Plants Vs Zombies 2 Review

Inexpliciably, Plants Vs. Zombies 2: It’s About Time is on my list of most anticipated games of 2013. A game in which the storyline revolves around a crazy hobo travelling through time to find a taco. Well, maybe not inexplicably, as Plants Vs. Zombies was one of the biggest hits of 2009 and was a game that appealed to all but the most cold-hearted of gamers – a rare feat indeed. Despite wearing the dreaded ‘casual’ tag, developer Popcap games have developed a fine reputation for creating games that look harmless but suck away time so well they make Sid Meier proud. With this in mind, the expectations for the now free-to-play Plants Vs. Zombies 2 are much higher than the average iPhone/iPad game. It’s About Time certainly has the charm of the original, it doesn’t quite match the lofty gameplay standard set by its predecessor.

The core gameplay is similar to the original Plants Vs. Zombies, so anyone who played the previous instalment on any of the 100,000 devices it was released on will feel immediately at home. Goofy, shambling zombies are headed straight for your tasty brains and you must collect sunshine, place your army of plants and thwart their plans. Many of the plants and Zombies from the original have returned, as has Crazy Dave. The lovable, unintelligible loony is back and now he has a talking time machine (somehow), which he uses to retrieve his favourite Mexican treat. The story is nonsensical and only serves as a framing device, but that makes it no less endearing. The banter between Crazy Dave and the time machine before levels will always bring about a laugh or two.

As evidenced by the punny title, It’s About Time takes place in three different time periods. Well, not so much time periods as archetypal settings from the past – ancient Egypt, pirate-filled high seas and the wild west. Each world brings its own set of zombies and level layouts. Egypt has tombstones blocking lanes (like in the graves in the original), the high seas has zombies swinging onto your turf by rope, and the west has vertical train tracks that allows movable plants at the price of lawn space. There’s enough variety within these worlds to keep you interested and allow for varying strategies, but unfortunately the night levels from the original are gone.

The new plants are mostly worthy additions to the roster, and are fun to play around with. Highlights include the bonk choys furiously punch zombies at close range, the snapdragons (with dragon heads) breath fire and coconut cannons that one-hit kill most zombies. Oh, and there’s a chilli bean that that makes zombies release a huge toxic fart when they die. So there’s that, which is nice. There’s also some extra plants available to purchase, but at $2.99 a pop there’s little reason to add to the already healthy arsenal – unless you really miss the snow pea.

These plants are complemented by the new plant food system. When you give food to a plant, it will perform a super-powered attack, such as machine gun pea-shooting or cabbage carpet bombs. The plant fun is great fun to use, and you’ll likely find yourself feeding every plant at least once just to see what happens.

Less enjoyable are the new powers you can use on the battle-lawn. By spending coins earned in-game, you can activate a power to pinch, toss or zap zombies using finger gestures. They’re handy when things get hectic, but they kind of seem like an ‘I win’ button. If you have enough coins, you can power your way to victory quite easily.

One of the more notable aspects of Plants Vs. Zombies 2 is the fact that it is free-to-play. It’s this aspect of the game that unfortunately holds it back. There’s no pay-to-win problems (unless you buy lots of coins and use powers the whole time) here, but it seems that the game was designed around the free-to-play concept and as a result it gently nudges you to pay continue through the game through its questionable design decisions.

The level progression in Plants Vs. Zombies 2 goes as such: complete story levels, earn 15 stars through challenge levels (or pay $5.49), progress to next world. These challenge levels, which place extra demands such as limiting the amount of sun or plants allowed, are enjoyable at first but quickly become monotonous. There are gates that hide new plants and generally more interesting challenges, but they require keys found during story levels or another $2.49. The challenges lack the variety of the original (what, no walnut bowling?) and make unlocking a new world a grind, halting all momentum built during the story levels.

These gripes aside, Plants Vs. Zombies 2 can be a lot of fun, and can be beaten without paying a cent. So if you have an iDevice, don’t hesitate to download away, though fervent  fans might also want to keep a close eye on the upcoming PC/Mac version, which very well may better this version.

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