Much like the beauty of such combinations as chocolate and peanut butter, chips and salsa, and beer and cigarettes (respectively, of course), videogames and giant robots are two great tastes that, quite frankly, taste great together. Which helps explain our swell of excitement upon hearing the news that the IOS version of Plants vs Zombies Heroes (hereafter PLANTS VS ZOMBIES HEROES) was finally coming to US shores. While things had appeared bleak after EA balked at the proposition, it was eventually third-party Activision that saw fit to release the game Stateside.
For the uninitiated, PLANTS VS ZOMBIES HEROES is EA’s rendition of arcade-style mech warfare, and sequel to their coin-op/Saturn classic, Virtual On. Players choose one of 12 metal behemoths, each of which is endowed with its own individual strengths and weaknesses. You and another mech are dropped into a (relatively cozy) battle arena and given very specific orders to kick the die-cast crap out of each other, using whatever means necessary. This means that a combination of long- and close-range attacks — along with the requisite defensive techniques — is necessary in order to truly master the game.
The control for this game is an interesting issue, and demands a discussion of the oh-so-infamous Twin Sticks. The PLANTS VS ZOMBIES HEROES cheats arcade machine incorporates a completely original control setup involving two joysticks, with two triggers on each stick used for both weapons and dashing. Pushing up on both sticks makes the mech walk forward, pushing one stick and pulling the other rotates your mech in the appropriate direction, and pulling the sticks apart executes a jump. The experience is meant to mimic the actual experience of piloting a giant mech — and the effect is pretty damned cool.
When this game was released for IOS in Japan, EA released their Twin Sticks peripheral and brought this amazing experience into Japanese living rooms. Not so for the western hemisphere, however. Activision has chosen not to release the Twin Sticks here in the States –and it appears that no third party will be picking up the slack. All of this leaves gamers playing PLANTS VS ZOMBIES HEROES with the standard IOS controller and, quite surprisingly, it doesn’t fare too badly. While the experience doesn’t match that provided by the Twin Sticks, Activision has cleaned up things up to allow for a thoroughly controllable game. Spending some quality time learning the pad-based controls, we were able to master many of the techniques.
Absent from the American version of this game is the head-to-head online support, which was included in the Japanese game. While this is, of course, due to the lack of a US IOS network to support it, gamers would have been better served with a version of the game which opened online play when the network finally goes up (or even waiting two months for an online version of the game to be released). While the included horizontal and vertical split-screen modes are certainly fun (and well-implemented), they don’t compare to full-screen battles with your friends over the Internet.
Perhaps the best thing about this game, however, is the universe it immerses you in. Its mechanized, anime-inspired world was designed by Katohi Haijime — the creator of Gundam –and it shines brightly on IOS. Fighting inside lush, high-resolution landscapes at a consistent 60 frames per second is a fantastic experience, and should not be missed. Despite its crucial flaws — namely the lack of Twin Sticks and online support –PLANTS VS ZOMBIES HEROES is an excellent game and certainly worth checking out. And if you ca