The Learning Curve

My mom received an iPad for Christmas. She’s never been a gamer, but on a recent visit my cousin installed Angry Birds and she’s rapidly become addicted. So has my step father. The two of them raved about how fun the game was and how good it was for amusing them on their many long trips. She expressed interest in obtaining more fun games, so I immediately downloaded a copy of Plants vs. Zombies.

Back when I was pregnant, my husband and I had similarly tried to get his stepmother into PvZ. She had real trouble figuring it out and nothing really came of it. My mom did better initially, but I’m not sure if she’ll get into it either. She was pecking at the screen and seemed to have no real concept of planning. I coached my mother for a bit, explaining that “sun” was like currency or money and that she had to save up for plants she wanted to “buy.” I also recommended tapping rather than trying to drag plants to specific locations, as half the time she didn’t realize that her “drag” hadn’t picked up the plant. It remains to be seen whether or not she’ll continue to play when I’m not around.

As a gamer since junior high, it never really occurred to me that PvZ was a more “advanced” type of game. Angry Birds and PvZ are both very simple by my standards. It’s not like I was trying to get these women into an FPS. The truth is that these games are actually very different. Angry Birds involves flicking birds at structures to break them down. You can try to control their trajectory and velocity but you cannot control which birds you get in what order. While levels do involve some planning on your part, I’ve actually had better success on some of my harder levels simply pelting the structure in random places or locations I don’t think will actually work.

Plants vs. Zombies requires a lot of planning and forethought.You have a house and a lawn. Plants are placed on the lawn that attack or impede zombies. If a zombie makes it to your house you lose. The first time I played the game I immediately started changing up strategies based on what I knew. Do zombies change lanes? No they don’t; I only have to worry about each lane as a single unit. Shit, that zombie ate my peashooter. I need to plant things further to the left. How many sunflowers do I need? I wonder how many I can get away with planting before the first zombie comes. Walnuts should be closer to the right. Oh I can use a spud to take out that first zombie and get more sunflowers planted.

Unlike Angry Birds, where you have to deal with whatever birds you’re given, PvZ requires the player to manage resources. Sunlight is used to make plants, but you can always plant sunflowers to generate more sunlight. The trick is to plant as many as possible while keeping them out of harm’s way. A novice player will often put them anywhere. Experienced players will place them to the far left.

Birds/Plants come in many varieties and have different abilities. However, birds are introduced very slowly, there are only a handful of types and all are used for the same purpose- knocking shit around. There are lots and lots of plants though. So many, in fact, that you get a new one pretty much every level. They vary in purpose as well- some are offensive, some are defensive, some are upgrades to other plants, some are supportive. You also earn cash as you play, which allows you to buy even more plants.

The enemies you face in Angry Birds are little green pigs. Some have helmets on that make them harder to kill. Others are larger and have more health. Zombies come in the large and helmeted varieties as well. They can also be disco dancers (which summon more zombies), pole vaulters (which jump over obstacles), or come in riding dolphins.

So yah, I may have underestimated the easiness of this game (though it is very fun and addictive and easy!). Next time I’ll grab her Bejeweled.

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