Platform: iOS (coming to other platforms later)
Developer: PopCap Games
Publisher: Electronic Arts (EA)
Platform Reviewed On: iPhone 5
Guys, I have a confession: I am addicted to Plants vs. Zombies (PvZ).
Let me explain. After I first owned the original PvZ for the PC – and played it extensively I might add – it simply wasn’t enough. It later released on iOS, and bathrooms trips went from mundane to something I could look forward to. Then it was ported to the console with new features, and who wouldn’t want an HD version of PvZ on their big screen?
After completing the story mode for the umpteenth time and getting all of the achievements, I reached a dead end. They came out with a DS version of PvZ, and it even came with a small figurine of the Yeti Zombie, enticing me to buy the game a fourth time, but at this point, I acknowledged my ridiculous addiction.
More of the same game wouldn’t cure this disease. What I needed was a new entry to the franchise; a sequel to what is already an addictive take on the tower defense genre while improving upon the formula and simultaneously tweaking some issues I had with the original game.
The gaming god’s blessings fell upon me when PopCap released a trailer for PvZ 2, revealing the game as “Plants vs. Zombies 2: It’s About Time,” and the title couldn’t be more perfect. It not only describes the game’s plot, but it also articulates my frustrated feelings of waiting another month for the game to reach North America’s shores. I couldn’t help but scream “It’s about time!” when I received the press release from PopCap telling me the game was finally available to download. Rest assured though PvZ enthusiasts – PvZ 2 is well worth the wait.
In the spirit of light-hearted humor to the PvZ name, the game’s plot is straightforwardly hilarious. After fending off waves of zombies from invading your lawn, you get a bottle of hot sauce from the final fallen foe. Crazy Dave from the original game gets excited over the hot sauce and uses it on a taco he’s been saving in his pocket. The taco was so scrumptious, Crazy Dave uses Penny, his wise-cracking, time-travelling RV to rewind time so he may eat the taco again. Things go awry though when you accidentally wind up in Ancient Egypt, and must now venture back to 2009 to reacquire Dave’s delicious taco.
As you venture from the deserts of Ancient Egypt to the gallows of Pirate Seas and the high noons of Wild West – which are trekked in an overworld Super Mario Bros. fashion – each of the starting three themed time periods come with their own unique map settings, plants and zombies to keep things fresh. That’s not to say you’re restricted from using Plants in other stages, but some are more tailored for different eras.
Akin to the original PvZ, certain Plants excel in combating distinct Zombies. In return, Zombies are made to specially take out specific plants. The balance of powers on the offensive and defensive sides continues to make the gameplay incredibly entertaining, especially with the eight new Plant types you may unlock through playing levels. They also got rid of the annoying, stagnantly-recharging upgradable Plants and turned them into their own unit.
Making the Plants all the more impressive are the temporary boosts in their offensive and defensive capabilities with the newly introduced plant food. Additionally, players can get in on the zombie head-popping action with the addition of gesture controls, which allows you to dispose zombies with you bare fingers. With money now being used for gesture based controls and optional purchases for plant food, it adds a great new dynamic to help you get out of hairy situations where you don’t have the proper Plants prepared for the undead hordes.
Accessing new times has you opening the Star Gates by completing different sets of challenges to obtain stars, which are unlocked after finishing the final level in each world and through keys acquired randomly in battles to enter new areas. The challenges can be rather, well, challenging, even for an experienced lawn defender such as myself.
One of my big problems with the first PvZ is its easy difficulty. Despite my adoration for the game, I often found myself unchallenged with the exemption of much later levels in the endless puzzle and defending game modes. PvZ 2 has corrected this problem, but now it’s nearly too difficult at times in turn. Despite strategies I had conjured from the first game, I encountered some rather frustrating challenges while racking up stars. It’s not comparative to Demon’s Souls or Dark Soul’s masochistic difficulties, but I can’t see these segments agreeing with the casual and laid back gamers well.
It’s also bumming to see Plants from the previous game locked where I now have to pay $3 for the cheapest one. As a free-to-play mobile title, I understand paying for extra incentives such as earning back 25 percent sun (currency for the Plants) when you remove them or extra money for gesture controls, but towers themselves – primarily ones veteran players are familiar with – should not be locked out.
This time around (pun intended), PvZ 2 boasts prettier visuals than its predecessor. Alongside improved and texturized surroundings, the Plants show more life to them with smoother animations. Oddly enough though, Zombies often have grittier, lag-like movements. It doesn’t hinder the game, but it is noticeable, especially when the Zombies are frozen and move at slower paces.
Akin to the first game, PvZ 2 retains a charming soundtrack, but with wider variety. Each time period has different music fitting it like a glove while preserving its humorous tone. Imagine if the epic western music from Clint Eastwood’s “Man With No Name Trilogy” was more cheerful with a pinch of techno (really, it’s the best way I can describe it); that is the track of Wild West, which is easily the best track in the entire PvZ 2 journey so far.
PvZ 2 took vexations from the original addictive substance known as Plants vs. Zombies and used its blueprints to build on the formula in a fantastic way. The new plants are formidable, new Zombie types will make you think thrice about your strategy, the times you travel and its accompanying environments consistently keep the game at a fresh state, and the soundtrack maintains its delightful tone throughout your time-travelling endeavors. My biggest fear is the amped-up difficulty may turn the cheeks of casual gamers. Plants from the previous game should not have to be paid for either, at least with real money. Still, it’s not only hard to repel such an addictive title, but its tough as nails to oppose its free price. Seeing as how I already have almost all of the stars across the three times at this point, it’s safe to say my addiction for Plants vs. Zombies is back, and I may just have to unnecessarily own two more copies once again.
- It’s free and addictive
- New Plants are great alongside new counter balancing Zombies
- Differing environments in each time keep gameplay fresh
- Improved visuals
- Pleasant soundtrack
- May be difficult for casual gamers
- Some Plants from previous PvZ can only be accessed by paying for them
- Zombies sometimes have abrasive movements
Robbie Key is a reviews & news editor for Analog Addiction, entertainment editor for the Pine Log newspaper at Stephen F. Austin State University, news editor for Worlds Factory and blogger for IGN. Follow his completely relevant Twitter updates, watch his awesomtacular YouTube videos, and view his LinkedIn profile.