- The Nintendo Switch release offers solid fun free of the micro-transactions that wreck so many other titles
- EA Games took the franchise far from its roots as a tower defence game, but it works
Plants vs Zombies was never supposed to be a shooter. Nearly a decade ago, this was a tower defence game, and a wildly fun one at that. The premise was simple (if a bit weird): in a backfield battleground, a bunch of plants had to prevent a group of zombies from reaching a house.
And never mind why or how: arranging Pea Shooters and giant potatoes to block the oncoming hordes of rockstar zombies and zombies with random cones on their heads was fun.
Then it all changed. EA acquired Plants vs Zombies, and the franchise has gradually morphed into something else, a horde-mode-style multiplayer shooter.
It’s now hitting the Nintendo Switch in its latest form, Plants VS Zombies: Battle for Neighbourville Complete Edition. And while this definitely isn’t the PvZ we originally fell in love with, it is a game that offers solid fun.
Neighbourville originally came out two years ago, but the Complete Edition for Switch is the best version you can get. It’s free of the micro-transactions that have wrecked so many titles (including earlier versions of Neighbourville), so you can focus on the shooting that much more.
And Neighbourville’s shooting is worth focusing on. The strength of Plants vs Zombies as a franchise is the wide scope of creature options; there are a host of different plants and too many zombies to count.
You’ll get to play as all of these (after unlocking them, of course), and you’ll gradually upgrade them too. That means everything from pirate zombies to Chomper plants, all with little endearing traits that make them feel distinct.
The gameplay itself works in all the classic shooter ways you expect. It doesn’t quite compare with the likes of Overwatch as a multiplayer shooter, but on a Switch that isn’t exactly teeming with shooter options, it’s still fun enough.
You’ll pick it all up swiftly, too, especially if you play through the single-player campaign. As is typical with EA, this campaign is essentially an extended tutorial for the multiplayer madness ahead. It successfully teaches you game mechanics, though, and then you’re ready for the action.
You get several fun game modes. Turf Takeover is a 16-player mode with various objectives, and there’s a Weekly Event mode too. Our favourite mode is Garden and Graveyard Ops, a horde-mode-style title that has you and a team facing ever-tougher waves of enemies. This is the highlight of the game overall, and it’s a blast if you get the right team together.
It’s that “right team” part that just might hold Neighbourville back in the end. Right now, the audience for the game is thin, so you may struggle to get a team together. If you can get one together, though, there’s fun to be had here.
It’s all a far cry from the roots of Plants vs Zombies as a tower defence title, and in some ways, yes, we do miss that. . But Neighbourville makes the shooter transition solidly and competently, joining the sea of shooter games out there.
And that’s not bad, even if you can’t help wondering what might have been.