This ‘Hood Isn’t Big Enough For The Both Of US
HIGH New characters are a lot of fun.
LOW Not many PvP offerings.
WTF No more flaming Cactus?!
Plants vs. Zombies has been a much-beloved franchise since its release back in 2009 as a tower defense game on Windows and Mac, with ports to consoles and handhelds afterwards. The series has continued to update its tower defense entries, but the IP took a wild turn when EA unveiled Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare, a third-person character-based shooter at E3 2013.
Since then, the shooter has spawned a sequel, Garden Warfare 2, and more recently, Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville — originally released as an early access title in September 2019 and fully released in October of the same year. Finally, after over a year, Battle for Neighborville has hit the Nintendo Switch, and it rocks.
Neighborville begins with a pretty solid tutorial starting the player on the Plant team. It walks through shooting, special abilities, the numerous stations used to collect new items and upgrades, and communicating through emoticons to teammates. After this, an open area hub opens up where plants and zombies can meet for combat. It’s a cool place for new players to test the waters and get used to the controls, and a great place to test out the numerous characters.
Speaking of the characters, there are a ton on both sides to choose from. The originals from the first game like Zombie Scientist, Soldier, Cactus, and Sunflower are all back, but of course, there are some new choices to pick from. Neighborville introduces us to Acorn/Oak is probably my favorite new plant. Starting as a little acorn with great speed and quick shooting, then transitioning into a giant Oak tree with heavy attacks and detonating sap bombs just feels awesome. The zombie side introduces us to the awesome ’80s Action Hero who shoots a super-powered bow, rides on a floating machine gun and has explosions galore. Whichever side the player chooses, they won’t be disappointed.
Unfortunately, Neighborville has pulled the plug on one of the coolest things from Garden Warfare 2. Variant characters are now gone, and this means that there are no options for customizing ho these characters play — things like adding flame to Cactus’ attacks, or having an electrified Sunflower. While there are now skins to change their appearance, all of the characters come in one standard flavor in terms of how they play, and it’s disappointing.
After the player gets used to the controls in the hub and finds some characters they feel comfortable with, it’s time to choose where to go next, whether that’s jumping right into full PvP sessions or going with the story mode adventures.
I went for the adventures, but this mode feels more like expanded tutorials than a full-sized 1P mode, and no matter which team is chosen, these missions plays out pretty similarly. Basically, they’re about going to a checkpoint, fighting waves of enemies, collecting specific items, and then rinsing and repeating until the boss fight begins. It’s a great mode to grind for currency and explore the relatively small maps, but there’s really not much here.
The PvP offerings also feel a little sparse considering that Garden Warfare 2 had many game types. The only PvP mode offered here is Turf Wars, and it’s a ‘push the payload’ type game where the player moves an object through all the checkpoints, and then does some sort of objective at the end to thwart either the plants or the zombies from doing something like launching a rocket or growing a giant sunflower. It’s good in short bursts, but after just one session I felt fatigued and ready to take a break.
Outside of Turf Wars is Garden Ops, and it’s essentially like Call of Duty‘s wave-based Zombie mode. Players fend off incoming hordes and try and stay alive as long as possible. There’s also a weekly mode called Funderdome, but it’s just a typical team deathmatch where the first to 50 kills wins. Matches are pretty quick and it seems like this particular mode is on a rotation. Unfortunately, with only three modes to choose from, the overall package feels pretty light at the moment.
On the pus side, Neighborville runs extremely well and the framerate is stable, even in crazy situations when a lot of stuff is happening onscreen. I had zero issues getting into full games online and the load times are pretty snappy.
Battle for Neighborville is a solid entry in the Plants vs. Zombies franchise, but it does feel like a step back from Garden Warfare 2 as it’s short on PvP modes and he adventure side is slim. The wide variety of characters to unlock is pretty fantastic the numerous skins are relatively cool even if they don’t alter gameplay, but I’m not sure that it’s enough to keep players online for long.
–– Cody Bolster
Disclosures: This game is developed by PopCap Games and published by EA. It is currently available on XBO, XBX/S, PS4, Switch, and PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the Switch. Approximately Three hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was not completed. Three hours of play were spent in multiplayer modes.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated E and contains Comic Mischief and Fantasy Violence. The official ESRB description reads as follows: This is a third-person shooter in which players compete as members of either the Plant or Zombie faction through story-based missions and multiplayer matches. Players roam around levels/stages and use “cartoony” weapons (e.g., laser pistols, gas blasters, pea shooters) to defeat opponents and enemy bosses. Battles are frenetic and accompanied by large explosions, gunfire, and screen-shaking effects; enemies collapse to the ground and quickly disappear when defeated. A handful of characters can be heard burping/belching, and one zombie character wears an outfit that reveals a small portion of buttocks (e.g., “plumber’s crack”).
Colorblind Modes: Colorblind modes are present and several different options are available. This option includes Off, Tritanopia-Blue Weak, Protanopia-Red Weak, and Deuteranopia-Green Weak.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: This game offers subtitles. The subtitles cannot be altered or resized. There are some abilities that characters do that announce their activation, and there are no visual cues that go along with them. In this sense, the game is not fully accessible.
Remappable Controls: This game offers partially remappable controls. Essentially, players can swap joysticks for Southpaw players. Button Actions: Left Stick Move, Press Left Stick Sprint, B Jump, Y Interaction, A Cancel Ability, ZR Activate primary weapon, ZL Zoom / Activate secondary weapon, Right Stick Turn camera/character, L Ability 1, X Ability 2, R Ability 3, Left D-pad Strategies, Right D-pad Gestures, Up D-pad Favorites, Down D-pad Play random gesture from Favorites, + Pause, – Social menu / Region map / Scoreboard