Those things are handy—or maybe toothy?–in the backyard *and* on the pinball table.

Enjoyment of a license well deployed offsets the lingering feeling that you’re not exactly earning the rain of bonuses and eye-popping table scores solely on the strength of your mad pinball skillz. Hardcore wizards may grumble a little at this casual buffet, but the rest of us can just grin a Crazy Dave grin when the table says “shoot again.”

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Pros:
+ Clever and colorful use of the license
+ Smashing zombies with pinballs and Melon-pults is always awesome
+ Great use of sounds from PvZ—screams when the ball drains, etc.

Cons:
- User-friendly features (extra balls, Chomper kick-backs) make the table almost too easy

Game Info:
Platform: DLC for Pinball FX2 on XBLA and Zen Pinball 2 on PS3 and PS Vita. Xbox 360 version reviewed.
Publisher: Zen Studios
Developer: Zen Studios/PopCap
Release Date: 9/5/2012
Genre: Pinball
ESRB Rating: Everyone
Players: 1
Source: Review code provided by publisher

About the Author

Aaron R. Conklin has been writing about games and games culture for more than 15 years. A former contributor to Computer Games Magazine and Massive Magazine, his writing has appeared on IGN.com and in newspapers and alt-weeklies across the country. Conklin's an unapologetic Minnesota sports fan living in Madison, Wisconsin, home of the Midwest's most underrated gaming vibe.