The people behind Plants Vs. Zombies are adding a ton of new stuff to the iPad version of the game today. That is, it's "new" if you haven't played other versions of the game, that is. But, hey, these added modes, all of which have appeared in other, more expensive versions of the game, are mostly pretty good.
The update from the game's creators at PopCap will push its way through the App Store today, April 19, adding 28 Achievements and the PC version's Zen Garden, which lets you nurture new plants.
The more exciting additions, from what I've played on an iPad running the new build, include four mini-games: Slot Machine, Zombiquarium, Portal Combat and Beghouled Twist. The first is standard PvZ, with zombies stumbling in from the right of your screen while you plant defensive plants on the left — but this time your selection of plants is offered via pulls of a slot machine lever. Zombiquarium requires you to feed brains to a fishtank full of zombies before they drown. It's alright.
Portal Combat is cool. It's a riff on the great Valve game Portal, adding portals to the playing field that you can shoot through — fire into one portal and your anti-zombie peas will exit another portal; two pairs of portals shift positions mid-round.
Beghouled Twist is a riff on PopCap's own Bejeweled Twist and requires players to rotate a field of plants to match threes-of-a-kind, while zombies rush in to eat the plants you're making matches with. It's the best game of the new bunch, if you play it fair and square. But you can brake this game by just mashing your fingers on the iPad screen.
I had the best time with the added Vasebreaker and I, Zombie modes. These are classified as "puzzle" versions of PvZ. The former fills the lawn you're defending with vases. Crack each open with a finger-tap and hope it has a plantable plant inside. If it has a zombie, you're in trouble, because the zombies will start walking leftward to try to reach your house. Smart (and lucky) players will crack open vases that contain plants first.
The latter mode, I Zombie, lets you play as the zombies, strategically sending the right types of zombies at a lawn full of defending plants. This is the easiest thing to describe in this big expansion and, maybe not coincidentally, the best addition.
Both Vasebreaker and i, Zombie include pre-baked levels and an endless version.
All of the new content makes a very good game even better, but there's one more twist you should know about. Only the Slot Machine mode, Zen Garden and the first levels of Vasebreaker and I, Zombie will be available to any player who has finished the game's main quest. The other modes and later levels of Vasebreaker and I,Zombie have to be purchased with in-game coins. You can earn those coins by playing, but you can also just buy the coins with real money. Some players will enjoy that option; others will probably issue a zombie groan. (To put this in perspective, you could pay $US2 for 250,000 coins; 50,000 coins unlock the new non-puzzle mini-games; 150,000 unlock all the iZombie levels; 150,000 unlock all the Vasebreaker levels.)
All of the above updates are for Plants Vs. Zombies HD, which is the $US6.99 version for the iPad. The $2.99 iPhone version will gain nine Vasebreaker levels, the first of which will cost no coins to access, the rest of which will.
The additions to PvZ don't add anything brand-new to the series, but they beef up the game on iOS. Some of us may clamor for a true sequel, but for now we're getting something different: a sign that, as with their ever-improving, ever-expanding Bejeweled iOS app, PopCap seems ready and willing to expand their other top portable games more or less for free. That's a pretty good deal.