Lifehacker editor Angus Kidman is a massive Plants Vs Zombies fan. Acting Kotaku editor Alex Kidman likes the franchise, but thinks Plants Vs Zombies 2 misses the mark. Which one is correct? Let’s set them at each other armed with virtual peashooters and find out! Loser has to snog Crazy Dave.
KOTAKU: I should love Plants Vs Zombies 2; I certainly enjoyed the original game.
But I don’t. Not really at all. What’s genuinely unusual here, though, is that Lifehacker editor Angus Kidman is seemingly determined to make his way through the entire game, just as he did with the original. It’s exceptionally rare for him to rate and play a game more than me; I can only think of a single other gaming instance where that’s happened.
So, Gus, why the Plants Vs Zombies 2 love?
LIFEHACKER: Because I’m not a devoted gamer. I have no Pile of Shame staring at me this July; I’m never scheduling time regularly to play through the latest releases. The flipside: on the relatively rare occasions I become interested in a game, I get deeply interested and I’ll play through and try and complete every accomplishment and mission. (Side note: I can actually think of two games where I cared and played more than you did. But you’re right, it’s weird behaviour. You’re the gaming Kidman.)
I came to the original Plants Vs Zombies some time after its release (via our nephews, in fact), and quickly became addicted. I have 38 out of the 39 trophies , and I still regularly play the mini-games to relax. So it was always likely that I was going to come at the sequel with enthusiasm. Before I explain why I’m sticking with it despite some apparent flaws, I think you should explain to our readership what you think those flaws are.
KOTAKU: Indeed I should. I reckon Plants Vs Zombies 2 has two primary flaws, one on top of the other. There’s the issue of in-app-purchases — which I discussed yesterday on Kotaku — and while that’s something that many have picked up on as the main problem, it’s actually not what’s annoyed me about Plants Vs Zombies 2 the most.
It’s the lack of innovation. I don’t mind playing a fair amount of a good game, but with Plants Vs Zombies 2, every second I was playing it, I was struck by how there was relatively little in the gameplay that felt “new”.
It felt, essentially, just like I was playing the original, only the original in a form that consistently wanted me to pay to progress, or grind levels for the same effect. There was repetition in the original to be sure, but it always felt like I was fairly progressing, and I think that’s gone now. What that means to me is that while Plants Vs Zombies 2 might be fine for a first time player to the series, for anyone who’s played the original, I can’t see the appeal.
Clearly you do, but I’d be interested to hear what you think of the IAP aspect. Have you thrown EA any of your dough as yet? Would you?
LIFEHACKER: No, I haven’t. I’m very annoyed that some of my favourite plants (man, I love that squash) are only available if you pay up money for them. Not every plant you earned in the original actually turned out to be useful, but it was nice to have a full range of choices. So I won’t pay for weapons upgrades. Nor will I pay to progress through the various worlds; I’ll slog away and earn stars to do that instead.
In the original, you essentially played through all the levels, and then had the option of returning to individual segments for specific achievements, or paying up coins for mini-games. I really enjoy the mini-games, especially Column Like You See ‘Em and Portal Combat. You could earn the coins either through playing or via in-app purchases, so it’s fair to point out the concept of spending money isn’t actually new in PvZ2. It just didn’t appear quite so soon.
In the sequel, while there is a linear sequence in each “world”, you can also return to earn multiple stars on each level, and divert down side tracks for each star. If you don’t want to pay money to progress to the next world, this is your only option. So I’m sticking with it, and hoping there will be some mini games at the end of the rainbow.
I’m not mad about non-linear play (which I realise puts me in stark opposition to many Kotaku readers). I don’t mind revisiting levels for extra achievements, but I’m happy to be directed in a game. I’m reminded of how I felt with Crash Bandicoot, many moons ago. I loved the original, which was entirely linear. The second game immediately asked you to choose between different worlds. I didn’t want to choose. I still feel like that now.
But having said all that, I’ll take issue with your argument about “innovation”, on two levels. Firstly, the original PvZ did offer what was essentially a lot of variations around one central mechanic. The sequel sticks with that, and I’m happy.
Second, there are enough differences — optional gesture power ups, plant food, different length tracks for zombies to walk on — that I feel I can’t always use the same strategy. For someone who has happily played through the original at least four times, I haven’t yet found it boring. I’m not as utterly excited as I was with the first release, but I haven’t stopped playing. I intend to finish. Can we deduce you won’t be trying to do so?
KOTAKU: Briefly on the innovation front: the plant food is cute to see what it does to each plant, but it’s pretty easily abused. The other pinching/tapping powerups felt to me just like an excuse to get me to buy coins in order to nerf levels, because they’re very powerful. At that point, the challenge in the game largely evaporates, and that’s not a good thing.
But ultimately, no, I won’t be playing it any more. Plants Vs Zombies 2, to me, committed the one sin in gaming that I can’t abide by.
It bored me, and intensely so. I can put up with all sorts of things, including in-app purchases and even game bugs, but not boredom. I stuck with Hotline Miami back when the code would crash if you broke too much glass, for example, but once I’m bored with a game… well, in my case, there’s plenty left in what I can only call my avalanche of shame. I can always go back to the original, as I’ve done plenty of times before, but I don’t see myself playing Plants Vs Zombies 2 again.
LIFEHACKER: I’m not going to argue with a bored man about his boredom. EA/PopCap are certainly spreading the PVZ love around; I’m not tempted by the Facebook game or the mooted FPS version, so perhaps that will reignite your flame. Right now if you’ll excuse me, I have some pirate zombies to destroy . . .
Australians are still in the fortunate position of being able to play Plants vs Zombies 2 ahead of the rest of the world. If you’ve done so, share your thoughts in the comments.