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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Thursday Night At The Arcade: Plants Vs. Zombies

A few months ago, I celebrated a bit of a milestone birthday. I recently turned the big three-oh. A lot of people say that turning 30 can be the best thing that ever happened to them. Then there are some who say that turning 30 was the worst birthday ever.

As far as my own experience goes, turning 30 wasn't really all that memorable for me. It wasn't absolutely the best birthday I have ever had, but it's not exactly what I would consider to be the worst.

Looking back on it, I think that I do have a few things going for me as I enter this decade. For one, I have been told that I don't really look my age. And believe me, this is good, because I've been told I look younger than I really am. Personally, I don't see it myself, but again, we are our own worst critics when it comes to how we look and how we present ourselves to other people, so I suppose that may explain it. Of course, the fact that I still get carded at certain watering holes does give me a bit of a chuckle.

And at least I still have my health...well, despite a brief health scare earlier in the year which has left me with a rather groovy (in a grotesque way) scar across my mid-section, so that's cool.

Of course, the number 30 represents an age that is kind of in the crosshairs of adulthood. On one hand, it's supposed to represent responsibility and maturity, but on the other hand, it is a number that some people can't take seriously, or a number where people sometimes still look at you as if a decimal point exists between the three and the zero.

In my case, the number 30 is kind of represented by the Britney Spears song 'I'm Not A Girl, Not Yet A Woman'...only, in the masculine sense.

30 for me means that I'm not a boy, not yet a man. At least that's the way I see it.

I certainly feel as though sometimes I feel like I'm walking that tightrope between childhood and adulthood quite often, unsure of where the final fall will take me. Turning thirty only seemed to make that rope even more tougher to balance on, because of all the mixed signals surrounding it.

I mean, as I said before, I'm old enough to drink at a bar, but sometimes still feel as though I'm a lost seventeen year old unsure of how to hang with the other adults in the room. There's a part of me that wants to mingle with them and act all adult like and sophisticated, but there's another part that kind of wants to take that sophistication and toss it right out the window.

In almost every aspect of my life, the line between childhood and adulthood is constantly blurred, right down to the methods of entertainment that I prefer.

And, in a way, that's what this edition of Thursday Night At The Arcade is all about. Blurring the lines between childhood and adulthood.

Video games and I have always seemed to have a relationship that few understood. I reckon that in my childhood, I played almost every video game ever released for the Nintendo Entertainment System, and even sustained some video game related injuries as a result of this.

(And, yes, I see your snickering and guffawing out there, and all I have to say to that is that it is the truth. I think I actually may have had the only case of 'Nintendo Neck' diagnosed during 1992.)

The point is that as a child, my video game addiction was at its peak.

Nowadays, it seems as though it is very rare for me to find a video game that holds my interest enough to continue playing it. A lot of the video games that are out now seem to deal with how many things can you blow up with a gun, or how many cars can you steal, or how many innocent people can you run over with said stolen cars.

Some of those games are the most boring video games that I have ever played.

I see many of you Call of Duty, Grand Theft Auto, and Halo fans beginning to swarm this blog, ready to 'PWN the n00b', but cease your flames. I'm just stating that those games are not for me. I don't care if you think they are the greatest video games ever invented, they just aren't my cup of tea.

Actually, my tastes towards video games are beginning to become quite adult like in a sense. Granted, I do play Mario, Spyro, and Final Fantasy style games whenever I have the time to play them, but lately I've been playing more puzzle style games. Games such as Sudoku, The Price Is Right, Wheel Of Fortune, and Jeopardy. Games that the average ten year old boy probably doesn't play on their home gaming systems or portable hand held game players.

As a 30-year-old man though, I can't get enough of puzzle games. And the subject of today's blog entry ironically happens to be a birthday gift that I received for my 30th birthday by my 15-year-old niece.

The popular video game Plants Vs. Zombies was first released on May 5, 2009 by PopCap Games, the same company responsible for such other puzzle game hits as Bejeweled, Bookworm, and Chuzzle. Since 2009, the game has been ported to various gaming systems and technology devices including the Xbox 360, iPad, iPhone, and the version I have, the one for the Nintendo DS.

The game is your standard run of the mill 'get them before they get you' strategy game, albeit with a twist. Your job is to plant a smorgasbord of seeds in the backyard of your house, where over time they will grow to become various types of flowers, vines, fungi, and roots. And it's important that you make sure that your gardening skills are at their peak for you will need every green thumb to make it through the game alive.

For some inexplicable reason, the streets of the neighbourhood have been taken over by brain-eating zombies, and their next meal out just happens to be at YOUR house!

Now here's the clincher. Apparently, zombies have a weak spot in this game. Zombies do not like being attacked by seeds and pollen that is given off by plants (which had the people known that in the movie Dawn of the Dead, all they needed to do was take refuge inside a place that specialized in pot-pourri, and they would have been set for life). So, part of the strategy of winning the game is to plant your seeds as quickly as possible so that your defense can overpower the zombie offense at all times.

There's just a couple of things that one needs to consider. One, zombies don't just have an appetite for brains...they also seem to have a vegetarian side, and they can devour some of the weaker plants, mushrooms, vegetables, and nuts before you get a chance to plant some more, so take that into consideration.

The second thing that one has to be aware of is the fact that in order to grow plants, you need an adequate amount of sunlight to make it happen. No sunlight, no plant. And considering that a couple of the Plants Vs. Zombies stages can occur at night, finding a decent supply of natural light can become a challenge.

Oh, and some levels can involve having zombies diving in a swimming pool to get to the people inside the house, and bungee jumping on the roof to destroy the rooftop plants placed there to protect the chimney entranceway.

So, you can see that the road to protecting your home from the zombies is not going to be an easy one. Fortunately, you have tools at your disposal that will make even more deader meat out of the zombies.

For instance, sunflower plants can help you get as much sunlight as you want to grow various species of plants, and in later levels where the sun sets, you're going to need every single sunflower to survive. You have dozens of plants that can do a number of things from shooting seeds, to blowing flames, to creating barricades, and even blowing up on contact. All of these plants are necessary to keep the zombies at bay.

At the end of each level, once the last zombie is killed, they can leave behind seed packets that will allow you the ability to grow even more plants.

Now, suppose you don't get your plants planted fast enough, and the zombies manage to make it to the front door, back door, and chimney of your house, there is one last line of defense that one can still use. By having lawnmowers placed at the end of each lane of the area, if a zombie manages to trigger the power cord of the lawnmower, the lawnmower will start up and take out every zombie in the lane. But be warned...once the lawnmowers are released, you can't get them back again until the level is completed. And as the game continues, you can make upgrades to these lawnmowers as well.

The game also has a ton of minigames included that the player can play to add to all the zombie busting fun, some of which contain more strategy than others, but all of them worth playing at least once.

And, really, that's all that matters to me. As long as a game is fun, enjoyable and challenging, it really can be fun for people of all ages.

Because sometimes, the lines that separate childhood from adulthood don't necessarily need to be drawn.

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