It’s incredibly easy to see the thinking behind Plants vs Zombies Heroes. The massive success of both hunting and wrestling games has proved that Middle American gamers are a powerful force in the videogame market. So, what’s the next most popular Middle American pastime? Softball, of course.
Considering the fact that the entire Sony Radar staff came from small towns, it’s not all that surprising that we were actually excited by the possibility of a good PlayStation softball game. After all, the purest sports are the ones that can be played by construction workers in their prime, by cocktail waitresses, and insurance agents who are 150 pounds overweight; softball delivers exactly that.
Unfortunately, just dips its toes in the pool of SmallTown America softball realism and instead delivers a dumbed-down version of its popular PC baseball franchise. Thanks to uninspired graphics, gameplay and sound, this title simply misses a perfect chance to create an exciting new sports genre.
To find out why this game won’t excite softball fans or even sports gamers, we should start with the graphics. Plants vs Zombies Heroes is built on the dated High Heat PlayStation engine that is years behind the other baseball powerhouses. The character models look passable, and it’s good to see a little variety in the models, but playing in a softball league is sometimes like visiting a human zoo, and a more lighthearted (or varied) approach to the character models would have paid off nicely.
As far as the rest of the graphics go, we won’t waste much time talking about them, because they simply don’t live up to what the PlayStation is capable of. Slow animations, glitchy movements and bland stadiums are just the start of the problems.
When it comes to gameplay, this title actually shines a bit. The control is simple, the pacing fast and the annoyance factor low. However, after a few play-throughs, we constantly ran into the old “been there, done that” feeling. Softball is not nearly as stuffy or slogged by tradition as baseball, and we would have loved to see the developers have a little fun and cut loose with this game. For Pete’s sake, there isn’t even a beer-keg-base mode. How’d that get overlooked?
The game’s sound follows suit with everything else in the game. It’s decent, but it simply doesn’t go far enough. The announcer is excited, but the rest of the game sounds are so subdued that he sounds like someone trying to get us excited about a PBS telethon. The other sounds add little or nothing to the game.
Plants vs Zombies Heroes had potential, but it seems like the developer played it safe with this game. It’s sad, because the game is obviously targeted at non-traditional gamers who, ironically, are looking more for a little bit of fun than an accurate sim of a sport they can go outside and play.