[Game Review] Plants VS Zombies 2: It’s About Time

It’s rare for me to get addicted to mobile games, and I had a lot of negative preconceptions about the sequel to Plants VS Zombies.  I loved the first game, like millions of other people in the world, and early articles about the new game were less than stellar.  Kotaku published an article about how “Chinese Gamers Say Plants Versus Zombies 2 is Ripping Them Off”.  The backstory behind this is quite simple: Chinese are notorious for pirating games, and one of the better (for the publisher/devs) ways to circumvent that is to use a “Free to Play” model.  That means it’s free to download the game, it’s free to play, but you will be encouraged to spend real money to buy things in the game.  So in that sense, pirating would only serve as free advertising (although it wouldn’t really be pirating anymore because the game itself is free!)  The more players they have the more potential customers they have.

The Chinese gamers complained that the game was skewed to be too difficult to beat without caving and purchasing upgrades and powerups with real money.  And I read that and was worried because I feel like the very popular Candy Crush mobile game is exactly that.  The game takes zero skill; you have to rely on luck to clear a level.  This means you could be stuck on one level for literally weeks before the game presents you with an arrangement that will totally work.  It strongly pressures you in to buy power ups with real money, in Candy Crush, because since it’s all about luck, there are indeed many a time that you simply cannot win without immense, immense patience.

But I don’t feel that way with Plants Versus Zombies 2.  Yes, it is WAY harder than the first game, yes, in-app purchases are available.  You also have in-game currency, which you get randomly from killing zombies and maintaining your lawnmowers.  And perhaps things do get impossibly difficult later in the game – I’m only on World 2 out of 5 – but so far I’m loving the difficulty.  It’s challenging where the first game wasn’t.  And perhaps I also have amazing willpower, or I’m so cheap (being Chinese myself?) that I refuse to pay real money on microtransactions.  But it’s a huge overexaggeration to say that Plants Versus Zombies 2 is ripping you off by making it impossible to beat without spending cash.

Differences from the First Game

1. A World Map to Progress Through

Like I mentioned earlier, there are four worlds you can travel to.  World 1 is Egypt, World 2 (where I’m at) is Pirate themed, World 3 is the “Wild West”, and according to Wikipedia since I’m not there yet, “Far Future”.  You progress through the map by beating each node/level, which unlocks more nodes further down the line.  You’ll also need to replay most of them to farm more “stars” and “keys” to unlock other worlds and other upgrades, which are blocked off by locked gates.
  I like having a world map!  It reminds me of the Super Mario World games, which took up most of my childhood.  Having to replay levels in order to farm keys and stars is a little annoying, but at least they change things up a bit with….

2. Extra Challenges

My boss and his wife don’t like these and call them “gimmicks”, but I call them mini-games!  Some levels, especially on the nodes behind locked gates, take you out of the normal Defense-style gameplay.  You don’t get to just harvest sun and plant attack plants, you get to shoot cannon balls at pirates, or grab random plants from a conveyer belt (this was in the first game), or try to keep dangerously placed Sunflower plants alive for the level.  These are definitely MUCH harder than the regular levels, which have numbers assigned to them, but I find them to be a welcome change of pace.  Even when some of the mini-games are not fun to me, they have yet to be painful enough to make me upset.

Oh, and when you replay a numbered node to get more stars, they also give you a mixed bag of different parameters in order to win the round.

3. Better Graphics

Clearly, they’ve spent much more time and effort on both animating and coloring everything!  Perhaps a time and money infusion from EA, since PopCap wasn’t owned by them before…? (/conjecture)   All the backgrounds are rich, every world offers a new take on everything; not just the zombies themselves but the ground, the scenery, the way the zombies react, and even the lawnmowers.

Conclusion

I love this game!!!  I accept everything as a welcome improvement.  The Free To Play aspect is not as “oppressive” as haters may think.  Free To Play games prey on one thing alone: IMPATIENCE.  And growing up on old games, especially the ones where you can’t even save and have to replay EVERYTHING to get to that one stupid boss battle 6 worlds later that keeps killing you only to die again and have to restart, I have loads of patience!  I love the higher difficulty, I love the art, I don’t mind the mini-games…..some are not great.  But they aren’t terribly difficult so I tolerate that fine.  Unlike with Candy Crush, it takes a certain level of skill at Defense Games to beat a level, therefore I don’t think you do need to buy power ups or extra keys and stars.  As a free game, it’s definitely worth the download and I highly recommend it.  What have you got to lose?  Hopefully not your temper, if you’re the impatient sort!

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3 thoughts on “[Game Review] Plants VS Zombies 2: It’s About Time

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