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Welcome back, readers! After the release of both the Dark Ages and Big Wave Beach, I began to become a lot more cautious about what Popcap would release for their next levels. Mostly, I was nervous that zombies would start coming out even faster, and that ambushes would be intolerable. While I was hoping for the best, I was also prepared for the worst.
So beleive me that I am 100% honest when I say..... that was the most enjoyable PvZ experience I have had in a long time. Popcap seems to have learned their lesson from Dark Ages and Big Wave Beach, and they're passing the benefits on to us!
Tecku Talks About: Why Frostbite Caves Part 1 Is Great!
Let's start with the mechanics. Ice floes redirect zombies into different lanes, creating vast new strategies and tactics for the player to try out. Sun producers can be hidden behind the floes, but certain zombies will tamper with that strategy. Split-Pea gets some new utility, as does Bonk Choy. I can't even scratch the surface on how good this mechanic is.
The other new mechanic, the freezing winds, could have easily turned into a cheap cash grap my Popcap to squeeze more coins out of the flamethrower..... but it didn't. The winds are few and far between, and you have enough time to set up a good defense before it starts. Furthermore, only a few plants will be completely frozen per blast. This lets you use Hot Potato on the fully frozen units while your other plants tackle the partial ice blocks.
Now, let's move on to new plants and zombies. First off, we got three new plants and three new zombies. That's plenty of new for half a level. Plus, these new units work great off each other:
- Hot Potato is a plant that can be used to counter a zombie and a level mechanic. This is what Wizard Zombie and Octo Zombie needed. A solid plant that this level couldn't do without. Altough, you actually can do without it if you choose to use its cousin....
- Pepper Pult is living proof that Popcap has relearned one of the game's main principles: give the player a variety of possible strategies. You can choose to pack Hot Potato, Pepper Pult, or both, but I prefer just Pepper Pult. His ice-melt mechanic is a beautiful compliment to not only the icy winds and Hunter Zombie, but also to the ice floe mechanic. Since he can melt neighboring lanes, you can place him in lanes that have more space, and place heavier firepower in the lanes with less space. A great zombie that the level really wouldn't be the same without.
- Chard Guard is what I personally feel Spring Bean should have been. In this age where Sun is plentiful and AOE plants reign supreme, this fellow is a welcome addition to your arsenal, just like Ghost Pepper. Whereas Spring Bean is quite polar, being overly handy with the Pirate Seas and Plant Food + Blover, and useless otherwise, Chard Guard is much more well-rounded. It has some great utility with its home world mechanic (the best example being level 16), and is just as useful elsewhere.
- Blockhead Zombie..... I'm 90% sure the ice block is weak against fire, but he always appears with other zombies, so I'm unsure. Either way, I ....... didn't notice him that much. Did he really appear before the Chard Guard showcase level? Dave stated we must be finding him annoying, but I didn't catch him. He's either a further fire tie-in, or just tougher zombie, but he works fine either way.
- Dodo Zombie really adds diversity to the game. He keeps plants behind ice floes from being automatically safe, but he has multiple weaknesses. Even without Hurrikale, he can be taken down by heavy firepower, which gives the player multiple paths to pursue, much akin to Shield Zombie. He ties in excellently to the level. I know it's hard to understand why from this post, but his little bugger here might just be in my top ten favorite zombie now..... or at least top 15.
- Hunter Zombie. Yes. Just.... yes. This guy is Wizard Zombie and Octo Zombie done right. Heck, I don't even care that he's so similar for the third level in a row..... his balance is worth it! Even disregarding Hot Potato and Pepper Pult, his snowballs have a weakness in they can only hit the rightmost plant, even if that plant is already frozen! His plant ties-ins, however, are where he really shines. A group of two Hunters can overwhelm a Pepper-Pult, but Hot Potato in turn can counter the group. A brilliant work of art, all around. My only question is: why didn't we see this sooner?
So, is that it? Oh, no! Not only are the ideas great, but the implementation works! I barely ever felt overwhelmed, and when I did, I could find error in myself instead of the game. Even in the level where two zombies appear at the beginning, I found ways to win without boosts or losing lawnmowers! The horrendous low tides mechanic is purged from my memory as snowstorm delivers fewer zombies, which I can take out with proper planning. It's just.... great.
This world is also home to many of my new favorite levels. Just to name a few are the Pepper Pult S.O.S., the one with the frozen Sunflowers, and the first special delivery level. Fun, balanced, unique and memorable, these levels make me want to play them over and over again!
So that's Frostbite Caves Part 1. I know some people might think of it as too easy, but I think that's just of how unfairly hard the Dark Ages and Big Wave Beach were. Plus, this was only the first half of the world. I had a great time with it, and I could really enjoy the mechanics. Please, Popcap, make the second half just as good as the first!