Heyo guys! It's Tecku! So, after the longest time, Lost City part 1 is finally here. And I gotta say..... I'm impressed. This level took a lot of chances, but unlike Big Wave Beach, it knew how to make the ideas work.
Let's start with the concept. While we're not given an exact year or location, Lost City's zombies gives off an excellent 1800's feel. The idea with the sun tiles is also a very good one. Since they allow defenses to be built early, the action comes on hard and quick, creating a very fast-paced battle. In my opinion, this is one the most perfect ways they could have gone. It feels more intense and challenging than Frostbite Caves, but I never found myself raging at any difficulty spikes. The whole sequence is very intense, but (gasp!), it still manages to be fun.
But as I stated in my BWB review, good concepts mean nothing if the zombies and plants are junk. So, how do these sections hold up? Honestly, I'm astounded. It feels like they took what was wrong with the Dark Ages and BWB and said, "Hey, you know what? The fanbase deseverse better. Let's take another crack at these guys." Let's start with the plants:
- Red Stinger is a shooter that can also be used as a defensive plant, akin to Pea-Nut. However, with Red Stinger, I found myself having a much better time. In my Premiums and Gemiums review, I stated that Pea-Nut works best as an anti-ambush plant, and Red Stinger just does it so much better. The health bonus stops the ambushes from doing too much damage, while its powerful versions finish them off. RS's mechanic allows for a vast multitude of strategies, each tempered by split-second descisions. Do I use the leftmost column for Sun-Shrooms, or RS? Each descision makes the game more vast, more intense, and more fun.
- A.K.E.E., in my opinion, is Bowling Bulb done right. The bouncing effect makes it unique from other pult plants, but it doesn't rely on zombies not being in its lane to work. Yes, Laser Bean is still probably better in most situations, but I really like this guy.
- Lava Guava seems to be a very close relative of Ghost Pepper. Fun, enjoyable, and great for both crowd control and tough zombies. His mechanic is very well balanced, and he's a lot of fun to use, especially in the fast-paced action of Lost City.
- Endurian is... really great against Parasol Zombie. I know that's really specific, but I can't really think of anything else to say. Endurain works with almost any strategy, is a better offensive/defensive comba than Pea-Nut, and is just really solid.
Now for the zombies:
- Lost Pilot Zombie may seem like a generic ambusher zombie to most people, but to me, he's more. To me, "Parachute Rain!" is "Low Tide!" done right. There's no way to stop it from coming, but the damage done can be dampened. Red Stinger and Endurain are great at preventing losses. Furthermore, since he can't move right away (and never packs helmets, sufboards, or stinkin' octopi) you don't have to worry about him eating up too much stuff. However, if you make the risky descision to put sun producing plants on middle column gold tiles, he'll gobble them up. Great stuff.
- Excavator Zombie is both Surfboard Zombie and Fisherman Zombie done right. His shovel will mess up your plant array is you let him, but he has set weaknesses. He doesn't have a lot of health and has to reach your plants to do anything, so a lot of plants will tear through him before he messes everything up (unlike Fisherman Zombie). If you have enough sun you can replace the plants shoveled. And if you get him with an instant, he won't leave surfboards or octopi behind.
- Parasol Zombie is Jester Zombie done right. I mean.... yeah. The parasol blocks a certain type of attack (a type you'll almost certainly be using), but it doesn't punish you for using it. What else can I really say here?
- Bug Zombie is.... really intersting. On the one hand, if you have Blover, they're all cinches, perhaps even a wee bit too much so. On the other hand, without Blover, these guys can really pack a punch. They're not too bad, though, as Lava Guava and a good defense will deal with them for the most part.
However, I much I enjoy the plants and zombies, what really stole the show for me was the level design. These levels are fantastic. Each one feels different, and handles great. How about that Locked and Loaded meets "don't let the zombies trample the flowers" level? Or the one with the whole slew of gold tiles with a sun production goal? The gold tiles leave a lot of room for unique levels, and the developers took advantage of all of them. What's interesting, though, is how many risks were done in the level design. For the most part, new plants are immediately followed by zombies that counter them, instead of zombies they counter. For example, right after you get A.K.E.E., Parasol Zombie shows up. That's a big risk for the game to take, and is reminiscent of King Zombie vs. Manget Shroom. But since the game gives you a variety of options and keeps the levels fun, I... didn't really mind.
So is there anything I didn't like? Well, besides Bug Zombie being unmemorable, I am just a bit disappointed about the lack of both a Last Stand level and a Brain Buster level. However, as I said, the levels are so much fun, you won't care. I didn't even realize they were missing until I started writing this. Oh, and Sun Shrooms are almost mandatory for these levels.
All in all, Lost City Part 1 is another great series of levels from Popcap. It's really nice to see them make challenging fun, and I hope Lost City Part 2 is just as good!
-P.S. The ultimate battle theme for this world is the best one yet. It's got a lot of varying instruments, and really boosts the intense feel of the levels.