A Game Developers Review of Plants vs Zombies 2

Plants vs Zombies 2I am a game develper for both mobile and web based games, and I have been playing Plants vs Zombies 2 a lot lately.  A Full Game Reviews is not a normal topic for me to cover – but I thought it would be fun to post some initial thoughts and opinions on the game

Initial Thought – Meh

Sad to say – I wasn’t overly impressed with the Version 2 of this app. At the same time I wasn’t disappointed. Therefore I find myself in the middle of the road. I think this may explain why the app has had trouble making it to the top of the charts like its predecessor did.

After playing this app for several days, it really just feels like a level pack upgrade or an in game theme release. It does not feel like a version 2 of the app. Let me explain some of the areas that could have been improved, that were not.

First the Negative…

Art Style: The original Plants vs Zombies was release several years ago. Yet for the release of the version 2 of the app, the publishers decided to stay with the same art style. I find this a mistake as a new app has the opportunity to explore and improve upon the existing art styles, character movements, animations, etc. They choose not to change this other then adding more themes to the zombies while tells me that they either feel the art style is perfect, or they didn’t want to spend the time to do so. (My gut tells me it was the latter). I guess I’m still waiting for a 3D version of Plants vs Zombies.

Core Mechanic: Plants versus Zombies has a great core mechanic. With that said, the release of a sequel is one of the few times that you can alter or change the core mechanics within the game without disrupting your user base. In my opinion, the authors missed this opportunity too. Plants vs Zombies 2 does have a few alterations to the core mechanic, however they feel just like feature additions rather then adding depth or dimension to the game. as each of the 3 or 4 new features were introduced to me, I felt like all they were attempting to do was add features that they can charge an in app currency for. Sure, I respect that this is a business and you need to make money — but those didn’t offer expanded depth to the game. I am worried as I play more that the game will be so difficult that I will be required to buy their upgrade features in order to pass a certain level.

Repetitiveness Problem: One of my main complaints with Plants vs Zombies (even version 1 of the app) is that on each level you start off with a brand new board. Your first few actions are planting several sunflowers in order to get suns. The initial flow of zombies is slow and light to give you time to plant those first few. In my opinion, as you get higher in the game this should be changed or done away with. If I have already completed 30 levels, then starting with a fresh board each time makes the round drag on and waste my valuable play session. After all, an average play session is only ~4 mins long on mobile, iirc. Instead I would have liked to have seen more game levels where several plants are already placed for me, and several zombies are ready to eat my brains. Put me right into the action of that level instead of wasting a minute or two building up the basic sunflower and pea shooter plants. This approach can also present additional ways to expand the game as you can start the user in more difficult circumstances, etc…

Harsh Gates (Star Count): In Plants vs Zombies 2 in order to travel to the next world you need to have x number of stars. I think I needed 15 and i had 6 when I reached the gate. All is not lost as I can conveniently buy them in order to travel to the next world. This gate was badly placed. My first world jump should have been almost free. Show me how great the different worlds can be, before making me shell out money. I would be intrigued to see the drop off numbers when users reach this point, because this was where I actually stopped playing.

Now the Positive…

Fun Themes: Themes within an app are a great way to build content and depth without having to rethink or rebrand the initial game. Egyptian, pirates, space, etc… these are all great themes that intrigue different types of users.

New Plants: I just personally love the idea that a plant is fighting a zombie. In Plants vs Zombies 2 my favorite plant is the Bonk Choy. The animation for the Bonk Choy is just fantastic. I was disappointed that they reused the majority of the same plants from the first app, but the Bonk Choy is just great.

World Map: In most apps you have a basic level progression. I am very pleased that they added a fun map with some (limited) choices as to the direction you can take. It provides more involvement for the user and tells a better story then simply providing a card with levels number 1-9 on the card.

Plants vs Zombies 2 World Map

Conclusion

So – I had a great time playing the free version of this app. It’s a shame they don’t have any social tie ins to allow you work around the currency gates. I don’t see this app being the top app in the app store, but I had some good fun playing it. I won’t spend any money on it and won’t play it for long – but I enjoyed it when I played it.

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