Ever since Popcap was acquired by EA their focus has shifted away from simple yet well-crafted puzzle games and towards titles more befitting of their new owner’s largely detested business practices. Hence why Plants Vs. Zombies has transformed from a lovable tower defense game into a multiplayer third-person hero shooter. At this point, I’m surprised they haven’t figured out a way to turn Peggle into a battle royale.
I still long for the good old days where this was just a game about planting sunflowers to fend off screen door-shielded zombies. However, I can’t deny that Plants Vs. Zombies: Battle For Neighborville is a well-made multiplayer title with a decent amount of charm. The only issue is that it doesn’t have enough going for it to make it a must-have game let alone one that’s worth playing on the Switch.
Battle For Neighborville is all about the large-scale war between the happy-go-lucky living plants and the goofy undead zombies. Much to my surprise, there is a single-player campaign to play through that has some semblance of a plot and quite a bit of comedic dialogue. Well, comedic in the sense that it’s supposed to be funny, but aside from a few smirk-inducing lines, it’s mostly insufferable. It’s all jokes about old 80s fashion and cringe-worthy internet humor like yetis who hoard bling. If I wanted that brand of comedy, I’d peruse a few dozen meme posts over on Reddit.
For the most part, this campaign feels more like an elongated tutorial for the multiplayer mode. It mostly involves walking up to various silly NPCs, accepting a quest, and then fighting waves of zombies ending with a boss battle. It’s a good way to get to know all of the various character classes so you’re ready for the multiplayer, but it’s not much more than that.
This particular franchise actually translates to a hero shooter pretty well since there’s a variety of different plant and zombie character designs. On the plant side of things, you have classics like the Pea-Shooter or the zombie-devouring Chomper. Meanwhile, zombies get all kinds of wacky classes like pirates, superheroes, mad scientists, and roller-disco dancers. Each one has its own specific set of skills and attacks. Some are for up-close confrontations, some fire off rounds like machine guns, etc. There are also some classes that are designed for defending objectives and supporting other players.
As for game modes, there’s Turf Takeover, which is the big 16 player mode where you’re tasked with capturing or defending points and objectives; Garden & Graveyard Ops, which is essentially a Gears Of War-esque horde mode where you and your team fight waves of enemies; and a Weekly Event mode, that for this week was an 8v8 team deathmatch affair. Additionally, there’s a big hub world where you can run around with other players, look at your challenges, and spend coins to purchase cosmetics, skills, or new characters. Speaking of those coins, they’re all earned in-game. There are no microtransactions in this edition of Battle For Neighborville, which shocked the hell out of me.
The combat is solid, although I wasn’t blown away. Technically there’s nothing wrong with how this plays, but it doesn’t do anything exciting or new. It’s just an alright little shooter with extra abilities and not many modes to choose from. It pales in comparison to games like Overwatch or Apex Legends, which coincidentally are both available on the Switch and a lot more fun. It doesn’t help that I’m not sure if there’s going to be a considerable player base for this. Most of the matches I played didn’t have many players actively participating. Instead, the rounds were filled with bots that made up the bulk of both teams. Although to be fair, these were pretty skilled bots. Most of the matches ended with them being the kill leaders or MVPs of their respective teams. So at least the A.I.-controlled players are pulling their weight if you can’t find anyone else to play with.
The game looks and plays well with a stable framerate and some enjoyable cartoony levels. While I ragged on Battle For Neighborville’s terrible humor, there’s a lot of charm in the game’s art design. The animations are fluid and imbue these characters with personality. The only downside is that if you’re playing this in handheld mode you’ll probably see quite a bit of pixelation. This game looks better in docked mode, but it’s never going to look as good as it does on PC or any of the current-gen consoles. Of course, that shouldn’t be a surprise if you’re buying a Switch port of a game like this.
Throughout playing Plants Vs. Zombies: Battle For Neighborville all I could think about was how it’s a real bummer that this is what Popcap has become. They now make frivolous multiplayer titles that don’t have much of a hook outside of being kooky and based on one of their better past games. There’s nothing wrong with Neighborville and I am both thankful and surprised that it wasn’t full of loot boxes or other microtransactions. But after I stopped playing I didn’t feel an overwhelming need to return to it. It’s just an adequate shooter that doesn’t stand out from the multitude of other competitive shooters. To make matters worse, EA basically cut the legs out from under Neighborville by releasing Apex Legends on the Switch earlier this month. Not only is that a better game, but it’s also still being supported and it’s free. Meanwhile, this game isn’t receiving any future updates and will cost money. It’s kind of a no-brainer which one is more worthy of your time.
Unless you really want to see an ear of walking corn fire machine gun rounds at a zombie dressed as a football player, Plants Vs. Zombies: Battle For Neighborville is far from the best option for a multiplayer shooter on the Switch.
A Nintendo Switch copy of Plants Vs. Zombies: Battle For Neighborville was provided to TheGamer for this review. Plants Vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville is available on Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox One, and PC.
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Jamie Latour is a writer and actor based out of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. From his hyperactive childhood to his….Well, still hyperactive adulthood, he’s been writing and performing in some capacity for practically his entire life. His love for video games goes all the way back to the age of 4, playing Mega Man 3 for the first time on his NES. He’s an avid gamer and can be found nowadays either messing around in Red Dead 2, or being cheap as can be as Reaper in Overwatch. He’s still starting out when it comes to making online content, but aside from his writing he can found on his Twitch page under the handle SpontaneousJames. You can also find him on social media as @SpontaneousJam on Twitter (because Spontaneous James was too long apparently).
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