Plants vs Zombies is my favorite Popcap game. There’s no disputing it; it’s what put Popcap on the map for me. It’s one of the rare games that I own multiple copies of. I finished it on the PC and then completed it again on the game’s natural habitat, the iPad. Needless to say, I was looking forward to Plants vs Zombies 2 with much anticipation.
I grabbed Plants vs Zombies 2 as soon as it was available on the North American App Store. I was looking forward to the natural evolution of the Plants vs Zombies motif but instead Popcap had me traveling to different time periods and tossed out what made Plants vs Zombies a cohesive experience.
Before I move on, I’d like to point out that these tower defense games are limited on what they have to offer. Something like choice of visual aesthetic or music have significant ramifications. Tower defense games are a dime a dozen, so it’s trivially easy to drop one in favor of another.
The first Plants vs Zombies held a cohesive aesthetic from top to bottom. Plopping down plants in the backyard of Dave’s home to fend off a horde of zombies worked due to Popcap’s dedication to the gardening and neighborhood aesthetic. Of course sunflowers produce sun. Of course plants would need sun in order to live. Walnuts are tough, so calling upon them to fend off the horde made some sense. The transitions from daytime plants, to night time plants, to water based plants that thrive in the in-ground pool — they all meshed together into one beautiful and charming tower defense package.
Plants vs Zombies 2 wasn’t as cohesive. It had the feel of an level pack. There was a time traveling contrivance which they shoehorned in to justify the different themed “worlds” but I didn’t care for any of them. The Egyptian, Wild West and Pirate themed worlds did nothing for me. I didn’t enjoy the music for any of those worlds and most of the themed zombies felt uninspired. I felt they were no longer clever and thus the game lost its charm for me.
Plants vs Zombies 2 is a tougher game but only if I didn’t leverage the game’s newest additions. The plant food super charged plants giving them exaggerated versions of their abilities. God-like powers were also available to help overcome difficult situations. I only used one of these two additions.
The plant foot was a replenishable resource that didn’t cost any in-game funds which was why it was my only power-up. It also didn’t completely break the game’s difficulty curve. I’ve only triggered those other power-ups by accident. I could spend real world currency to increase the amount of plant food I could hold or buy additional in-game currency so I could utilize the godlike powers more frequently but I never did. I never felt the need to.
For the most part, the business side of Plants vs Zombies 2 did not interfere with my “enjoyment” of the game. I didn’t feel I was cheated by the fact they were charging for “classic” plants because $60 games were already trying to gouge me for old maps and skins. As I mentioned before, I never felt the need to spend money for power-ups either. I only felt the sting of the free-to-play model after I finished all the content that was available.
I didn’t need to grind for unlock keys until the final world because I picked up enough of them through multiple retries on the earlier levels. Unfortunately for me, by the time I reached the final world, I had my routine figured out and didn’t fail as many levels and thus didn’t find enough keys. I wasn’t going to spend real money or grind for the remaining keys so I just left a number of levels unplayed. Was there an end boss waiting for me? I wouldn’t know and I certainly didn’t care enough to find out. I completed the most challenging levels already, so I had my fill.
Speaking of challenge levels, I was fine with replaying levels for additional stars because they were the only source of challenge in the game. I disagree with the manner in which Popcap presented those challenge levels though. They shouldn’t have forced people to gather additional stars in order to progress. Not everyone enjoys a challenge and not everyone is a completionist like me.
I wanted to love Plants vs. Zombies 2 but I just couldn’t. It didn’t feel like the proper sequel that the original game deserved. It lacked cohesion and the creative spark that I found so endearing in the original. Others may hold the free-to-play business model against it but — aside from the keys situation — I didn’t mind it so much. The free-to-play model didn’t force them to make a pirate themed world with palette swapped zombies.
For more information on Plants vs. Zombies 2: It’s About Time, visit the official website.