I can recall spending countless hours cultivating the most treacherous, yet adorable, garden known to man in PopCap’s hit tower defense game Plants vs. Zombies. With an arsenal of peashooters and cabbage hurlers at my disposal, I defended my virtual home base from wave after wave of mindless brain-munchers. After dealing with Crazy Dave and conquering Dr. Zomboss, I impatiently rattled my seed packs eager to embark on yet another zombie-squashing adventure.
And that adventure spans the oceans of time courtesy of Crazy Dave’s sentient RV time machine.
I initially felt conflicted when I noticed that Plants vs. Zombies 2: It’s About Time was listed as free-to-play. I’ve held reservations about the mobile free-to-play model, but I decided to sow seeds to prevent a bountiful brain harvest in Ancient Egypt, the Old West, and other time periods.
But as the quiet murmur of zombies longing for my brains enveloped me, I felt at home among my plant protectors as I did in the first game. The pacing recalled the original Plants vs. Zombies as I progressed through the early levels, and the necessity for in-game purchases were, thankfully, minimal. A combat gardening veteran, I found the early stages a bit on the easy side, but Plants vs. Zombies newcomers could benefit from a bit more coddling. Once I got into the meat of the game, however, Crazy Dave and his wisecracking RV left me happily annihilating zombies for hours as we progressed through time and space.
Responsive controls made for a pleasurable zombie-slaying experience. If not for the special moves, I’d easily give the controls two green thumbs up. There are a few timed special moves that you can buy with in-game coins that flick, electrify, and pinch zombies with the divine power of your almighty finger. Although they are general mobile device gestures (the pinch, swipe, and tap), it took several unsuccessful special move attempts before I could properly execute them. Unfortunately, in this free-to-play game, coins are a precious commodity that is spent faster than can be consumed if you intend to use the power-ups often. While helpful when zombies were overcoming my crops, I ignored the special moves because the time it took to correctly execute the motions was better served protecting my precious plants.
Plants vs. Zombies 2: It’s About Time‘s graphics continue the series’ adorable take on a zombie invasion, but with resolution and animation improvements. A fan of cutesy games, I found the backgrounds well-designed, with each tying into a world that made sense for a time traveling zombie slayer and her band of merry plants.
Eventually, the free-to-play plea becomes more noticeable — to the point where the ads are distracting. While not extremely obtrusive, it becomes painfully obvious that you’d have a quicker and easier experience annihilating animated carcasses if you spent some pocket change. There are gates and stars that prevent you from accessing certain plants or progressing to the next world, and although you can earn most with a bit of persistence, the constant reminder that a simpler way borders on the nagging. That said, I progressed through most of the first world, amassing enough coins and stars, through regular gameplay. Despite the incessant reminders, I felt a strong urge to continue on or amass more stars, and spent several hours cursing at the undead before deciding to nourish my brain with other stimulating activities.
In all, if you’ve played Plants vs. Zombies, Plants vs. Zombies 2: It’s About Time will not disappoint. With improved graphics, lots of new worlds to discover, new zombies to toss veggies toward, and plants to do your bidding, you’ll find yourself waiting for another one of Crazy Dave’s surprisingly witty comebacks while battling persistent brain connoisseurs. While the special moves inputs could be a bit more responsive and the free-to-play model lends itself to annoying yet manageable ads, progress can be made without spending a single in-game coin or real world dime. Plants vs. Zombies is one of my preferred tower defense games, and although I typically balk at game sequels for their sheer suckiness factor, I felt pleasantly surprised and enthused by PopCap’s update of an old favorite.