Plants Vs. Zombies 2: An almost complete review

Finally did grab Plants Vs. Zombies 2 for my iPad 2, and I’ve been playing the hell out of it, pretty much as expected. I was a little dubious going on, since this is a Free to Play game and the whole Free to Play concept does make me sort of make this face: o.O

That said, PopCap was swearing up and down that you’re supposed to be able to complete the game without having to make any purchases. So far, I can attest that this seems to be the case. As of this writing, I’ve completed the three main levels but haven’t unlocked the boss level yet.

So what then is different about playing this game vs. playing the original?

The Free to Play experience is a big one. You will find that a lot of the familiar plants you got for free on leveling up in the original game are now plants that you have to unlock. And by ‘unlock’, I mean, you can either buy them immediately to get them, or else you can play through to the point in the game to which you get to unlock them for free. I found this only slightly annoying–I DO love that Squash that whomps on zombies, I do love it so–and have so far been generally pleased at the pacing of when you get what plants.

Some familiar plants from the first game behave slightly differently than their first game versions, too, so keep an eye out for that. For example, the twin sunflower is no longer an upgrade to the standard sunflower–it’s its own plant. So you can’t plant it on top of a single sunflower.

There are also plenty of new plants, several of which are highly entertaining. I like the Snapdragon that spits fire a LOT, as well as the Lightning Reed.

And, of course, this game in theory has an actual plot (above and beyond OHNOEZ ZOMBIES ARE INVADING YOUR LAWN, that is). You’ve been recruited to come with Crazy Dave from the first game on a time travel jaunt to try to locate his missing taco, so he can eat it again! Because of COURSE Dave has a time machine, and of COURSE the whole point of this is to find his taco. It’s really rather adorable. Now how you get from this to zombies in Ancient Egypt, the Pirate Seas, and the Wild West, you got me! But who cares? They’re ZOMBIES and if you played the first game, you absolutely know what to do.

Be on the lookout for zombies with new attacks, too, based on whatever world you’re in at the moment. Ancient Egypt has Pharaoh zombies that can steal your sun, Anubis zombies that can generate new gravestones, archaeologist zombies with torches that can set your plants on fire, and zombies in sarcophagi which are real hard to take down. Over in Pirate Seas, you’ll find the zombies keep saying “BRAINS AHOY”, which totally made me giggle. And be on the lookout there for zombies carried by parrots who can fly over your plants, and the tiny zombie you may remember from the first game as being carried by the Gargantuars now being shot out of cannons. And in the Wild West, I’m deeply charmed by the Saloon Piano Player zombie, who, once he starts tinkling the ivories, gets all the zombies currently on the screen dancing. Also, two words: ZOMBIE CHICKENS.

Music-wise, many of the gameplay themes are familiar, yet with amusing variations and new instruments depending on which world you’re in. Listen for the squeezebox in Pirate Seas and the banjo in Wild West.

They’ve tweaked Crazy Dave’s appearance a bit, as well as the appearance of pretty much all of the plants, yet everything still looks generally familiar. And I like as well that once you finish playing a level proper, you can keep doing side branches of it with interesting puzzles in order to pick up more stars and keys to unlock yet more stuff.

Also: as near as I can tell the whole front-facing camera thing does indeed ONLY come into play if you want to add a photo to your player profile on game startup. Which I didn’t even bother to use. I just tried the UI just to see what it would do, and it gave me a message saying that the photo would only be saved to “this device”–which makes me think this feature is entirely unnecessary. For my money, they should have left it out in order to make the game available to generation 1 iPads as well.

On the whole though this game is definitely entertaining, and while the sheer fact that I’ve seen these game mechanics before does diminish the freshness a bit, nonetheless all the new additions are delightful. Especially the zombie chickens. Here’s hoping the game will be deployed out to other platforms and that a version will deploy to desktops, in particular. I totally want this thing on my Mac, and I want to give them money for their work!

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