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Foot Soldier Zombie & Camo Cactus

Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare
by yo go re

It's weird trying to predict the success of mobile games. Why is Angry Birds such a phenomenon, and not any of the dozens of identical physics games that it ripped off? Why is your mom spending $30 a month on Candy Crush when Bejeweled doesn't cost a thing? And in the world of tower defense, how does Plants vs. Zombies manage to hold off all challengers?

Well, in that case it's probably just the zombies. People love zombies.

People love them so much, in fact, that (just like Pinocchio) PvZ got turned into a real boy! Er, game. A real game. Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare brings us the wholly original and certainly-not-copied-from-anything idea of taking a two-team PvP deathmatch and making all the characters silly. Innovative!

The Foot Soldier Zombie is always in the fight - armed with an array of the latest Zomboss tech he doesn't understand, but still manages to operate thanks to his Zomboss Academy Training. His speciality is taking out rooted Plants, claiming high ground via his rocket jump, and counting things.

The Foot Soldier is the basic class for the Zombies' side - the one with the most middle-of-the-road stats, and the easiest weapons to use. Those of you in the audience who are easily startled or have medically diagnosed heart conditions will want to brace yourselves for this next SHOCKING revelation: he's dressed like a soldier! We'll give you all a moment to process this mind-shattering news.

Have you recovered? Good. FSZ has a helmet that's dinged up around the edges and has a bandaid slapped on it for some reason. His right sleeve is rolled up above the elbow, while his left sleeve goes all the way to the wrist - except that it's still exposing his elbow, because the cloth has been ripped away in the middle. He has a Z patch on his shoulder, and a Z belt buckle. There are sculpted pockets on his shirt. His belt has two pouches, one of which was put on upside down and is hanging open; that's what happens when you ask a zombie to dress himself. His pants are tattered below the knee, and he's wearing a single decaying boot on his right foot - his left foot just has a sock on. Both let us see his toes, though!

His articulation is surprising for such a small, cartoony figure: he has a swivel waist, swivel/hinge shoulders, swivel joints at the right bicep and left wrist, and a double-balljointed neck. It's reminiscent of Palisades' Invader Zim toys, and that's a good thing. He's armed with a Z-1 Assault blaster, which appears to be a paintball gun with a boot on the end of it - maybe that's why his foot is bare? There's also a bazooka (or "ZPG") strapped to his back. In the game, he can either bend over to fire it at enemies, or he can use it to jump himself up to a higher vantage point, because of course he can. The figure comes with a clear disc base to keep him standing, because his spindly legs and giant guns won't do it on their own.

The set also includes an alternate head for the Foot Solider. This one ditches the helmet, revealing his spiky brown hair and a wide red bandana. Holy crap, this children's toy based on an E10+ game is referencing Christopher Walken's Russian roulette scene in The Deer Hunter! There's a spot on the forehead that's painted (hair) brown instead of (skin) green, but you likely won't notice. Swapping the head out is a little tough, but only because the hair is so pointy. It hurts when you push on it!

A Plants vs. Zombies action figure set wouldn't be much of a Plants vs. Zombies set if it only had a zombie, so this set includes a plant as well: in this case, the Camo Cactus.

As a master of disguise, she's had to learn how to blend in to a suburban atmosphere. It was far more challenging than she had originally thought.

Her? The Cactus is a girl? Plants can be girls? The Cactus is the long-range specialist of the Plant team, able to shoot high velocity needles at faraway Zombies. Basically, she's the team sniper. The "Camo Catus" is a variant of the normal version, with a stronger ammo and longer range, but a slower rate of fire and a longer reload time. Why would being camouflaged have that effect? Maybe she's moving slower so as not to give her position away.

The PvZ cactus is based on a saguaro, the cactusiest cactus of them all. At least, according to pop culture - in reality, saguaro only grow in the Sonoran desert, which covers a little bit of southern Arizona and northern Mexico. But their vaguely humanoid appearance (tall central body, thinner "arms" rising up from above the midway point) makes them easy to recognize, and almost as easy to anthropomorphize.

The "camo" part of this Camo Cactus is just painted on, so we'll probably be seeing the plain Cactus at some later date (at least, we assume that's DST's thinking). Weirdly, the camo is only painted on the arms, not the entire body as it should be. The sculpt is impressive, however: those bumpy, spiny ridges run all the way up the body, and the spikes are fairly sharp; she also has extra leaves on top of her head and around her neck, which are presumably meant to help with concealment; those are separate pieces, another hint that they're aiming for re-use down the line. The flowers on her head are rather nice, though.

The Cactus doesn't have a stand to help keep her upright, but she does have two molded cubes coming out of her body to act as feet. Her nose/shooter is a separate piece that you plug in, but she only moves at the waist and swivel/hinge shoulders.

According to the original promotional images Diamond Select Toys released of this line, the Foot Soldier Zombie/Camo Cactus set was also going to include a Potato Mine pack-in - you know, another character, an unarticulated piece that would basically be a glorified accessory. The inclusion of something like that would have definitely increased the parallels between this line and Invader Zim, but sadly, it seems to have been cut before production. Oh well. Eh, the set only cost $13.99 at TRU, what are ya gonna do? The packaging also says there's an "Xbox booster code inside," but nothing I could find.

Plants vs. Zombies was originally going to be called Lawn of the Dead, which is a much more clever title, if not quite as on-the-nose specific as the one we got. It may not be the most innovative game ever designed, but these toys are fun. Nearly as much fun as the Zim toys, and that's high praise. We do kind of wish that these had been out in time for October (because Horror Month, obvs), but this was worth the wait.

-- 12/03/14

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