Now more than four years old, the original Plants vs. Zombies remains one of the best games you can buy for your smartphone or tablet, perfectly blending deceptively deep tower defense gameplay with tongue in cheek cartoon-style presentation.
It’ll come as no surprise to hear that Plants vs. Zombies 2: It’s About Time impresses as a game, but the pertinent question is: Being free, how much of a downer does the freemium thing put on it?
For those unfamiliar with the Plants vs. Zombies format, you’re essentially tasked with deploying plants on the left of the screen, with a view to thwarting the approaching zombies on the right.
As you progress, you unlock increasingly useful plants (maybe they fire twice – or even thrice – at a time), and that’s pretty much Plants vs. Zombies in a nutshell.
Plants vs. Zombies 2: It’s About Time is so-called because – as I touched on before – the first game debuted in May 2009, and because it involves an element of time travel.
See, your neighbour Crazy Dave eats a fantastically delicious taco, and in order to relive the experience with that exact same taco, he attempts to go back in time with his talking time machine. Brilliant.
Unfortunately, something goes awry with the settings, and as such Plants vs. Zombies 2 takes place across three unique worlds, specifically ancient Egypt, some sort of pirate world, and the Wild West. Certainly makes a change from the plain old backyard.
Needless to say, as a high-profile sequel, Plants vs. Zombies 2 has loads of new plants and zombies. Without giving the game away too much, there’s Egypt’s Ra who steals sunshine with his wandamajig, and a piano-playing zombie who makes the Wild West zombies dance between lanes.
A new gameplay element of note is Plant Food, which unleashes a special attack from your chosen plant. Brilliantly, each plant reacts differently; experimenting is a ton of fun.
There are also three power-ups, specifically one that lets you pinch to destroy zombies, one that lets you pick them up and throw them away, and a third that electrocutes undead foes.
Plant Food is invaluable, and while you can buy it with Plants vs. Zombies 2’s in-game currency, there’s more than enough scattered around to get you through the main game (emphasis on THE MAIN GAME).
As for the power-ups, well, I’ll get back to those in a moment.
The third major change in Plants vs. Zombies 2 is the world map. The main game takes the form of a path straight to the next world, but branched off to the sides are little bonus games where you can earn stars.
Stars are vital for unlocking the next world. In particular, you’ll need 15 to get into the pirate world, and a further 30 to enter the Wild West.
Or, you can simply pay £2.99. Each. That’s £5.98 total, for the mathematically challenged. Pretty steep, huh?
Unsurprisingly, earning stars is a pain in the proverbial posterior. While the main game is easy enough, the star challenges are designed to make you pull your hair out. Or maybe that should be: pull your wallet out.
You might be tasked with protecting particular plants, limiting your plant deployment or manufacturing a target amount of sun – among various other challenges.
In any case, the aforementioned power-ups are incredibly useful (surprise, surprise), but they cost coins with each use, and deploying them liberally, you’ll soon find yourself broke. Ka-ching!
Looking in the Plants vs. Zombies 2 Store, we have various coin packs from £1.99 all the way up to £69.99. Sweet mother of Moses.
Furthermore PopCap and EA would very much appreciate £1.99-£2.49 EACH for some exclusive plants, and/or bonuses pertaining to Plant Food, sun and seed slots.
If that’s not enough to put you off, how about the little link at the bottom conveniently offering a shortcut to the real life Plants vs. Zombies Store, where you can buy – among other things – plush toys, watches, badges and t-shirts.
Putting all that money-grabbing stuff to the side for a moment, Plants vs. Zombies 2 the game is excellent. And there are some interesting variations on the P vs. Z theme, including a tile-matching minigame with camels.
But the freemium thing is very much THERE, and there’s no escaping it.
Personally, I worked my butt off to get 15 stars for the pirate world, but the thought of slogging through Plants vs. Zombies 2's many challenges for hours (seriously, it’d take aaaaages) to get 30 stars for the Wild West was too much; I’m £2.99 down.
All in all, it took me 10 hours to blast through Plants vs. Zombies 2, but there’s tons more stuff to do.
Will I go back to it? I don’t know, man. That freemium stuff left a seriously bad taste in my mouth, but it’s a fantastic game. And that pretty much sums up Plants vs. Zombies 2.
- It’s Plants vs. Zombies
- Loads of new plants
- Loads of new zombies
- Interesting minigames
- Three worlds
- Experimenting with Plant Food
- Those power-ups are only there to make money, man, and they suck
- Takes aaaaaaages to save up stars
- Just… the whole freemium thing
Summary: Plants vs. Zombies 2 is an excellent game and almost worth the outrageous four-year wait. But be prepared for freemium frustration. It is possible to keep your wallet in your pocket, but your health might well suffer.
Price: free @ App Store
Requirements: Compatible with iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPod touch (4th generation), iPod touch (5th generation), iPad 2 Wi-Fi, iPad 2 Wi-Fi + 3G, iPad (3rd generation), iPad Wi-Fi + 4G, iPad (4th generation), iPad Wi-Fi + Cellular (4th generation), iPad mini and iPad mini Wi-Fi + Cellular. Requires iOS 5.1 or later. This app is optimized for iPhone 5.