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As soon as EA ate PopCap’s brains we knew, sooner or later, it was coming, Plants Vs. Zombies is back. When it was announced as a F2P (free to play) game, I was sceptical to say the least, as a general rule; F2P games are absolute manure. After a quick search for a paid version came up blank I was surprised. As I watched the install progress I wondered what to expect.
The game feels very familiar when you start. The lawn, lawnmowers, flower icons and the phrase “the zombies… are coming!” are all there. The graphics and animation have been tweaked but aren’t too different and the music and sound effects are practically the same. If you’ve played the original you’ll be getting back into the strategy that you perfected: two or three rows of sunflowers, then build up the pea shooters. It’s like riding a bike. Defeat all the zombies and they drop a bottle of hot sauce. Now you think you see why this game is free, because it’s just the same thing all over again.
Well, that’s until everyone’s favourite, mentally unbalanced, neighbour jumps on the screen! Crazy Dave grabs the bottle to pour the sauce all over his taco which he loved so much that he decides to use his talking time machine car, Penny, to travel back in time so he can eat it again. Instead of going back in time by five minutes, we’re taken to Ancient Egypt. Relics, sand and pyramids litter the scene and the zombies dress up like mummies. The game here plays exactly the same, but with the zombies’ new costumes comes new abilities. The Ra Zombie will steal the sun drops and the Explorer Zombie carries a torch which instantly destroys your plant if it reaches them with more being revealed as the game progresses.
Completing the level reveals a new world map. Pathways are opened which sometimes fork off into multiple directions. Some areas are blocked by gates that require keys before being unlocked. You obtain these by defeating zombies that drop them fairly infrequently. Littered throughout the map are also new plant types to collect. New gameplay features include plant food. When you feed this to a plant it will greatly increases its power for a limited time. Power ups are another new feature that let you deal with multiple zombies. Use finger pinching, dragging or flicking to dispatch the massive hoards though this comes at considerable cost of in-game currency so you’ll have to use them sparingly. The in-game currency is much like the last game, collected in levels when zombies drop coins.
Defeat the last main level to unlock challenges. These ask you to finish the levels again while completing a specific objective. This could be a spending limit on sun, or not letting zombies reach an area on the field. It’s a little repetitive but adds to the replayability. It also helps obtain the keys needed to unlock gates.
So if this game is free to play, where do you spend your money? You can buy more coins to spend on in-game currency for power-ups, or new plants you haven’t managed to get access to. You can even buy your way to the later levels if you really want to. But you don’t need to. Playing the game at a normal pace you will unlock these over time.
The difficulty spikes quite considerably later on so I can see some in–app purchasing being desirable to some. If you feel your enjoyment waning, perhaps it’s the route to go. The game is fun and I’d feel a bit guilty about not giving PopCap any of my money for the enjoyment this game is giving me, they definitely deserve some!