Plants vs. Zombies 2

Developer:  PopCap
Download:  Get on iTunes
Official link:  Plants vs. Zombies 2
Price:  Free (in-app purchases available)

Plants vs. Zombies 2 received a lot of flak from popular reviewers when it first came out, mainly due to its monetization model. However, I think a lot of that criticism is unfounded and overlooks the most important thing: this is a really fun game! If those reviews scared you off the first time, now’s your chance to take a look at an excellent sequel and one of the best iPad games in general.

Simply put, Plants vs. Zombies 2 is a worthy successor, one that you can download for free and beat completely without ever spending a dime. Yes, that’s right: it’s entirely free. There aren’t even any ads! What got reviewers so up in arms is that you’re given the option to purchase various plants and power-ups and content. Yes, that’s right: the option. If you really want the ice version of the common Peashooter, you’ll have to pay a couple of bucks for it. However, if you can live without it and be content with the tons, I repeat, tons of other plants that get unlocked through the normal course of the game, you’ll probably forget it even exists. In fact, the opportunities to spend money are so unobtrusive that you may never notice them at all.

To be fair to some of the reviewers, apparently the very first version of this game was on the grindy side. You originally received stars for beating levels, and a certain number of stars were required before you could gain access to new worlds. Thus, you often had to replay previous levels. However, the game has since been updated, and now new worlds unlock with special keys that you receive during normal progression. Furthermore, there are now a lot more worlds to unlock! In addition to the original Ancient Egypt and Pirate Seas stages, later updates added the Far Future, the Dark Ages, Big Wave Beach, and more.

If you want more details on how the world of Plants vs. Zombies works, I encourage you to check out my review of the original game since I already covered it there. Not much of the core gameplay has changed in this sequel, but I do want to point out a couple of improvements. To pick up pieces of sun, you can now just drag your finger around the screen and collect them all at once. If you ever felt like the original game was too slow, there’s now a fast forward button that acts as a toggle between normal and double speed. It’s great for those early stages when you know you’ve already won, but, to my surprise, I found myself hardly using it. Why?

Because this game gets CRAZY!

Plants vs. Zombies 2 is far more challenging and exciting than the original. Hordes and hordes and hordes of zombies will be coming your way, and it will certainly put your skills to the test. However, once again, there are tools at your disposal to fight back. New to this sequel is the addition of plant food. When you feed plant food to one of your garden soldiers, it turns into a super version of itself. For example, if you feed plant food to a Kernel-pult, gobs of butter will fly all over the screen, temporarily stunning the zombies in their place. The amount of plant food available is limited, so it’s best to save it for a desperate situation.

Another new feature is the option for you, the player, to step in and protect your plants with godlike superpowers. You can shock zombies with a blast of lightning, cover them with a spray of ice, or flick them right off the screen. These temporary powers can be bought with in-game coins or received as rewards for beating various levels. However, if you’d rather not “cheat,” you can let your plants go it alone for the full challenge.

Other than that, Plants vs. Zombies 2 builds off of what made the original so great. Its defining humor is there right from the start as you join Crazy Dan on his quest through time to find the delicious taco he just ate. The lovely artwork and animations have received an upgrade. Each level adds either a new creation or new twist to the gameplay, so there’s always something driving you to keep playing. This is not just extra levels tacked onto the original game with different colored plants and re-skinned zombies. There are a host of new plants like the boomerang-flinging Bloomerang, new zombies like the sun-stealing Pharaoh, and new stages like the Wild West with moveable minecarts that can hold plants. There are new boss battles, new ways to play, and even new mini-games.

This is an all-around excellent game that provides you with tons of content for free (and possibly more to come with future updates). If you liked the original even a little bit, go ahead and get this right away. If you thought the first game was too easy, this will likely appeal to you even more. Plants vs. Zombies 2 is an absolute blast and easily one of the top free iPad games.

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