Brandon Boyer

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As PopCap recently made the rounds to promote Peggle: Dual Shot, the DS version of its inexplicably excellent pachinko/pinball game due in the U.S. this week (along with the bonus levels designed by Lumines/Every Extend Extra dev Q Entertainment), it saved its best secrets for a recent interview with Forbes.

There, they promised many more handheld versions of popular franchises this year, including long-time word game favorite Bookworm (which hasn’t been seen off PCs since the Game Boy Advance) and Bejeweled Twist, and vowed to continue support for its bread and butter PC audience.

On the last note, PopCap teased a project called, erm, Plants vs. Zombies, which VP Greg Canessa called a mashup of “the real-time strategy genre, tower defense games and collectible card games–but in a casual context.”

That should be enough to pique anybody’s interest, but that’s apparently not quite the full story. QuarterToThree forum user (and Peggle Nights level designer) Hiro_Antagonist has braved the vicious dual-headed beast of ‘PR and Marketing’ and offered to clarify some details on the game based on his experience as beta testing admin. Says Hiro:

I’ve been playing internal builds of Plants vs Zombies for about a year and a half now, and was the administrator of its beta testing. And if you ask me, Canessa did the game a real disservice saying anything about CCG’s in relation to it. I literally winced when I read him saying that because I knew people would get the wrong idea.

The extent of CCG influence on this game is that the plants/towers you buy are denoted by little card-like UI widgets at the top of the screen. And there’s a splash of ‘deckbuilding’ as you get to choose 5-8 or so of your plants arsenal to use on any given level.

Nobody is trying to sell booster packs for extra cash, or anything of the sort. In fact, Plants vs. Zombies is one of the best values (in terms of amount of fresh gameplay and replayability) that PopCap has ever offered. IIRC, it takes about 8 hours to beat the core game, with lots more stuff to do after that. And damn, it really is fun.

I don’t want to reveal too much about gameplay because I’m not sure how much I’m allowed to say, but any enterprising souls can go dig up a screenshot from an old PC gamer. And what that screenshot will show is a grid-based game board with the player’s house on the left with zombies coming from the right. Plants can be planted in the squares on the grid, and there are a number of things those plants can do: shoot zombies, act as walls, generate sun (to build more plants), light up the darkness, repel zombies, etc. IIRC there are 48 (or so) plant types to use.

No luck yet digging out the January 2008 PC Gamer screenshot, though it was indeed noted at the time by friend of Offworld RockPaperShotgun, and Hiro was also popping up on various other forums with tiny tidbits of information, including the fact that the game is being designed by the creator of early PopCap casual hit Insaniquarium (not mentioned by name, but presumably former Flying Bear George Fan).

For now, all we have left is this last unfortunate bit of information, and a healthy hunger to hear more:

BTW, an interesting point of trivia: This game has been known publicly as “Untitled Zombie Game” ever since the afforementioned PC Gamer screenshot. But internally it has gone through a number of names, including Bloom & Doom, Zom-botony, and my favorite, Lawn of the Dead. We have a list of literally hundreds of other suggestions, some of them great. But many of them having trademark/registration issues.

(Also, please note, the image above is from an entirely unrelated ZombiePhiles poll, but was too perfect not to repurpose.)

PopCap home [thanks for the heads up, Alex!]

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