Plants vs. Zombies 2 preview: it's about time (and money)

Developer PopCap can't be accused of throwing Plants vs. Zombies 2 together quickly just to capitalize on the popularity of the original. In taking its time, PopCap has done an admirable job of crafting a successor that should be just as addicting.

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Developer PopCap Games can't be accused of throwing Plants vs. Zombies 2 together quickly just to capitalize on the popularity of the original. As expected, the subtitle It's About Time is not only about the exacerbated wait fans have had to suffer, but about the sequel's new time-traveling premise.

Crazy Dave returns, discovering a hot sauce that perfectly complements the taco in the original game. It was so good that he wants to eat it again, so he channels Back to the Future and invents a time machine so he can go back in time to do just that. Thus begins a new adventure.

While the original kept the player within the confines of his or her home, players will now be teleported to various themed areas throughout time. We got a look at the first three epochs that Crazy Dave will be visiting, from Egypt, to the pirate seas of the 1600s, to the Wild West. All the zombies in these areas are dressed in appropriately themed garb, and each still have specialized strengths and abilities. There will also be some new zombies added based on the theme of the map, such as a parrot-totin' pirate zombie that can steal plants.

Each era will feature a global map that takes the player through its various stages. The main adventure mode missions will drop random keys that will unlock separate areas for challenges and mini-games off the main track. Egypt, for example, had 11 main missions, and 10 "side-quests." Completing these side quests can unlock new plants and items.

PopCap said each era will have more than 20 areas to complete. Completing the main set of missions will allow the player to enter a stargate to travel to the next time period. Once a player completes the time period, a challenge mode opens where the player can play levels over and over, much like survival mode in the original game. Players can earn stars by completing objectives in subsequent trips through a level.

The layouts of levels will also be a bit more diverse. For example, a pirate-themed level had what looked like two ships joined by a long two-row plank. The areas on either side of the plank were inaccessible--zombies could only cross to the other side on the plank. But some mechanics can be used to get around the missing sections, such as the player firing cannons across, or zombies swinging across on a rope.

Going up against new zombies means players will need a new arsenal of plants, and while many of the old favorites will be returning, about 15 more have been added. New plants include the coconut cannon, which fires an area-of effect explosion, and the bonk choy, a more powerful take on the original's split pea. Our favorite was a snapdragon that breathed fire into several lanes at once, consolidating the popular combination of threepeater and torchwood.

In addition to new plants, the gameplay has been tweaked a bit as well. Not only will you be tapping the screen to collect sunshine and coins, you'll also collect plant pellets. Collecting these will fill up a super meter. When full, players can choose a plant to upgrade. For example, a pea shooter can become a machine gun, or a sunflower can become a nuclear generator of sun energy. The use of plant food basically eliminates the need for variations of the same plant, such as the gatling pea and spikerocks in the original game. This tweak also demands a bit more strategy, as power-ups only work for a limited time and should be used at appropriate times.

Additional power-ups will allow players to directly assist in the zombie killing. "Power Pinch" allows players to pinch zombie heads. "Power Toss" will allow players to flick zombies off the board. Finally, "Power Zap" can electrocute the undead.

Unlike the original, Plants vs. Zombies 2 will be free-to-play, and it's clear that PopCap has designed the game around supporting that economy. Players can purchase plant food with in-game coins at any time during a level and as often as you have cash. Power-ups can also be purchased with in-game coins. While this approach often can be predatory, it was rather easy to earn in-game coins; I didn't feel forced to spend any real money, although it's impossible to extrapolate how the final game will be balanced based on a preview.

Plants vs Zombies will launch July 18 on iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch. The three eras mentioned will be included at first, and more will become available as DLC after launch.

Contributing Editor
From The Chatty
  • reply
    June 10, 2013 2:00 PM

    John Keefer posted a new article, Plants vs. Zombies 2 preview: it's about time (and money).

    Developer PopCap can't be accused of throwing Plants vs. Zombies 2 together quickly just to capitalize on the popularity of the original. In taking its time, PopCap has done an admirable job of crafting a successor that should be just as addicting.

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      June 10, 2013 2:26 PM

      Another stellar performance by PopCap. I never played the original, looked dumb. But this, this I could see myself playing. I'm interested to see where this goes.

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      June 10, 2013 2:34 PM

      I'm glad people are finally able to see and play it :D. We've been working hard on it!

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        June 10, 2013 2:55 PM

        I was impressed and can't wait to play more ...

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        June 10, 2013 3:18 PM

        Forgive me if I have this wrong, but is this coming for iOS first for a long time and then the rest later?

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          June 10, 2013 3:32 PM

          Almost certainly but they probably and annoyingly and stupidly signed some lame agreement with Crapple to NOT make that clear at first in the desperate and pathetic hopes that it'll force fans to buy it on some crappy Apple platform.

          It's pretty asinine, really. Like no one's figured out that it'll be on every platform - especially considering that their original news blip about this months and months ago stated it was coming for every platform.

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            June 10, 2013 4:39 PM

            lol. "Crapple." Your argument is invalid.

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      June 10, 2013 5:08 PM

      I can't remember. Do we love or hate PopCap now?

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      June 10, 2013 5:52 PM

      The F2P aspect has me a bit concerned. I was doing the little Facebook version of PvZ and basically ran into the wall where you have to spend "gems" to continue to the next set of levels. "Gems" are only acquired by a set of 100 when you first start and then purchased afterwards. :p

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      June 11, 2013 8:55 AM

      Wow, what a disappointment. No Android/PC launch and Pay to Win. Yeah the adventures is lame too, I accidentally bought a few plants with my gems, not knowing that there's no way to earn them. Now it sounds like there's some wall ahead to get new levels where I'll be forced to pay if I want them (I won't). I would just buy the game initially, but this kind of crap is shady.

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      June 11, 2013 4:59 PM

      You can finish all the maps in PvZA on facebook if you have patients. You don't need any of the things you can buy, those are for impatient people that don't want to wait.

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        June 11, 2013 6:25 PM

        Not true. You get 100 gems to start and need to have 4 friends that actually are interested in playing the game as well. (At least where I'm at.) It costs 70 gems for one person to accompany you on the road trip. In my case, only 2 friends play it consistently and I've already recruited their "help", so I'd need another 40 just to get to the next area.