Plants vs Zombies 2, analysis

There are literally hundreds of thousands of games for iOS. But when you think about the games that carry the banner of the mobile revolution, that number comes down to just a few games. For me, if we focus on iOS, there are two: Angry Birds and Plants vs Zombies . The first one is known by everybody, the second one is not but almost. If you have an iPhone or an iPad, you’ve surely heard of them.

So today, with the release of Plants vs Zombies 2 , we have an important day for Apple and PopCap, the company responsible for the saga, which wants to repeat and even surpass the hit of the first installment. We’ll see that as time goes by, but the truth is that it has all the ingredients to repeat a hit.

Plants vs Zombies 2, analysis
Plants vs Zombies 2, analysis

h2. Plants vs Zombies 2: Plants vs Zombies squared

More of the same, but in the good sense of the word: improved, vitaminized and with many more options. Plants vs Zombies 2 meets expectations.

The truth is that in PopCap they haven’t worked hard to invent a complicated story to justify the time travel that occurs in the game: Dave (the crazy neighbor who helps and guides us) eats a taco and finds it so good that he wants to travel to the past to eat it again. And from there to exploring ancient Egypt, a few seconds go by. We hardly notice it. Fortunately, the script doesn’t count for much in this game.

The game system is exactly the same: we have a field where we have to plant various types of plants that will help us defend ourselves from zombies, which will advance in waves to try to eat our brains. As far as that goes, it makes no difference. But every single aspect of Plants vs Zombies 2 has been vitaminized .

It’s not a completely new game, but it’s not a simple sequel either. Now we have many more plants, many more levels (with forks that remind us of the level structure of Mario World 3 on the SNES), special levels with bonuses, much more variety of zombies, special attacks, vitamins for the plants that boost them much more for a few seconds… for the die-hard of the first Plants vs Zombies this is a paradise .

Before, on one level, we only had to worry about the type of plants we chose to defend our garden. Now, on top of that, we have to manage well the coins we collect to be able to buy “superpowers” that allow us to raze the battlefield with certain gestures; repeat a level several times to be able to get up to three stars that allow us to keep advancing in the game, in the style of the levels of Cut The Rope, Pudding Monsters or Gesundheit; or collect vitamins from the zombies themselves that fall in combat for our plants.

It’s no longer about opening a level to eliminate zombies, period. It’s doing that first step, and then doing it with a distance limit, or an energy expenditure limit, or a limit of plants that we want to put in place… these are challenges and they’re not exactly easy.

That makes Plants vs Zombies 2 a lot harder than the first installment. In that game we had real challenges in the form of mini-games and achievements that were very hard to achieve, but in the sequel we have a very big difficulty curve directly in the main levels of the game. We can spend an entire afternoon completely absorbed in the iPad playing the game, but it’s a perfect title to pick up once in a while and try out levels. This way it can take weeks and weeks to get through.

Let’s look at the technical side: the original Plants vs Zombies was a game that took a long time to load for what it was, and we had the feeling that it was slow and heavy. Plants vs Zombies 2 doesn’t load instantly, but has improved the loading and reaction time to our gestures . And a lot. The graphics have also improved slightly, taking more advantage of the retinal screen of the iOS terminals and updating both plants and zombies.

h2. From being too expensive to embracing freemium

The first time doesn’t matter. But when this appears every time you start the game you understand what PopCap really wants. And it gets a little tiring.

One of the best news of Plants vs Zombies 2 is that it has become free. With the first installment full of complaints about its price, it’s a good move for PopCap, but watch out, because we’re looking at a very complete freemium model.

Seeing that games that follow the same model earn huge revenues (read the hundreds of thousands of dollars a day of the free game Clash of Clans), PopCap has decided to offer the game for free but with some additional pay advantages. The jalapeño, for example, is a plant included in the first game that now costs 2.69 euros.

The shop is no longer a virtual coin shop: it is a shop where items are bought with cash and sound euros. The coins in the game are reserved for the plant superpowers we discussed earlier, with the option of being able to buy more coins with our iTunes account. And of course… all these real purchases are in-app purchases, so both PopCap and Apple can end up collecting millions every month even if a small portion of the public ends up buying a few plants. If the game is downloaded by millions of people, the profit is assured .

We can be pessimistic and say that the game is now technically much more expensive by adding up the price of all possible purchases, but we must bear in mind that these optional plants are now unnecessary to advance in the game. Yes, they make it much easier for us, but it’s not a mandatory purchase by any means. And I’m sure many will prefer a good challenge to spending money and losing the fun of the game. Unless they get stuck at a very difficult level for weeks, of course.

I said no, wood!
Plants vs Zombies 2 en la App Store

Are there things that can be improved in the game? Of course . The optional purchases could be a lot cheaper (the prices I see won’t attract much to say), the difficulty curve could be a bit weaker so that the younger and inexperienced players don’t pull their hair out, there’s no need to recommend us over and over again to rate the game or integrate it into our Facebook account… but look how we’re talking about problems that can be serious for some but non-existent for others. It’s all about looking at it from various points of view.

In short, Plants vs Zombies 2 is a great sequel that has everything to triumph again over the first Plants vs Zombies. It’s engaging, it’s fun, it’s free and it’s challenging even for the veterans of the first instalment who thought they were the best at seed-based undead mowing. If you have a compatible terminal, the free download of the game is a must .

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