Sunday, August 18, 2013

Plants vs. Zombies 2 Review


The wait for Plants vs. Zombies 2: It's About Time is finally over and is ready for you to download to your favorite iOS device now!

As the name implies, Plants vs. Zombies 2 (PvZ2) is the follow on sequel to PopCaps wildly popular Plants vs Zombies game.  In this tower defense game, you control an army of plants defending your yard from the attacking zombie horde.  (Note, I'm not a fan of zombies, but these zombies and the plants as well, are of the cute variety and not scary at all.)

"Free to Play"

Unlike the original game, PvZ2 is a "freemium" game, meaning that the game is free to download and play, however, there are many in app purchases that cost money.  I really don't like freemium games because most games of this type start out easy enough, but after a few levels, they become increasingly difficult and you have to start paying real money to move up in the game.  The good news about PvZ2 is that in my experience after playing the game for a weekend is that you don't have to buy any power ups to defeat levels and move on to the next level.  While you don't have to buy any upgrades, I did purchase one upgrade - the $3.99 extra seed tray.  It was an upgrade that I purchased with coins in the original and I wanted to have that same ability in the sequel.

Game Play

New locations spice up game play.  Crazy Dave has also added new power ups to help fight zombies.

If you've played Plants vs Zombies you already know how to play PvZ2.  The basic game mechanics are the same.  In PvZ2 however, you are in control of which board you play, and to some degree, what order they are played in.  Once you've completed the required missions, you can replay the boards to earn stars, keys, and other power ups to help you along the way.  You collect stars to move on to the next level.  In PvZ2, there are four level, three are playable now, and the fourth one is kind of coming soon teaser.  You collect keys to unlock doorways on the board that open up other playable games and gain access to new plants or power ups like extra plant food slots. (More about plant food later.)

Once you've won the level, play these mini games to collect stars to get to the next level.

Unlike the original, PvZ2's mini games are built right into the main game.  Once you have completed the necessary boards in a level, you need to go back and replay some boards to collect stars.  You use your collected stars to unlock the next level; or you can pay $4.99 as an in app purchase to skip directly to the new level.  This dynamic can be challenging as my younger daughter tells me, but if you put a little time an effort into beating these mini game/challenge levels, you can win without having to buy power ups.

Choose your plants.  Use In App purchases to get popular plants from the original game.

While I am glad that you can play PvZ2 without having to purchase anything, I am annoyed that you have to purchase some of my favorites plants from the original game that were included for no extra charge, such as the Snow Pea ($3.99), the JalapeƱo ($2.99), Squash ($2.99) and Torchwood ($3.99).

Collect start to unlock the time portal to the next level.

Don't want to collect stars? It'll cost you to advance right away.

Power Ups and New Mechanics

In the original buy-it-once-and-you-get-everything Plants vs. Zombies, you purchased the game and that's it. You're done.  There is nothing else to buy that costs real money. In PvZ2, PopCap has changed this.  There are four new power ups that add a new game mechanic to PvZ.

The first is Plant Food.  Plant food is something you can collect while battling zombies or purchase with coins that you pick up along the way.  If you don't have 1,000 coins, no problem.  You can just do an in app purchase to buy more.  You can also use those game coins, either collected or purchased, to buy more uses of the other power ups: Power Pinch, Power Toss, and Power Zap.  These power ups, provided by Crazy Dave, do just they sound like.  Power Pinch allows you to use a two finger pinch attack on zombies to pop their heads off.  Power Toss allows you to pick up zombies and then flick them off the game board.  Lastly, Power Zab allows you to electrocute the zombies and burn them up in their tracks.  When you activate a power up you only get a few seconds to use them.  They are great for getting out of a jam when you are trying to fortify your defenses and the dreaded huge wave of zombies message appears on screen.  My advice is to use them sparingly as you will need more coins to recharge the power ups and if you don't have enough, you can always get more coins via, yup you guessed it, an in app purchase.  My advice is to use them sparingly.  If you are thinking a move or two ahead in the game, you can get "buy" without them.

Protect Your Privacy

Keep your data private
In today's day and age with the NSA snorting up all sorts of personal and private data about us, any little thing you can do to protect your privacy is a good thing.  Tucked away in the settings for PvZ2 is the setting for "Sharing Usage Data."  Defaulted to "Enabled", this option allows PvZ2 to pass along your game playing usage data to EA.  EA's in game verbiage says that the date won't be shared, and that may be true, but I'd rather just turn off the option all together.

Summary

Plants vs. Zombies 2: It's About Time is a good game that extends the fun of the original into new worlds, levels, and game play.  The game is free to download, but you'll need to watch out for in app purchases.  If you have little ones, it might be a good idea to turn on the parental controls features of iOS and disabling in app purchases of any kind.  I've done this for my kid's iPod touch handhelds and I don't have to worry about coin buying sprees while I'm at work.

The game play is easy to learn and master and the replay value is there for a few replays.  After I have played a board three or four times I'm pretty much ready to move on to the next board or level.  The animation of the plants and zombies is still cartoons that gives the game a cute an innocent feel that won't make you rethink your decision to allow younger child to play.

If you liked the original game then you will like PvZ2.  If you are new to the PvZ world you won't have to have played the original to get into and enjoy the sequel.

Plants vs. Zombies is available as a free download now.  It is also a universal binary which means that the one download will work on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch.
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