Plants vs. Zombies 2: It's About Time


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Rating: 3.9/5 (138 votes)
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Plants vs. Zombies 2

JohnBPlants vs. Zombies 2: It's About Time has finally arrived. After a brief limited launch in Australia and New Zealand, PopCap and EA have unleashed the game worldwide, closing the four year gap opened by the original Plants vs. Zombies. The sequel has some enormous expectations to live up to. Its predecessor won dozens of awards and has been praised as one of the most original and creative games in recent years. How do you follow something like that? By adding more plants, more zombies, and more levels. Oh, and by introducing tons of in-app purchases!

Plants vs. Zombies 2The story behind Plants vs. Zombies 2 is largely focused on Crazy Dave, the speech-garbled, sauce pan on the head neighbor from the first game. You see, Dave ate a really good taco. It was so delicious he wanted to eat it again. He used his time machine to travel back in time, but things didn't go quite as planned. Instead of moving back a few minutes or hours, Dave pulled everyone to ancient Egypt. Since tacos won't be invented for several centuries, looks like he's got some work to do if he wants that second lunch.

Zombies are as prevalent in ancient Egypt as they are in a modern day backyard. Plants are just as plentiful as well, and they're eager dispatch some undead. Zombies of all types shamble in from the right side of the screen, each occupying one of five rows on the grid. Taking plants from your inventory and spending sunshine as currency, set offensive and defensive units in the soil and watch them do their thing. Each plant has its own ability, ranging from the basic pea shooter to the punch-happy Bonk Choy or the classic potato mine (SPUD-OW!). By populating your yard with a healthy array of plants, you can stave off the zombie hordes and live to fight another day.

Plants vs. Zombies 2The basic set-up of Plants vs. Zombies 2 is pretty much the same as Plants vs. Zombies. There are some key differences introduced in the sequel that make it stand apart from its predecessor, however. For starters, Plants vs. Zombies 2 takes place in three distinct areas: Ancient Egypt, Pirate Seas, and Wild West. Connecting the levels in each of these areas is an overworld map, complete with branching paths that are blocked by locked doors. You can clearly see where many plant upgrades and other events will occur, but there are some surprises in store as well.

Analysis: The defense gameplay of Plants vs. Zombies 2 has been tweaked in a few places. The basic mechanics are largely unchanged, but now you've got a few special abilities to help you out of a jam. Plant food provides a temporary boost for a single plant, allowing it to unleash a quick barrage of attacks to clear out zombies. There are also a handful of power-ups you can use, all of which break the mold of letting the plants do all the dirty work. The pinch power-up lets you squeeze zombies' heads to send them packing. The toss ability lets you pick up and throw zombies from the screen. The lightning power zaps whole groups of zombies at once, clearing out crowds in short order. Fun for a few seconds, perhaps, but their inclusion in a game like Plants vs. Zombies is baffling. Until you consider one other new gameplay feature, that is: in-app purchases.

Plants vs. Zombies 2Ladies and gentlemen, meet the bane of mobile gaming enthusiasts around the world, now a front and center feature of a Plants vs. Zombies game: in-app purchases. A lot of lazy design decisions were made so the IAP model could be grafted onto Plants vs. Zombies 2. The special abilities, the plant food, the locked plants that can only be obtained by spending microtransaction money... All there for no reason other than to entice people into spending more money. Those features don't belong in a game like Plants vs. Zombies. Flicking foes with our fingers is pointless. If it belonged in the franchise, it would have been there from day one. The reason expensive, expendable power-ups and things like plant food exist in Plants vs. Zombies 2 is simple: they're there to push in-app purchases.

The sense of humor, the quirky plants, the dopey zombies with their pitiful ruses... all of that has remained mostly the same in Plants vs. Zombies 2. At least, they're the same on the surface. What Plants vs. Zombies 2 is missing is the underlying heart that made the first game an instant classic. The original Plants vs. Zombies defined itself by its own criteria. Every part of it was sculpted to fit with the rest of the game. No corners were cut, no external gaming trends were consulted, no committees of accountants and businessfolk were brought in to tweak things. Plants vs. Zombies was and still is sublime in its own self-contained perfection.

Plants vs. Zombies 2Plants vs. Zombies 2, on the other hand, is a victim of a strained attempt to be relevant, trendy, and monetarily successful. Its main goal isn't to create a new gaming experience that will make people laugh and dance and clap and yell. It's here to cash in on the Plants vs. Zombies name. The in-app purchases are the most tragic sign of that, but the other new features and the awkward story about Dave and his taco feel like they were copied and pasted from a list of things mobile games do in 2013. Plants vs. Zombies 2 doesn't create anything new, it just blends all the same ingredients together and layers a nice thick coating of brand recognition on top to make sure we'll pay attention to it.

To add a single scoop of fairness to the recipe, Plants vs. Zombies 2 isn't an awful game through and through. When you come from a formula as refined as that in the original release, you'd kinda have to phone the whole thing in in order to cause a complete train wreck. The fact of the matter is Plants vs. Zombies 2 is a sequel, said with all the derisive undertones one could mutter with that word. It looks and feels like the same game, but once you start playing you'll realize the soul of the experience has long since vacated the premises. Plants vs. Zombies 2 goes through the motions of a Plants vs. Zombies game, trimmed with features cut from other popular mobile games of today. But it can't reach anywhere near the heights Plants vs. Zombies so effortlessly reached, not while it's bogged down with in-app purchases and other pointless, IAP-hungry features. An entertaining game, yes, but it's no Plants vs. Zombies.

NOTE: This game was played and reviewed on the iPad 3. Game was available in the North American market at the time of publication, but may not be available in other territories. Please see individual app market pages for purchasing info.

23 Comments

Dingding321 Author Profile Page August 15, 2013 4:07 AM

How disappointing. I don't think I'll be getting the game now, even though I was quite looking forward to its release. Hopefully not all game developers will go down that route, even though I realize that they need some sort of income.

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No longer a PopGap game, now it sounds like it's an EA mobile game. Will I play it, yes at I loved PvZ, but I'm expecting it to be impossible without the IAP, and those IAP to be game breaking.

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uncopy2002 Author Profile Page August 15, 2013 6:37 AM

@ampearce... Seriously?

No. Just no. As one of the people who played the game early, I can tell you that it's entirely possible without IAP, since your money income is much greater than PvZ. Otherwise it's your skill that sucks.

The IAPs are game-breaking, yeah, but then without them it's still very easy. And it's not your business if you're not into IAP.

In other words, don't hate it because it's EA. It's a bad practice.

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The fact is that we'll never know if PvZ 2 would have turned out like this if EA hadn't bought PopCap. And for some people (me included) it's not even a matter of whether you can finish a game without IAP or not; it's the principle. I'd much rather pay more for the app and have all the features from the start, than have the IAP option. I'll wait for the PC release and keep my fingers crossed.

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Considering the game is free, I don't think there's any harm in checking it out. :) If you don't like it or feel that the IAP options are too intrusive, that's more than fine, but it's worth investigating before you write it off completely. I am not an IAP fan personally (like Starchild, I prefer to pay outright), but I'd still rather try everything first before I pass judgement on how it's implemented.

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Considering how little nice things there are to say about this game, was it really worthy of being featured on JIG?

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ffivfan, regardless of popular opinion, if it's here, I can promise you it's here because we enjoyed it and felt it was worth posting. :) Not everyone has to share that opinion, but we would rather go with our own instincts and let readers make up their own opinions rather than say nothing because of what other people have said.

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Insightful and strong review.

I shall certainly be downloading and playing but your very salient warning bells are adequate enough for my heart to dip already.

What an absolute shame.

I do hope the sales figures reflect the result those choices of skewing it towards in-App.

And even if they don't I hope whoever instigated the marketing decisions realises the world is a tiny bit sadder because of it.

Probably not, but hey ho.

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Dora: That's fair enough. It's just that the review itself doesn't sound particularly happy with the game.

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I played through the game (all 3 areas) over the weekend (pre-release) and I agree with John's review as to the disappointment of the forced IAPs, and yet also with his recommendation that the game is still worth playing despite the IAP mess we must all navigate through.

Much of the game can indeed be completed without spending anything, so in that regard, PvZ 2 should be well-received by the masses, because who doesn't enjoy a free game?

Still, I would gladly pay money for a full version of this game without the IAPs and power-ups, as I really hate the power-ups and wish I could just remove them from the game entirely. Using them is cheating and basically removes the challenge the original game had.

And the graphics in the sequel pale in comparison to the original game where they really popped with glossy 3D effects, but in the sequel the graphics are flat and dull in comparison.

So, yes, PvZ 2 is a disappointment, but even a disappointing sequel, when compared to a stunning and sublime original, can still be a game that's fun and worth playing.

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CrankYanker Author Profile Page August 15, 2013 2:58 PM

If you look at the original game, there were some limitations in the game that were removed once you'd purchased the game, right? (I don't remember the specifics of PvZ) I know that I bought the game, and absolutely loved it - I was happy with my purchase.

Now, it seems that a lot of developers are leaning more toward IAP, and I for one, am not going to play their game (pun intended). I'm willing to pay for a game, but I expect it to be a full game, without nickle and diming me out of additional parts of the game.

I guess the big question... which is better: buying a whole game, or playing a game for free, and being enticed to purchase add-ons?

Regarding the review - I read Dora and Jay's comments above, and even taking those into account, I think the negatives on the review (which take up more column-space than the positives - including Jay's comments about the graphics) outweigh the positives, and I'm just not certain that this one is JIG-worthy. As requested, I will reserve judgement until I've played the game, but IAP's are generally a touch of death for me.

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colin.d.howell Author Profile Page August 15, 2013 3:27 PM

A friend of mine, who is a big Plants vs. Zombies fan, pointed out that PopCap laid off the creator (director George Fan) about a year ago, just when they first announced this sequel. So my friend is not at all surprised that the game turned out like this.

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I agree with ffivfan....the review makes it sound like a game not worth wasting time on. Which, considering high reviews at other sites, I'm going to give it a shot. But I would have liked something new (I'm thinking Bad Piggies) rather than rehash.

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kellytaylor7474 Author Profile Page August 15, 2013 6:05 PM

Why this game is only available for iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad???!!!!

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I realize this has nothing to do with the debate on IAP, but I like Bonk Choy's attitude. His entry in the almanac makes me smile.

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Are you guys gonna do a big strategy guide like the one you made for PvZ 1? I need all the help I can get figuring out how to get these stars, especially on the levels that ask for me to somehow produce ludicrous amounts of sun.

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rosie.vincent Author Profile Page August 18, 2013 8:41 PM

You can get the ridiculous amounts of sun by dropping plant food on a 2 headed sunflower.

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@Rygar: Plant more sunflowers. If they do not restrict how many plants you can lose, use potato mine and ice lettuce to defend against the first few zombies, and use the saved up sun for even more (twin) sunflowers. 15 sunflowers (or its equivalent) should easily give you the amount of sun you want. As stated by rosie, plant food on twins gives lots of sun. If you want to play the game on easy mode, try planting at least 25 sunflowers, then watch how many coconut cannons you can afford with that many sun.

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I finished all 3 worlds without spending any IAP. Am I a genius? Um, not really. I don't see the IAPs as a problem, except of course for their offensive nature in general.
Lets go through them:

1) Unlock the slowing pea shooter - This guy was alright in PVZ1 but hardly instrumental. He costs the same as a double-shooter, so hes really weak to pull out early, although very strong later on. But then, so are 5x pea pods, cannons, etc. Hes just not a vital pick.

2) Cloner - For the first 2 worlds I usually felt constrained by my number of picks, so I wouldnt use this guy anyways. Now though I can see him being really good in a lot of ways. However, he doesn't give you anything new exactly... just opens up some specific strats, spamming certain types of units.
For example, having 2 sunflowers or doublesunflowers +buy plant food = turbo start.
Or 2 potato mines to buy time to fully set up.

There are enough redundant units though that I dont see this guy as mandatory.

3) jalapeno - basically similar to the cherry bomb. Cheaper but less useful overall in my opinion. You wouldnt have the sun to use both very often. They are more of emergency use.

4) Squash - similar to the potato and chili bean.

5) Torchwood - never liked this much. Requires a good investment, room, and significant peashooter power to make it worthwhile.

6) Power Lily - no idea about this one.

7) The Cheats: +1 slot, more sun, etc. No real impact on the game. You already get these all once during the game. Starting with 75sun vs 50 really smooths out your start. 100 vs 75...not so much. Doesnt do much for you... except for getting 1 sun, buy TwinSun and then buying Plantfood for it.

8) Unlocks of keys - Meh. By the time youve done all 3 stars for all levels, plus all normal levels...plus Yeti, you will have the keys!

9) Mo money - You really don't need Coins THAT often. Lay off the head-squish and learn to play. Only the "no sun for 1:30" type levels really require the PowerUps. Most harder levels can be beaten by buying a PlantFood, dropping a sunflower and feeding it to get off to a strong start.

10) unlocking entire worlds. Seriously? If you cant get the stars to unlock the next world, why bother to pay to avoid playing? Thats not even grinding-avoidance...just skipping content.

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Ok, time for my protips:

1) Zombie barrels in Pirate World are best dealt with by bouncing/penetrating attacks. Lightning and Boomerangs are the best way to deal with them because they quickly kill the PUSHING zombie, making the barrel a sitting duck. Trying to brute force them is very difficult, and you can't walnut them. Spikes are actually BAD vs them because you are paying 100g to kill 1 barrel! Heck for 150 you can cherry bomb and kill a large group. Awful deal.
Enemy Cannons are in the same boat... direct shooting just kills lots of mini-zombies...you want a boomerang or zap to penetrate and take out the cannon itself.

2) CornCob is very underrated. It is kind of like a ghetto version of the Snow Pea, in that it slows down attackers. It also slows down special attacks too such as from cannons, captains, etc. Its PlantFood power is one of the best in the game, it stuns everything on the screen for a while.
Note: CornCob butter attack ONE-SHOTS the bird-rope zombies that fly over the water!

3) In general you want to rush to World 3 ASAP so you can collect a larger variety of plants. Don't finish world 1 just for completion sake...get enuf stars to open World 2 and move on, ditto for #2. Then go back and things will be easier with the new plants you have acquired.

4) The scenes where you get a predetermined amount of Sun are really good for grinding/farming. Once you find a winning strategy for a given map, it becomes really easy to set it up, then watch the action while periodically using PlantFood and getting your cash/keys. I find it quicker and less stressful than the usual Sun buildup levels.

5) For Yeti levels, it is helpful to have a ONE TARGET attack style plant that you can use Plantfood on to insta-kill the Yeti. The double pea shooter is a good example of this. Once yeti comes out, you can drop a WALNUT behind it to keep it from running off.
If you mess up and its about to escape, Restart the level BEFORE it gets away and try again...this time knowing what lane it spawns in!

6) Dont overdo the 1-shot plant usage. Remember that the Sun used is gone forever...better to use it on defences that stick around and help you for the whole level.
A few potato mines when starting out should be all you need, with occasional cherry bomb or Chili to bail you out if you mess up. Ice Lettuce for free is good for this too, unless you really bungled something.
Dont blow up a big cluster just because you can.

7) Be sure to use Ice Lettuce for the "dont use sun for X seconds" levels. You can hold out for quite a while with them, then chili/potato/etc. You only are forced to use the HeadSquish powers in a few maps.

8) If having problems with a map, you can turbocharge as long as your basic strategy is ok. Drop Sunflower, buy Food, feed Sunflower for a quick Sun infusion. Its enough to be able to drop an actual PeaPod/Lighting/Corn to take out the 1st zombie instead of wasteful potato mine, while accelerating your sunflower rampup slightly.

9) Try to use Ice Lettuce or PlantFooded Corn or whatever to freeze/kill the Captains. Their parrots are a huge pain and can take a lot of punishment. Since they are small, they can avoid a lot of hits while flying diagonally.

10) Pea Pods count as a plant FOR EACH DROP! A full Pea Pod hits 5x, but counts as 5 plants. DO NOT USE on the "limited to X total plants" levels!!!

11) Pea Pods are awesome though, and you get them toward the end. Cheap enough to cast early to take out early threats (with Ice as needed), and super space efficient later on packing 500sun worth of firepower (5 peashooters) into 1 space.

12) Be careful with expensive plants. Triple Pea shooter basically sucks. Takes forever to get one out, and divides out your firepower. Put in lanes 1 or 5, you lose a bullet. In 2/4, you double up in center lane, so less firepower in 1,2,4,5. Stack em to cover the long pirate ramp and you lose to the water-lanes. Double-shooters work much better.
Its generally best to get out something cheap that can take out basic zombies, rather than wasting Sun on lots of Bombs n stuff to try to drop a big plant early.
Then start working on the more space-efficient plants.

13) Dont forget that you can dig out a Walnut and drop a replacement when they start looking pretty ragged. This is a good idea to keep in mind.

14) Always unlock the PASSIVE bonuses first, when you first get keys on a level. The extra Sun really smooths out your start and eliminates the lag between Sunflower #1 and #2. The extra Plant Slot is very helpful as well. Extra plantFood slot is mediocre.

15) If you are full of plant food and kill a Green such that one is floating, ALWAYS USE ONE immediately. Remember you can always Strengthen a Walnut/Tallnut with one, or drop on a sunflower for bonus sun, or clone a potato mine/chili, then immediately grab the new Plantfood.

Good luck!

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I do see that they just updated to get rid of the whole map system, making a linear progression with no need to grind for keys or stars for the end-level gates. I haven't done enough with it since to see whether this helps progress without IAPs, but it DOES seem quite odd that the game has to be online to update after you have already updated the game, whether from the computer or the device itself. Double updates?

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