If any other game on the planet came close to matching the sheer juggernaut power of Angry Birds, it’s Plants vs. Zombies. Yet, while Angry Birds has unleashed a seemingly endless number of sequels, PopCap Games has seen fit to simply release PvZ on every platform available and focus on adding tons of new content over the years. Thankfully, the wait for an actual sequel is finally over.
Slyly subtitled, “It’s About Time”, Plants vs. Zombies 2 isn’t exactly a revolution in anti-zombie gardening tactics. The game largely plays identically to the original and is a firm proponent of the “if it ain’t broke…” philosophy of design. Admittedly, I’m not complaining. PvZ2 has all the great qualities that made the original so much fun and it’s sure to be a classic.
There are a couple significant changes in the overall set-up. First and foremost, the game is completely free to play, with the option for in-game purchases. As worried as we were about inflicting the dreaded “freemium” model on one of our favorite games, PopCap clearly gave the implementation a lot of thought. Players can get through the whole game with virtually every plant without dropping a dime.
Hasty players can spend real cash to instantly unlock plants and all levels, or get in-game currency. We never felt cheated by not buying anything and it’s a model we hope more games will adopt. Beyond that, the most obvious change is the move away from the suburbs and back into time. The game takes place across three time zones—Ancient Egypt, the old west, and the time of pirates. Each world is presented with a world map (another major change) and has around 50 or so levels each, including branching paths and bonus levels.
Admittedly, the game currently lacks the sheer amount of variety and levels of the original, but we have no doubt that PopCap will be hard at work making the game even beefier than it already is. There are some great new plants and power-ups this time around. Chain lightning, freeze bomb, and other new plants await zombie hunters. Plant food power-ups are a new addition as well. Feeding a plant this special mix results in a temporary boost of power, such as a massive chain gun attack from the pea shooter or a sudden explosion of sun drops from a sunflower.
There are also new player-controlled super moves, such as the ability to squish or throw zombies with finger gestures. These moves cost in-game currency and are expensive, but are so overpowered that they can cause a complete turnaround in a losing battle. Such special moves are fun, if a bit cheap, but hardly necessary in normal play.
Finally and as expected, the game has undergone a graphics overhaul. The great sense of humor is heightened by better animation and more detailed, yet still cartoonish graphics. The soundtrack is instantly familiar to fans of course, and the whole package is terrifically presented.
PopCap has created a fine sequel and an impressive model for free games to follow. They certainly haven’t reinvented the wheel here, but there’s plenty of levels included (and more on the way), tons of plants and enemies, and loads of fun to be had. Better yet, it’s likely that only impatient gamers will feel much need to spend real money.