Review: Plants vs Zombies 2: It’s About Time (Mobile)

Review: Plants vs Zombies 2: It’s About Time (Mobile)

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You all know this game by now, I’ve seen almost every age group (including my uncles who are now grand fathers) play Plants vs Zombies. It’s a very simple and cute game but has elements which surprisingly makes the game pretty deep, at least in the original game’s survival mode. That was pretty much the game for me. Playing the campaign, farming out the zen garden to buy plants, and solving those side puzzles were all for the end-game which was accumulating as many flags as possible in survival mode by experimenting the different combinations of plants. I never really gave too much though about the game’s campaign mode as it was designed to be pretty damn  easy but maybe its because I take games a little extra seriously compared to the average Joe and Jane (this is important because girl gamers do exist /sarcasm).

It helps to point out that I played Plants vs Zombies for the PC and not on the iOS and to be honest, I felt perfectly fine with it because the mouse controls are infinitely superior to touch screen controls because you can be more precise with your movements and that’s pretty important when there are tones of zombies about on your lawn. The move to make Plants vs Zombies 2 a mobile exclusive (for now) and free-to-play certainly sucks for me because I knew where this game is going. A few weeks ago, Plants vs Zombies 2 was out in several App stores and you may have read about in-app purchases for plants which were part of the original game (Squash, Jalapeno, , and they’re true along with some upgrades that used to be part of the game (additional plant slots). Not only do you have to pony up more money to enjoy the “full game experience” ($35.93 for all the plants and upgrades) but they added a new “touch death blow” mechanic to induce impulse purchases for people who can’t clear specific stages (who suck at playing these types of games in general) to advance when they run out of in-game money to invoke “the hand of the almighty” (aka themselves) to finish the job they can’t do with plants alone.  Some content can be unlocked faster buy paying real money, but all paid content are strictly paid content. There is absolutely no way to grind up for their current paid content offerings.

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Having said all that, Plantz vs Zombies 2 still delivers itself as an entertaining game and if you hate the in-app purchases so much (like myself) you can play the game without having to spend a single cent for people who don’t like how they are implementing in-app purchases for a game that was perfectly justifiable for a retail release. On this note, I will blame the jail-breaking and cracking of the original game because going free-to-play solves all your piracy issues while in-app purchases become necessary if you are free-to-play. This is the last rant, I promise (nope). Now on to the game itself!

Plants vs Zombies 2 throws you back in time to look for Crazy Dave’s taco. In the current build of the game you travel through three time periods namely: Ancient Egypt, the Age of Pirates, and the Wild West. Each zone introduces brand new plants and zombies which will ultimately require you to use the new plants in conjunction with the old ones you’ve acquired. Unlike the linear campaign of the original PvZ, the game now sports an “overworld” of sorts where there is a straight progression to the next area and there are side roads which unlock either new plants or power-ups (for free!). These side roads need to be unlocked by keys which seem to appear at random from zombies when you’re playing a stage. The other way is to simply buy access to the side road with real money. You can either grind for keys or just keep progressing normally until you find enough keys to go back to locked areas, I never repeated a stage unless I failed the stage’s objective which does not only mean protecting your brain from the zombies. Much to my annoyance, you are sometimes tasked to protect defenseless plants like Sunflowers which are positioned out in front. There are also objectives which restrict where you can plant, how much “sun” you can use, and even impose a maximum number of plants you can have on the field. While these objectives seem like they could give you a run for your money, they actually limit your choices of plants, these stages are normally completed with just 3-4 plants (Sunflower included).

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The “main campaign” which will lead you to the warp portal to the next time period consists of at least 10 stages but upon reaching the warp portal, you find out you can’t access the next stage yet unless you pony up enough “stars” OR… (wait for it) pay real money! (hooray) Thankfully, you will only need to do this if you absolutely suck at the game or justify with lame reasons such as “I don’t have time to grind up stars.” Star missions appear on the “main campaign” stages after you reach the warp gate. There are three star missions on each campaign stage while side road missions have one star each. Accumulating stars is not a grind because each mission has different objectives and strategies to win. It’s not replaying an old stage but rather playing a new and harder stage. This is actually one of the better features of the sequel and since there is the “easy way out” through in-app purchases, finishing the third star of each stage is exceptionally fulfilling knowing that others would just pay (and waste perfectly good dollars) their way to victory. The missions aren’t easy at all, non-paying users will have to choose their battles wisely because some stages require plants from the next time period to beat or at least be marginally easier. I’m beginning to sound like a broken record here but you can pay real money to win these difficult situations again by invoking the “hand of the almighty” or rather, your fingers. Plants vs Zombies 2 introduces new functions which practically destroys the need for strategy and both as you may have guessed can be acquired through in-app purchases.

Plant Food:

Plant food is acquired randomly from zombies glowing green. Feeding the plant food to any plant you have on the field hulks them up and they will execute a “super move” for the lack of a better term which all varies. None of them have the same effect but utilizing all plant super moves are not necessary. You need only pick the ones which deal the most damage possible because I found them to be an integral part of beating any stage. Not using plant food seems to be suicide in Plantz vs Zombies 2. Thankfully, there is enough plant food to go around in regular game play but those who can’t get enough of these super moves can opt to buy a plant which generates plant food called the “Power Lily” all for the low-low price of $2.99 (bleh and nope).

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Touch Deathblows (not the official term):

This next one is just a travesty. As if plant food and the in-app purchases for the Jalapeno and Squash weren’t enough for panic buttons, EA decided it would be great (for business) to add powers where you can use your fingers to destroy as many zombies as you can in different ways for a limited period of time if you pony up money (coins/gems) to invoke said powers. These powers range from popping off their heads with two fingers in a pinching motion, flinging up zombies in the air with one finger and then knocking them out of the screen, or just holding down on the touch screen to electrocute zombies. You can earn money in the game but you don’t earn enough money to keep using these powers every stage and you will eventually run out as you will come to rely on them one way or the other. By the time you run out of coins, you will be faced with the decision to suck it up and stop relying on powers or pony up real money (again and again) to get coins immediately and begin enjoying your superficial reign of terror once again on animated drawings of zombies who do different kinds of tricks.

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End Game:

Plants vs Zombies cannot be complete without an end game. Which is why I am pretty mad that there is no survival mode in this game. In its stead, a different game mode was sent in place called Challenge Zones. There is one challenge zone per time period where you are dealt three cards per stage containing a plant per card, you then proceed to select one to bring into the next stage. You basically decide how to progress your arsenal as you traverse increasingly difficult maps in what seems to be the new version of the original game’s survival mode. Honestly, I’m not impressed but I’m willing to give it a go again having only finished 4 stages so far with relative ease. One thing that peeves me is the the fact that I can’t seem to access the star missions I already finished. You should be able to revisit old content but what you end up revisiting is the “easy mode” version of the stage which is the campaign mode setting which is absolutely pointless to play again.

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What’s a mobile game without features to draw you into the game again? A Zombie Yeti occasionally appears and you will have to play said stage and kill it to steal its lunch box (how mean) and grab whatever random goodies he carries. I get this crappy diamond most of the time. It’s crappy because all it is used for now is to activate touch death blows( meh).

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The Good:

  • New plants and zombies involve new strategies and this keeps Plants vs Zombies 2 fresh.
  • It’s free-to-play and you can actually enjoy the game without spending money.
  • There are enough challenges to go around to keep you entertained for quite a while depending on how you pace yourselves.

The Bad:

  • I’m not against micro-transactions but these in-app purchases insult my intelligence so they have almost zero value to me. In other words, I’m not forking over a single cent.
  • The addition of many “panic button” items tied up to in-app purchases allows EA to get away with imbalanced maps where there are simply too many zombies to deal with (easy, hit them with real money in a tight spot).
  • There is no survival mode! (This is obviously my own subjective opinion) But I’ll pay real money for a survival mode, make that three survival mode stages: one for each time period.

Things Which Can Swing Either way:

  • The general notion that everything can be acquired with real money or can be earned by simply playing the game. The only saving grace for this is the fact that earning plants and upgrades by playing is not a grind but rather allows you to explore new challenges and more difficult situations which should be a good point but the people who spend money on in-app purchases obviously disagree with me.
  • The game as it is, is incomplete with no “final boss” and EA may choose to make the game never end granted that Plants vs Zombies 2 has a business model which supports endless content. This can be good or bad, depending on how it is utilized.

In Conclusion:

I enjoyed my time with Plants vs Zombies 2 and I will still be playing this game for weeks or months to come especially when I’m anticipating the fourth stage which will probably be the “last” stage of the game for now as Dr. Zomboss (last boss in the fist game) has revealed himself to be in said fourth world. What I am certainly NOT going to do is plunk down any real money for their current offerings of in-app purchases. Nope… nope, nope, nope, and nope. Regardless, EA seems to be making a killing off this game having it in the top twenty over-all grossing games on the App Annie charts. EA is certainly laughing their way to the bank because clearly, people like myself are not the target market for this game.



Review overview
Graphics - The game looks more polished but it's still nothing mind-blowing.
Gameplay - Despite all the over powered additions, PvZ 2 is still a great game with unique challenges every corner if you don't rely on powers too much.
Value - It's free-to-play and it can stay that way but in-app purchases are simply appalling. I feel bad for the people who actually spent money on this game.
Sound - There is a lot more variety to the bgm but you can honestly play the game on mute and it would not matter.
finds less and less time to play home consoles and finds himself playing more handheld and mobile games. He'll never-ever finish his backlog of games.