The subtitle for PopCap’s Plants vs. Zombies is an obvious, albeit nonsexual, double entendre. Released almost 4 years after its lawn-defense predecessor, fans of the original game can breathe a sigh of relief that, after a series of strange spin-offs (Pinball? Social gaming? An upcoming shooter?) the game has gone back to its rambunctious roots of easy-to-play, hard-to-master strategy. The second fork of the double entendre comes from that fact that, yes, this game is literally about time, with players joining their pothead neighbor Crazy Dave (yes, he has a pot on his head, so I am making no assumptions about his glaucoma treatment plan) and his time-travelling RV Penny on a quest through the eons so Crazy Dave can…eat a taco. OK, maybe I should be making some assumptions about Dave’s horticultural hobbies…
The time travel adds an excuse for a horde of new zombie types to make their decrepit debut, adding new wrinkles to the formula. In the first time period alone, the traditional Conehead and Buckethead types are joined by the incredibly obnoxious Ra Zombie, a fetid pharaoh who pulls your precious sunlight towards him, leading to a frantic tapping tug-of-war to keep your garden growing and your squares of sod safe.
Of course, there are new units to help you out in this endeavor as well. New turbo-powered topiaries include pugnacious powerhouses like the Bloomerang (which launches boomerangs, natch) and Iceberg Lettuce, which can literally freeze the advancing mob in its tracks. There is also the addition of Plant Food, which will temporarily overpower any plant into a bristling blossom of botanical butchery. Your staple Peashooter becomes the vegetative equivalent of Jesse Ventura’s minigun in Predator, the Sunflowers vomit out a burst of precious solar resources, and for a few brief moments you feel just a little more empowered against those goddamn zombies.
PvZ2 makes its debut on iOS, and the multitouch interface is a direct reflection on that. Tapping on the new powerups allow you to do anything from flicking zombies away to crushing their heads with a powerful pinch (insert Kids in the Hall reference here). It’s not clear how these motions will translate for the other eleventy-billion platforms that this game will inevitably be released on, but it adds some additional, frantic movements to a game that’s equal parts cerebral and spastic.
The most interesting idea, however, is the price. Plants vs. Zombies 2: It’s About Time costs nothing. Zip. Zilch. Nada. Sure, there are the obligatory in-app purchases to boost your stats or give yourself some extra resources, but you can theoretically play the game to your heart’s content and spend your saved money on liquor and cold cuts. The free-to-play model is a trend in mobile gaming recently, but PvZ2 pulls it off in an almost transparent fashion. It’s just another reason to play a game that is already a must-play through the strength of its own mechanics.
Plants vs. Zombies 2: It’s About Time is available now on the App Store.