Plants vs. Zombies is one of my favourite tower defence games to date, I’ve played it on several systems over the years & recommend it anyone with a couple of quid of spare. When the sequel was finally announced I was very excited & couldn’t wait to get my hands on the new features.
However I am wary of free to play games because the reality of it is the developer wants you to spend money on in-app purchases so they are going to do what they can to make you spend. The thought of regular pop ups that offer you purchases or things that were previously free in a prior game but now cost leave me feeling very cold. I’ve seen the best of both in previous free to play games with ones in-app purchases being easy to avoid & the other offering them as soon as I booted up the game.
Regardless though both games were eventually deleted because of how slow progress was. Why? I wasn’t willing to pay for items to be built faster or for new rides to become available. This is the reality of free to play games…they say you can finish the game for free & never have to pay a penny but you will move at a quarter of the pace compared to someone who pays the premium price.
So with these reservations I sat down to play Plants vs. Zombies 2: It’s About Time (see what they did there?) & can honestly say I was pleasantly surprised but disappointed at the same time.
The story is simple, Crazy Dave, your neighbour from the first game eats his taco & enjoys it so much he wants to eat the exact same taco again. Using his time machine, a sentient RV called Penny, he & the player travel back in time to get the taco again but something goes wrong & they end up stranded in Ancient Egypt with zombies knocking at the door.
The same classic Plants vs. Zombies game play is here but the major change is the themes…players will defend their ‘houses’ from zombies across Ancient Egypt, Pirate Seas & The Wild West as well as DLC hinting at future themed levels.
The action takes place across stages with an over-world map tracking your progress.
The game play is pretty much the same; stop the zombies getting through to your house using plants. At the start of each level you have to choose what plants you will use throughout the level but you can only take a limited number in. A mix of defensive & offence plants are necessary as well as sunflowers which are essential.
Sunflowers produce sun & these are need to be collected & used to buy new plants. The more sunflowers producing the more sun will appear, however with limited sun at the start (the natural sun produces occasionally) & the zombies quick to start their assault you have to think fast.
Better plants cost more & as you complete levels more plants become available or you can buy them with real money. Plants that were originally free in the first game such as the Squash, Jalapeno & snow Pea will now set you back at least £1.99. Considering these were some of the most useful plants to have I can see why they were chosen to be in-app purchases but it doesn’t sit well at all.
There are plenty of new plant designs now as well as old favourites. All have their use in some way or another. However the real star of the game is, of course, the zombies…
As well as the level design being themed the zombies that attack also mirror their surroundings. Each manages to look unique & offer up their own level of threat. World progress will see you coming up against some unique themed zombies, for example, in Ancient Egypt a high priest zombie will attempt to steal your loose sun unless your quick enough & in the pirate themed world they come swinging in on ropes before landing amongst your plants.
You have to plan your strategy accordingly & it does make for an interesting challenge. As well as a wide mix of plants there are some new features to help you deal with the onslaught of zombies. One of the more interesting ones is the plant food. Occasionally a green glowing zombie will stagger forward & when he dies he will drop plant food. Collecting this & then using it on certain plants will buff them up for a limited time. For example a buffed up sunflower will produce masses of sun for a few seconds or a buffed up catapult will launch at all zombies on screen rather than the row they are aiming at. It’s an interesting addition & one that can get you out of the tightest spots.
Like before zombies drop coins which you can collect but they don’t have that much use & will mostly be spent on the special attacks that are made available later in the game. These attacks are basically timed moments where you can use the touch-screen to decimate the zombie hordes using pinching or flicking style movements. That you can’t use your in game coins to purchase any new plants or upgrades is extremely disappointing.
The game is surprisingly short with only the 3 worlds to explore however with 3 stars to collect per level (as long as you can beat the challenge set out in front of you), keys to collect that unlock doors to upgrades & other levels & random Yeti spawns in levels you’ve already beaten (they drop a lunchbox filled with bonus loot when beaten) there is plenty to be done while we wait new worlds.
So with all of this going for it why do I feel so disappointed with the game? The in-app purchases are not shoved in your face, the game play is basically the same & there is enough variety to keep it interesting but…
It just feels too much of the same again…
The differences between this & the first are subtle rather than game-changing & the movement into free to play hasn’t helped it especially when you consider what has been cut to be in-app purchases.
It all feels unfinished & while it is supposed to finish-able without purchases I can see it being a tough one.
To suggest Plants vs. Zombies is a bad game would be foolish as even with in-app purchases it is a fun game. There are few tower defence games that can touch the quality of game play on show here however the problem lies in how little has really changed. The time travel plot is a good one & one that can be easily expanded on in future DLC but the other additions feel weak & at times pointless. Replaying levels to gain the 3 stars is great at first until it quickly becomes aware that the challenges are basic & there isn’t that much variety.
The game has been a success on the downloads alone but I would be very interested to see how much money the developers have made from in-app purchases.
Plants vs. Zombies 2: It's About Time
The Final Score - 7/10
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