You're trapped inside the house; brain-craving zombies are closing in from all sides; and there are no firearms or weaponized power tools in sight. What do you do? In Plants vs. Zombies, now available for the Nintendo DS well over a year after it debuted on the PC, you have only one option: to strategically surround your home with a selection of combat-ready plants. Both the plants at your disposal and the zombies you're disposing of in this tower defense game come in a wonderful variety of shapes and sizes, and are introduced gradually as you play through the occasionally challenging campaign. The DS version of Plants vs. Zombies boasts the same campaign, minigames, and bonus features found in last year's Xbox Live Arcade version, and while it lacks that game's cooperative play, it does include the excellent competitive mode.
You don't have to be inebriated to reap the benefits of wearing a traffic cone on your head.
Most of your time in Plants vs. Zombies is spent either on your front lawn or out back, where there's a slightly larger garden with a pond running down the middle of it. Both are divided into grids, and each square can accommodate any one plant of your choosing. Zombies shamble, sprint, and swim from right to left toward your house, while you establish defenses that can include any of almost 50 different plants (though no more than 10 different species in any one level). Sunflowers are used to collect the sun that serves as currency, wall-nuts obstruct zombies for as long as it takes for them to be chewed through, potato mines explode when zombies step on them, peashooters do exactly what you think they do, and so on. As your arsenal increases in size, you have to choose which types of plants you're going to take into each level. You'll inevitably have favorites, but these decisions are also based on a sneak peek that you get of the zombies that are going to attack. If you see that some of the zombies are going to be attacking by floating over your garden suspended from balloons, for example, you need to make sure that you have a plant that can either puncture or blow away those balloons. Though most levels have you doing much the same thing, the ever-changing zombie horde and the different plants that you use to combat them--as well as levels set at night and in fog--prevent the action from getting repetitive.
Also keeping the action fresh are levels that take the form of different minigames. For example, there are levels in which you use wall-nuts as bowling balls, and other levels in which the plants in your arsenal are dealt to you randomly like playing cards. All of the minigames that pop up during the campaign can also be played outside of it, via a menu that lists more than 20 different minigame types. You can do battle against invisible zombies, you can play a Bejeweled variant with the plants in your garden as zombies attack, and you can even raise your own undead in a zombiquarium. Unique to the DS version are four new minigames, including one in which you have to shout (or at least speak quite loudly) into the handheld's microphone to keep your plants awake; a gameplay mechanic that thankfully only shows up once in the entire campaign. That misstep aside, Plants vs. Zombies is a game that just keeps on giving you more fun things to do long after you've beaten the campaign. Invite a second player and, regardless of whether or not they have their own copy, this great game gets even better.