Yesterday, PopCap released the long-awaited sequel to Plants vs Zombies for iOS, Plants vs Zombies 2. It is currently available only to App Store users in Australia and New Zealand, as the developers plan to test its back-end server capacity, cloud saving system, and monetization structure prior to an international release in the next few weeks. However, I was fortunate to have access to the New Zealand store and today I’d like to share a quick review of the game with you.
It’s about Time
The new sequel to Plants vs Zombies series is entitled “It’s about Time”. After playing it for several hours, I‘m beginning to see what the title really means: the app takes you on a trip through time and space into three whole new worlds full of zombies.
The first world that you will visit after you defeat all the zombies at your house is Ancient Egypt. In this world, you fight against zombies, mummies, Ra priests, and even Pharaohs. Once you have completed the first 11 levels of the Ancient Egypt world, you will unlock a new Star Gate for travelling to the second world, 1679 Pirate Sea. If you manage to beat the last challenge in the Pirates world, a final Star Gate leading to 1850 Wild West will be unlocked for you.
To travel from one time and space to the another, you need to collect stars. Some levels in the game will give you a star as a reward for finishing, but most of the stars are locked until you finish the story-based levels in that world.
For example, in the Ancient Egypt world, there are 11 story-based levels, marked with numbers from 1 to 11. Three of them are challenge levels that will reward you with stars. Once you complete the last story-based level in that world, the other eight levels will transform into challenge levels as well, offering up to three stars. To give you an illustration of just how big a world is, the Ancient Egypt world has a total of 24 levels and 40 stars to collect.
Levels which are not parts of the main storyline (non story-based levels) are locked behind gates. To unlock these gates, you need keys. You can find these keys by finishing story-based levels or by collecting them from dropped items.
Unlike stars, keys are specific to the world where they’re found. You can’t use an Egyptian key to open a gate in the Pirates world, or vice versa. On the contrary, you can use the stars you collect in one world to open a Star Gate in another world.
In general, keys are easier to collect compared to stars. Keep in mind that both stars and keys are consumables. Once you use them to unlock an in-world gate or a Star Gate, your total number of keys and/or stars will be reduced accordingly.
New Plants, Zombies, and Upgrades
In addition to the usual suspects, like Sunflower, Peashooter, Wall-nut, Potato Mine, and Repeater, Plants vs Zombies 2 offers plenty of new plants. Here are the first four new plants that you will encounter in the game:
- Bloomerang. This plant is able to shoot boomerangs which can hit up to three targets in its lane twice.
- Cabbage-pult. A catapult-like plant that lobs a cabbage over any obstacles (such as tombstones) to hit the closest zombie in the lane.
- Iceberg Lettuce. A single-usage plant that freezes any zombie that steps o it.
- Bonk Choy. A plant that can attack ahead or behind, rapidly punching nearby zombies.
Because the new sequel takes you to three whole new worlds, you’re definitely going to meet new kinds of zombies. For example, here are some of the new zombies that you will meet in Ancient Egypt:
- Ra Zombie. A zombie that tries to steal suns.
- Camel Zombies. A group of three zombies or more that protect themselves with a huge board illustrated with a camel on the outer side.
- Tomb Raiser Zombies. A zombie that throws out bones to create tombstones.
The game also offers several gesture-based power-ups that are specifically designed for touch-based devices like the iPhone/iPad. These power-ups are time-limited. Once you activate a power-up, you have a few seconds to take advantage of it. For example, you can pinch zombies to take off their heads, or hold your finger down on a zombie to electrocute it. To activate these gesture-based power-ups, you need to pay with in-game coins.
Another new addition to the gameplay is the Plant Food. It takes the form of a leaf that you can collect after beating glowing zombies. When you give that leaf to a plant, it will give it super powers for a brief period of time. For example, a super Cabbage-pult will shoot cabbages to hit every zombies visible on screen. You can store a limited number of Plant Foods at a time, and if you need more, you can always buy it for 1,000 coins.
New Ways to Play
The new sequel also offer new ways to play the game. For example, in the Wild West world, you can put your most powerful shooter plant on an empty train cart, allowing it to move between lanes. You will also find unique puzzles, such as a card matching game, as a refreshing way to play a level.
Once you finish all the story-based levels in a world, you can unlock two new ways to play the game. The first one is challenge-based. Here, you need to survive a zombie onslaught without breaking any of the criteria outlined in the challenge. If you manage to complete the game successfully, you will be rewarded with a star. These different challenges force you to rethink the way you play each time.
The second gameplay that you can unlock is called Challenge Zone. It’s like an endless survival mode where you try to progress through as many levels as possible. In each progression, you will carry over the Plant Foods and Lawn Mowers that you have left. You will also get to select a plant at a time to add to your team as you progress from one level to the next. If you choose to retire from the Challenge Zone, all of your progress will be removed and you have to restart the Challenge Zone from scratch. Based on what I see in the Game Center Leaderboards, the maximum number of levels that most players can survive is 23 — that’s a lot of levels!
Players Need to Know
Plants vs Zombies 2 is a free-to-play game. You don’t need an internet connection to play the game but when you have one, the game will try to save your current progress to the cloud and download patches or new contents.
The developers have promised that all contents within the game, including the plants, zombies, and levels that are available at launch or afterwards, can be unlocked for free over time.
“Anyone with enough time and skill can unlock all content.” - Allen Murray, Senior Producer.
On the other hand, if you are frustrated with some of the difficult challenges in the game, you can always buy some power-ups or new plants from the in-game store.
Things I Like
First, if you love the original game, you’re going to love Plants vs Zombies 2. It keeps all the elements that make Plants vs Zombies a success, including the decision to keep the number of lanes to five. The new sequel also has beautiful graphics and innovative gameplay design.
I really like the flavor text used to annotate each plant and zombie. It really shows how much attention to details that the developers have put into the game. Clearly, they loved designing the game as much as I love playing it.
Finally, a feature that I have come to appreciate is the ability to save a game progress onto the cloud. This allows you to continue playing when one of your devices needs to be recharged. However, you need to make sure that your iOS devices are connected to the same iCloud account.
Playing Tips for Challenge-based Levels
If you’re playing Plants vs Zombies for the first time, you might find some of the challenges a bit difficult. Clearing these challenges are essential as they’re your main outlet to collect stars. Here are some tips that you might find useful:
- Don’t lost more than 2 plants: Don’t bring disposable (single-use) plants such as Wall-nut, Potato Mine, or Iceberg Lettuce unless you really need to.
- Defeat 15 zombies in 30 seconds: Use the Cabbage-pult’s super power to clear an entire screen when there are 10 or more zombies.
- Spend no more than 2,000 suns: Plant only 4-5 sunflowers, and use a combination of your cheapest plants and your most powerful ones.
- Never have more than 14 plants: Use the shovel to clear out less-relevant plants when you have to, and always check the status bar to see how many plants you can put before you hit the limit. Try to use many disposable plants and always keep 1-2 slot open for any Wall-nut or Iceberg Lettuce to hold up a fast moving zombie.
- Don’t spend any sun for 120 seconds: Build your most powerful armies of plants as fast as you can long before the Final Wave comes. I’d suggest to stop adding new plants one wave before the final.
- Produce at least 4,500 suns: There’s a limit to how many suns a sunflower can produce in its lifetime. The sooner you plant a sunflower, the more it can produce accumulatively. You can use an average rate of 400 suns per sunflowers to estimate how many sunflowers you need to plant in a game.
The numbers in these criteria may differ from one challenge to the next, but most of the strategies can be applied even on a tighter or looser criteria.
Plants vs Zombies 2 is an awesome game. If you love the original Plants vs Zombies, then this one is a must-play. But even if you haven’t played the original game, I’d still highly recommend the new sequel. To me, Plants vs Zombies is one of the best tower defense game series ever.