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Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville Loses Its Soul

Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville Complete Edition
Courtesy of PopCap Games

Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville Complete Edition

Developer: PopCap Games
Publisher: EA Games
Release Date: March 19, 2021
Available as: Digital and Physical

Plants vs. Zombies Enters The ‘Warzone’

When a series such as Plants vs. Zombies exists for as long as it has, it becomes a necessity for the game to branch out into other genres. Games like Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville are born out of fear of being the same “cut-n-dry” game that players have experienced for well over a decade. For those who have been living under a rock for the past eleven years, Plants vs. Zombies was originally a tower defense game released in 2009 where the player places various plant units surrounding the home of the last survivor in town as they fend off zombies during an apocalypse. 

The quirky nature of the zombies themselves, the simple cartoon graphics, and the absurdity of plants firing bazooka pellets was enough to win many fans over, joining the likes of Angry Birds and other popular early-era mobile games of the late 00s - early 2010s. When EA purchased the license as a deal from their acquisition of PopCap Games, Plants vs. Zombies became a part of the “EA treatment” in which games are stripped of their identity and at worst are filled to the brim with microtransactions and pay to win games.

pvs battle neighborville gameplay 2

Meet the ‘Black Crops’ Of Plants vs. Zombies

Looking up information about how a game like Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville came to fruition left me nodding in understanding as the only way a game like this could exist is through EA’s meddling. The game is the third title of the spinoff series titled, not making this up, Plants vs. Zombies Garden Warfare followed by the critically acclaimed Garden Warfare 2. While it’s unknown if noobtubing existed in Garden Warfare 2, the naming convention and its gameplay is a tongue-in-cheek reference to another franchise from another multi-billion dollar corporation.

Rather than focus on the tower defense aspect that the original was known for, Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville flips the franchise on its head, turning it into a third-person shooter with “hero shooter” elements borrowed from Overwatch, Valorant, and Apex. There are two teams consisting of plants and zombies with each team having playable characters that specialize in specific roles. The default character, Peashooter, is your average high DPS shooter that has a turret mode and a short-range bomb mechanic, while support characters such as the Sunflower, can heal wounded units by providing support.

pvs battle neighborville gameplay

There’s a ‘World At War’ In Battle for Neighborville

In single-player mode, the roles don’t matter as much as playing with the character you’re most comfortable with. Occasionally you’ll come across NPC allies who will fight alongside you as you free them from zombie enemies, but for the most part, you enter a map, roam around looking for missions, and complete said missions to progress the “story.”

Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville has a “story” in that you’re a soldier in a plant army tasked to defeat the zombie menace who are trapping plants and are forcing them to, uh, dance. If all the plants are subjected to dance, then they can’t defend the human townspeople from the impending zombie apocalypse, so you have to free the plants from their dancing fate.

plants vs. zombies: battle for neighborville gameplay

No More Call of Duty Puns, We Promise

I never said it was a good story, but I did say it was a “story.” The gameplay holds up as you would expect from a third-person shooter of this nature. You press ZR to shoot and ZL to aim while pressing any of the face buttons will activate abilities. Pressing the left stick will force the character to go into a sprint with your health recovering over time as you take less damage, much like the various shooters it borrows elements from.

There’s not much to say about Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville rather than I feel it tries a bit too hard at times to be hip with the overload of puns and very cliched personalities. Most of the jokes completely go over my head and I feel as if the writers in charge of the jokes felt the same way before submitting them in-game. The gameplay feels solid enough to the point where it’s a good time waster although navigating through the hub world to get to where I needed to go proved to be a hassle.

plants vs. zombies: battle for neighborville gameplay

So, When’s The Next Actual Plants vs. Zombies Game?

Even by the end of my time, I was still unsure what it was exactly I had to do, but the number of missions I did complete were engaging enough to keep me occupied. For an obvious cash-in game for a very popular franchise, this is a great deal of praise. The graphics are inoffensive, filled with colors and cartoony elements, and the framerate is solid on the Switch. 

 It could have always been worse, especially on a console where third-person shooters are lacking, but there are better options available for other platforms that feature Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville. I am still unsure what makes the Switch version the “Complete Edition,” as no mention of any bonus features are present both on the case, in the case, or even in the game.

Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville is available on the PC, Switch, PS4, and Xbox One

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