Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Plants vs Zombies: Zen Garden

Plant's vs Zombies: Zen Garden

Popcap Games' Plants vs Zombies is truly an addicting game. Its premise is really simple, zombies want to enter your house and eat your brains. In order to stop them you need to set up an array of zombie busting plants at your disposal to defend your home.

The catch is not all plants are available, you can only have a fixed amount of plant seeds in your arsenal and you need to harvest or make your own sunlight in order to be able to plant the plant (whoa I got dizzy with the double speak!) And of course there is the terrain that you have to factor in when selecting plants for your defense, specifically the front yard, the backyard with the pool, the roof. Then of course you have to factor in the weather, day or night then there is the plethora of zombies that need specific plant type defenses. All this make it an interesting game that you could waste hours upon hours on.

Last week I found a more useful use of the game (whoa!, there I go again with the double speak, I should really use a thesaurus). And that is teaching my 4 yr old son how to use the computer and the value of responsibility.

This is done via a feature of the game called Zen Garden. While playing the game you are sometimes rewarded with seed packets that fall off the zombies you kill that automatically end up in your Zen Garden. In the Zen garden you can take care of these seeds till they reach maturity. Afterwards you can choose to sell them to earn a buck. The mushrooms are actually the most expensive plants in the lot which can be sold for $10,000 for a mature one.

Thanks to the catchy music (composed by Laura Shigihara) it attracted my son to the game while I was playing it. Then he got attracted to the characters and the beautiful design of the game. I soon found a seatmate beside me whenever I played the game, he watched intently clapping and screaming wildly whenever he found something amusing during the gameplay.

At one point I was tending my plants at the Zen Garden and I noticed that he was very interested in this aspect of the game. My son is 4 yrs old and can't handle the mouse of a computer so he definitely couldn't play the regular parts of the game that require a level of strategic intelligence and of course the dexterity to handle a mouse. I thought however that maybe with the slow pace of the Zen Garden this could be his chance to part take of the game.

True enough when we sat down and I started to show him the basic movements of the game he was able to pick it up easily. We started with watering the plants, giving bug spray, fertilizer and music. From there we moved to more complicated tasks such as buying bug spray and fertilizer. Now he is able to move the plants around from the different gardens (aquarium, night garden, etc)

As parents, my wife and I became ecstatic because of the learning he had acquired (how to use the mouse) from this game that piqued his interest. But more than that it helped me to teach my son the values of being responsible. Every morning now when I wake up he asks me if he can go to "the garden", so I fire up my computer and start the game. From there he knows what he has to do, which is to water the plants, give them fertilizer, music and bug spray when asked for. Also to help the snail pick up the money that plants give off.

You can try Plants vs Zombies online here, but the features are incomplete compared to the paid version.

My son's favorite character from the game is the Squash. So my wife made a figure of the squash for him out of Polymer Clay to celebrate his new found skills.

Plants vs Zombies: Zen Garden squash plant

Plants vs Zombies: Zen Garden squash plant