What if the games industry was one big party? Picture the scene. As you walk in you pass Blizzard and Activision, snogging in the hallway. Heading into the lounge you see Microsoft and Sony are the centre of attention. They're arguing about who's got the best new car, but neither will let anyone else have a go. Nintendo is looking out of the window, barely listening to the row, too busy making sure no one's standing too close to its Bugatti Veyron.
In the kitchen, EA and THQ lean grumpily against the cupboards, wishing they were the ones in the hallway with Blizzard. Ubisoft lights another Gitane and tries to start a conversation about art, but everyone's too busy complaining about how Nintendo never buys a round.
One figure stands out from the rest. Not because of the smart suit or highly polished shoes, but because of the crowd gathered around. While everyone else at the party fights amongst themselves, PopCap Games is the one getting all the chicks.
The secret to its success? Smart, highly polished casual games. More than a billion PopCap titles have been downloaded in the last ten years, an awful lot of them by people who wouldn't know Metal Gear from Gears of War. The company is responsible for the likes of Peggle, Zuma and Bookworm, plus Bejeweled - 50 million copies have now been shifted, making it one of the top ten best-selling games of all time.
But Bejeweled isn't PopCap's fastest-selling title. That accolade belongs to Plants vs. Zombies, the tower defence game first released for PC last May. It's popular around these parts, scoring 9/10 in our review and heralded as one of our favourite games of 2009.
For those who didn't play it and can't be bothered to click on those links, here's the deal: Plants vs. Zombies sees you battling against waves of zombies as they shamble across your lawn. You decide what stands in their way, choosing from an arsenal of wacky plants.
There are exploding potato mines and cherry bombs, projectile peashooters and zombie-eating venus flytraps, red hot chillies for burning up entire rows of enemies and hallucinogenic mushrooms which make them turn on their own. There are also plants which generate sunshine, the currency required to buy seeds. An extra plant is unlocked each time you complete a level so there's a constant stream of new toys to play with.
New types of zombies pop up as the game progresses. Some wear traffic cones or metal buckets on their heads for protection. Others are dressed in athletic gear and able to pole vault over obstacles, or tied to balloons so they can float over projectiles. The highlight is the Michael Jackson zombie, who comes complete with a red leather tracksuit and a troop of dancers doing the Thriller moves.
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