Plants Vs Zombies 2: It’s About Time

It’s only out on ‘mobile devices’ at the moment, which I’ve found to mean Apple stuff only as I can’t find it for Android, but I downloaded it onto my iPad and had a go anyway. PC version will follow, I’ll play it there too if it’s on Steam (it’s a collection OCD thing), but I doubt there’ll be a lot of difference.

Impressive, but you won't see Torchwoods without getting your wallet out.

Plant food in action, but you won’t see Torchwoods without getting your wallet out.

The first thing that struck me is that it’s very much more of the same. The graphical style is a little more hand drawn rather than cartoon – only barely noticeable – and the music is a little more high budget (by which I mean there are more instruments used), but the tutorial is identical to the original game. That’s not a bad thing, the premise is a great one and I’ve played something like a hundred hours of it. The differences are predictable in some cases (the good ones), and not so much in others (unless you’re aware that EA are publishing it, and that EA have sworn to monetise the shit out of everything they sell).

So lets start with the familiar goodness. You drop plants down to stop zombies getting into your house and eating your brains. You do this by collecting sun to buy more plants. There are new plants, new zombies, new locations. That’s all expected, and they’re all well and good. I should qualify what I’m writing at this point by saying I’ve only played the first dozen or so levels, all of which have been in Egypt. The premise is nice, it’s no better or worse than the original for it, and that’s a pretty good compliment.

I love the punchy Bonk Choys.

I love the punchy Bonk Choys.

Next up is the stuff I’m suspicious of. You get all manner of power ups in PvZ2. I don’t like power ups, because they’re an excuse to sell them to chumps for real money. You get a stack of Plant Food, which supes up one plant for a few seconds. The effect varies by plant, and are quite interesting, and they drop when you kill certain zombies. They add another layer of complexity I don’t think the game needs, but they pretty much act as an ‘oh shit’ button. So that’s not too bad. Then there are the power ups, of which there are three. They wipe out large swathes of zombies with finger movements – one snips their heads off, one picks them up and chucks them, one zaps them with a continuous lightning bolt. They’re as overpowered as they sound, and you use them by paying for them with in-game gold. Ah, now that sounds familiar – paying for game-affecting, one-shot buffs. Lets keep that in mind.

The rest of the changes look to be outside the game itself. This time you have a few branched progress lines, side-quests in which you can earn new plants. You have to unlock those with keys found in game though. After the first one, for reasons that aren’t explained, you need to use more than one key to unlock them. Of course if you don’t have enough, you can unlock them with real cashmoney. Then there’s the shop. If you remember from the original, you could use your gold to buy new plants, extra slots, other useful stuff. You can do that here, except you use real cashmoney again.

The world maps offer branches, but there's little variety in the levels.

The world maps offer branches, but there’s little variety in the levels.

The cash grab is mostly unnecessary fortunately. The grossly powerful power-ups can also be bought with in-game gold, of which there’s nothing else to use it on, but really if you’re half decent at the game you won’t need them at all. The keys can be ground out by repeating levels, which offer several varieties of replay with limitations such as limiting your sun or number of plants, so that’s not really a chore. The only real thing you need to spend money on are the extra plants.

Herein lies my main concern. The extra plants are really essential plants from the first game. The Snow Pea, the Jalapeno, the Imitater. It makes up with other plants, but it still feels cynical. On top of that, they’ve removed the upgrade plants – the twin sunflowers and rapid-fire peashooters are now just normal plants. It’s a refreshing challenge to beat a level without taking normal sunflowers, just twins, but it also feels dumbed down. It’s all down to the monetisation of the in-game currency, and that’s also removed the plant growing metagame, the bonus levels, the tree-growing. Okay, the last one sucked anyway. But it feels like they’ve put less thought into it.

Predictably then, it’s not as good as the first game. It’s not bad either, just a bigger but shallower copy with some slightly cynical marketing. Easily worth the asking price though.

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