Plants vs. Zombies 2
Gaming, Reviews

Plants vs. Zombies 2 – It’s About Time! Review

Plants vs. Zombies 2 Review

The original Plants vs. Zombies was a surprise hit when it first hit PC and Mac way back in 2009. If you were to just glance at the game, you would have seen something that looked very simple and probably wouldn’t be that much fun. Turns out, it was super fun and became super popular for developer/publisher PopCap Games. It was so successful and popular that it ended up getting ported to seemingly every platform available. It hit iOS and then Xbox 360 in 2010. In 2011, the game was ported over to PS3, Nintendo DS, Android, and Windows Phone. In 2012, it hit PS Vita. Even this year, back in January, the original Plants vs. Zombies 2 hit Blackberry 10.

Odds are you have played Plants vs. Zombies on at least one device/platform. If you haven’t played it yourself, you more than likely know someone who has obsessed over it even more so than Angry Birds. For me, it was PS3 when it was made available for free for PS+ members. I would have never bought the game, because of my preconceived notion that it just wouldn’t be fun, but to my surprise I ended up liking it a great deal.

Despite being hit by the “casual game” label by many folks,  the original Plants vs. Zombies is as solid of a tower defense and strategy games as you’ll find. It’s simple in design, sure, but it also packed a ton of depth, many hours of gameplay, a lot of replay value, and a distinct charm. Basically, if most “casual” games were as good as Plants vs. Zombies, then maybe many so-called “hardcore” gamers wouldn’t use “casual” in a demeaning manner.

Now PopCap has undergone some changes since they developed and published Plants vs. Zombies… they were bought out by Electronic Arts in 2011. Now to EA’s credit, they didn’t rush a Plants vs. Zombies sequel out, but the buyout did result in a bunch of PopCap employees being laid off and some of their studios (like Dublin) being shut down as PopCap had to fully transition to free-to-play mobile games.

Plants vs. Zombies 2 Screenshot 01

The sequel, Plants vs. Zombies 2: It’s About Time, released in North America on August 15, 2013 on iOS. I’m not an Apple fan in the slightest so I don’t have an overpriced iOS device. Thankfully, EA and PopCap saw fit to release the game on Android devices in North America on October 23rd.

Unlike the original, this sequel is free-to-play which is both a positive and negative. For the responsible gamer, this is a great thing because you’re getting a tremendously fun title for nothing that isn’t littered with advertisements. But, it is a game that is loaded with microtranctions that the unrestrained will end up dropping an insane amount of money on. If you have kids and for some reason have your credit card information stored on your device, or enter it so your kid can buy something, be extremely careful.

Plants vs. Zombies 2 introduces things like plant food (which you can hold up to three of and is used to soup up a plant with a special attack briefly) and non-plant based power-ups. These things cost coins, which you can slowly acquire through playing the game. However, you’re undoubtedly going to find yourself in a situation where maybe you wish you had one of these things available and yet have no coins. In this instance, EA would love nothing more than for you to enter the store, conveniently located right beside your coins.

Once in the store, you’re going to be greeted with this screen (all screenshots were taken directly from my game as I wrote this):

Plants vs. Zombies 2 Screenshot 01

Not seen in the image is the first two options for coin buying: 5,000 coins for $2.99 and 10,000 coins for $4.99. What you can clearly see though, is that the “best deal” is 450,000 coins for only $99.99. Clearly that is a “great” deal, after all it IS “so very man coins!” You can already hear the pleas of kids playing this; “Mom…dad… I need coins for my free-to-play game, can I use your credit card?” Kid sees 450,000 coins and gets giddy because he’ll have “so very many coins,” and attentive parent gets surprise when they see that $100 purchase.

Now I’m a free market libertarian that believes strongly in true capitalism, so I know that isn’t EA’s fault or problem. If a parent is that inattentive and irresponsible, maybe they need to be hit with that charge to wake up and pay attention to what their kids are doing. At the same time, if you’re an adult gamer and you have the disposable income to throw around a ton of money on a free-to-play game, I say have at it and spend as much as you want.

Just know that this IS a game that is going to try its best to get you to spend money. In addition to the coins, there are currently six special plants that you can buy. Three of these cost $2.99, two of them cost $3.99, and one of them is listed as a “best deal” at $0.99 which I guess seems reasonable (I wouldn’t buy it personally, so I definitely wouldn’t spend $3 or $4 for a plant either). There are also upgrades that you can purchase; plus 25% sun refund when you shovel a plant ($2.99), plus one extra slot for plant food ($2.99), plus 25 starting sun ($3.99) and plus one seed slot ($3.99). I have to think any sane person would find these prices insane; “I start with 25 extra sun, woohoo!” Congrats, you wasted $4.

Now if you were going to spend money on something, I suppose you could do it on a bundle (of which there are currently three available). You can get the squash plant (which cost $2.99), 5,000 coins ($2.99), and the shovel bonus for only $4.99. You can get 40,000 coins ($19.99) and either a torchwood plant ($3.99) and the extra plant slot for only $7.99, or the 40,000 coins, a jalapeno plant ($0.99) and the additional sun upgrade for $9.99 as seen below. Of course prices change, especially the “deals,” so be aware of that too.

Plants vs. Zombies 2 Screenshot 03

Frankly, I’m still trying to figure out a pattern to the pricing of the bundles because it seems completely random and nonsensical. For $5 you can get three items that individually would cost around $9. For $8 you can get three items that individually would cost $27. And for $10 you can get three items that would individually cost $25. That’s a savings of either $4, $19, or $15. So why would you ever buy the more expensive power bundle, when the torch bundle is the best value and the biggest savings? The additional sun is not worth the additional $2 because if you are even remotely decent at the game you’ll already be able to generate enough sun. Meanwhile, the additional plant slot might actually be useful. Who priced these bundles (or any of this stuff)? Why does it seem so random?

I suppose I should get off of the store and simply let it be. But, any prospective player who enjoyed the original should know that a lot of this one seems designed to try to get you to spend money, and then more money. You can even buy keys to unlock paths instead of earning them, and so on. Of course if you like the game and can, spend a few bucks on it to help support the developers. Having said that, despite all of the above and the ridiculous nature of the store in general, Plants vs. Zombies 2 is a thoroughly enjoyable game that can be played without spending a single cent. The microtransactions are there for the people who want to buy stuff or maybe need the help to better enjoy the game and don’t mind buying unlocks and super powers, but you don’t need to spend money at all to enjoy the game and I think that’s ultimately how a free-to-play works best. It’s totally free, and I see no reason myself to spend money (unless I do so purely to try to help the developers in some way), and thus I cannot complain even if the prices seem absurd to me.

The game is still very much the same as the first; it’s just larger, and a lot more varied, and has some nice improvements. If you played the original then you’ll have zero problems with this one. You have a small grid, and you plant a seed that instantly grow into a warrior plant within each box. Zombies come, slowly at first and then in big waves, from the right side of the screen. The objective is simple; kill the zombies and don’t let them reach the left side of the screen. That sounds simple enough, and indeed in the early goings it is quite easy. As you progress, things naturally get more challenging and that’s when you better hope your planning and strategy was solid (otherwise you’re going to be wanting to buy some power-ups).

What I like to do is plant a sunflower plant, get two suns, and then plant another one. Then I’ll acquire 100 sun points (which is four suns) and plant a peashooter in whatever lane the first zombie appears in. Then I’ll plant another sunflower, followed by another peashooter. I like to have five sunflowers making up the entire back row. In front of the sunflowers, I’ll have a combination of peashooters and the cabbage catapult, and in front of them more peashooters and bloomerangs. When things start to get hectic, I fortify my entire defense with a column of walnuts. As you play, you’ll unlock additional plants like the repeater (peashooter that fires two peas at once), Twin Sunflowers, and so on.

Plants vs. Zombies 2 Screenshot 04

Plants vs. Zombies 2 starts off with a tutorial that looks exactly like the original game. When you complete it, Crazy Dave eats a taco. The taco is so good to Dave that he wants to eat it again. So he comes up with a craaaaaaazy plan… go back in time so that he can eat it again. Of course the crazy one just happens to have a time machine called Penny. Together, the three of you get whisked back in time, first to ancient Egypt. Your journey will also take you to the pirate seas and the wild west. Each area will unveil new types of plants and of course new zombies with new abilities and new obstacles to get in your way.

I think part of the biggest charm and enjoyment with simply progressing through the game is see all of this stuff for yourself. So I’m not going to write about the different zombies or even any of the other worlds outside of ancient Egypt. It isn’t like the game has some grand story and spoilers need to be avoided, but personally I think it’s best to go into the game without knowing half of this stuff first. You may laugh at one of the new zombies that are specific to a world, and you may need to even develop a new strategy to defeat it, and that is to me one of the biggest fun factors while initially plaything through the game.

As you can see from that last screenshot up above, the game does have a Super Mario 3/World style world-map. There is a main path (Egypt contains 25 world map levels and 24 main star levels, for a total of 49 levels), and there also branching paths that are locked behind gates. You’ll need a key to unlock gates; which you get in the game or you can unlock gates by simply spending money.  The first locked gate that you see in the image requires three keys; unlocking it gets you a new plant type and opens up the path to three of the star levels. You’ll also notice on the map that there is an icon with a time countdown on it, that was a special event only available for a certain amount of time. You’ll also see an icon featuring a yeti. That was a special encounter with the yeti zombie, who if you defeat will drop a prize. Went I went and defeated him (and you’ll see him in the screenshot below), I got a lunchbox that contained a key (which I used to open up that gate that requires four keys to get the twin sunflowers).

Plants vs. Zombies 2 Screenshot 05

I’ve been playing this on my Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7-inch (which is a great tablet, and I definitely recommend it; although you can now get the new Galaxy Tab 3 7-inch for only $10 more, $179, at Amazon) and it has been perfect. I enjoyed the original game on my PS3, and that is the only version I ever tried. I gotta say though, I much prefer the touch screen controls and probably wouldn’t both with Plants vs Zombies 2 if it ever hits PS3/PS4/360/One. The touch controls are fast and simple, and frankly I can’t think of a better possible way that this game could be played (outside of Wii U’s gamepad, but then that is basically the same thing).

PopCap’s follow-up is better in every manner over the original. It took the already fun gameplay and mechanics and simply built on it while adding a lot of variety. There is a ton of levels here, mini-games, challenges, and there’s more to come. A “casual” game has never been better.  I’m not one to follow mobile games too much (although I have to admit that I am coming around more and more to them), but I can’t imagine any mobile game would have released this year that is better than Plants vs. Zombies 2.

If you have an iOS device, I suspect you’ve been playing this for a while now (if not, why?). If you’ve got an Android device and didn’t know this was yet available, I highly recommend you go to the Google Play store and download it. It’s free, so there isn’t really any reason not to unless you simply didn’t like the first one (and I don’t see how you wouldn’t, but it happens and that’s fine). Plants vs Zombies 2 is an addictive and tremendously fun romp through time.

Plants vs. Zombies 2 gets a four out of five: GREAT.

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