The overall premise of Plants vs. Zombies 2 stays the same as the first game. You become a wrangler of warrior plants to take on hordes of goofy, cartoonish zombies who are invading your property. To defeat the attacking zombies, you must grow animated, combative plants that send projectiles, beat-downs, explosions, and other damaging things at the zombies. This sequel offers over 60 new puzzle levels at launch.
In Plants vs. Zombies 2, your neighbor Crazy Dave eats a taco that is so good, he decides to go back in time to eat it again. Crazy Dave teams up with Penny, an unreliable, food-truck time machine. Penny screws up; and instead of going back in time a few seconds, you, Dave and Penny time-travel to three different locations: Ancient Egypt, the Pirate Seas, and the old Wild West. Awaiting you at each location are hordes of themed zombies. To save your brains, you battle the undead on sand, the seas, and railroad tracks.
How To Play
Your first stop is Ancient Egypt, where the main campaign has 11 levels of undead puzzles. Thirteen more side quest levels are unlockable by finding keys that the zombies drop during battle. By playing these side quest levels and replaying the main campaign levels to achieve certain goals, you earn stars. To progress to the Pirate Seas, you need to win 20 stars to unlock the Star Gate between the two worlds. You can also explore a challenge mode called the Pyramid of Doom.
Three Different Worlds of Zombie Fighting
The Pirate Seas and the Wild West are set up in a similar manner, with main campaigns, unlockable side quests, and a challenge mode at each location. The Star Gate between the Pirate world and the Wild West is more onerous requiring 30 stars to unlock; but you can earn them from both the Pirate and Egypt worlds.
Each puzzle takes place on a grid of fertile tiles. You root your zombie-zapping plants on the grid in hopes of killing the brain-eating undead who slowly enter from the right. The zombies proceed across the grid staying in lanes. Since you are only allowed a few types of plants for each battle, selecting the right plants from your growing arsenal is the key. Before the zombies attack, you can see the types of zombies coming. Each zombie is different and can be defeated by certain plants.
After choosing which plants to take into battle, the strategy comes from figuring out where and when to place your fighting perennials. Your arsenal of plants needs sunlight to grow; and while packets of sunlight arrive slowly during a level, you can increase the amount of sunlight by planting Sunflowers. The most powerful plants take the most sunlight to grow; so you have to wait for them to become available. In the meantime, you can slow down the zombies’ progression with plants that need little or no sunlight. For example, Iceberg Lettuces need no sun, and they grab onto the feet of the zombies to temporarily freeze them. While stationary, a zombie is susceptible to damage from projectiles such as peas shot from a Pea Pod or corn hefted from a Kernel-pult. This game is one of quick thinking and fast planting. If you don’t wipe out the zombies before they traverse the grid, they eat your brains and well, you lose.
The fun of this game is figuring out how to best use each wild and crazy plant against the constantly changing zombies. In Ancient Egypt, you will encounter a Pharaoh Zombie wearing a sarcophagus to protect it. On the high seas, you’ll battle flying Seagull Zombies that don’t need a plank to cross over to your ship. My favorite new zombies are the ones in the Wild West, including the Pianist Zombie whose rolling piano crushes plants and causes the other zombies on the grid to start dancing and switch lanes.
In addition to new plants and new zombies, ???Plants vs. Zombies 2” introduces plant food to temporarily increase a plant’s attack, and three power-ups that allow you to rid the grid of zombies by flicking, pinching, and zapping. The plant food is dropped by certain zombies upon destruction; whereas the power-ups cost coins. You can pick up a few coins dropped by zombies, but most are earned by winning a level. Coins are also buyable with real money, as an in-app purchase.
The Overall Rating
Plants vs. Zombies 2 falls short in its balance within the puzzle levels and the overall progression through the game. In the original Plants vs. Zombies, each puzzle level was winnable if you planted the right plants. That is not the case in Plants vs. Zombies 2. Many of the levels are so hard that you need to use the power-ups. Of course, they cost in-game currency which is not readily available. The result is exactly what PopCap is hoping: average players will stop in the heat of battle to buy themselves out of undead trouble.
Most families don’t realize that free-to-play games are a misnomer. Free-to-play usually means pay-to-win. That is a tough sell, especially when kids are playing. Some of Plants vs. Zombies 2 in-app purchases can cost as much as $99.99. With a fan base of over 140 million games installed, it is a shame that PopCap didn’t trust their fans’ loyalty to pay for a high quality sequel. Instead, they interrupt the player’s enjoyment with repeated request to pay.
Here’s THE BOTTOM LINE: Plants vs. Zombies 2 is worth checking out; but it is not as great as the first one. Be prepared to use in-app purchases in the Pirate Seas so that you can get to the Wild West to unlock the strongest plants. Then return to the earlier side quests, armed with powerful plants. If you are new to this franchise, skip this free one and buy the first game for $.99.
All tech products are judged on a five star scale by looking at the following factors: fun, education, ease of use, value, and technical.