Review: Plants vs Zombies 2 – your backyard becomes a commercial nursery

PvZ2It’s rare that we at the Southern end of the World get things before our Northern brethren: Plants vs Zombies 2 is an exception, sadly for all the wrong reasons.

The sequel to Plants vs Zombies has been eagerly awaited. The original game was a wonderful mixture of addictive play combined with quirky characters and dialogue. The game was equally suitable for adults and children and had enough depth to make it genuinely compelling.

In most senses, Plants vs Zombies 2 is a worthy successor. The creators have clearly put both time and money into identifying and extending those elements that made the original so good. The graphics are cute, Crazy Dave is given a larger role. The game introduces a range of new plants and has come up with a clever mechanic to bring new zombie types into play – time travel. At the moment my plant troops are battling zombies from ancient Egypt. All this is good.

But there’s a fly in the ointment. They’ve gone freemium. The game is free; but there are a slew of game-changing add-ons available in the store. And these add-ons are truly game changing. As far as I can see the game has been finely calibrated to ensure you can’t win without spending coins (although, to be fair, there are some on the Internet who claim the game can be completed without buying anything). Coins, which are spent on special power gestures that hold back the zombie hordes, are generated in-game at a trickle rate, but are available for purchase in their tens of thousands. Buy enough coins and the game will become a doddle.

You can also buy a range of plants. It’s not clear to me yet if these plants will be available later in the game without a purchase; but, again, pay money now and the game will progress at lightning speed. Then there are upgrades like additional plant food slots and starting Sun bonus. You could pour out a lot of money on this free game – and I have no doubt the creators have put as much effort into encouraging this expenditure as they have into every other facet of the game.

It is the freemium model which has lead to Australia and New Zealand getting first bite at this particular cherry. Popcap are trying the game out down here first to see that their servers can handle the load of frenzied buying. That, if nothing else, suggests that they aren’t expecting many people to make their way through the game without handing over cash.

Plants vs Zombies 2 is a beautifully rendered successor to the original game in every way except the frustrating feemium business model. I have no doubt Popcap will make a lot of money from this but I can’t help wishing they had gone the other way. I didn’t mind a little shop hosted by Crazy Dave in the original game; but I can’t help but wince at the entire game being turned into one enormous supermarket.

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