Plants vs. Zombies 2: It’s About Time Review

Plants vs. Zombies 2: It’s About Time Review

Oct 24, 2013

Plants vs. Zombies 2, the hotly-awaited sequel to one of the best games of the past decade, is finally on Android. The announcement that it would be free-to-play came with much trepidation, as PopCap’s parent company EA aren’t known for their free-to-play games being all that “free,” and because the original Plants vs. Zombies is a master class in game progression. The way that it iterates and slowly but steadily introduces new elements is genius, in that it appeals to both the hardest of the hardcore gamers, but allows casual gamers to understand and enjoy it just the same. Going to a free-to-play monetization could easily wreck that balance. Thankfully, PopCap has made a sequel that has all the compelling strategy while being a great free game too.

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For those who haven’t played the original, the game is set up this way: there are five lanes that zombies will try to go down. Plants, which serve as this game’s towers, must be planted to do things like attack enemies and to gather sun, the game’s resource. Certain zombies are only weak to certain plant types, an aspect that gets taught to the player as time goes on. As well, the level layouts start to encourage different strategies given the hazards that they implement. It’s a gross oversimplification of the game, but the subtle way that the game builds upon itself is best experienced, rather than explained.

The biggest changes to Plants vs. Zombies 2 as a sequel are admittedly structural, rather than with the core gameplay itself. It’s the kind of thing where those who haven’t played the original in a while, like myself, may feel like nothing’s quite changed, though there are definitely new plants and zombies. But they all fit into the original, familiar workflow: get lots of sunflowers and set up proper defenses for the environment and enemy types coming in.

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Where the new structure comes in is that levels need to be replayed to complete additional challenges that impose additional restrictions, such as not planting on certain squares, having to generate a certain amount of sun, protecting certain flowers, and more. Stars are used to unlock later worlds. Some star-offering levels are in branches of the main level paths that require keys, randomly earned in levels, to unlock. They include new plants and various requirements to earn the stars.

That the game’s big changes are structural is not inherently bad: Plants vs. Zombies 2 explores its concept to new avenues and degrees, and providing new ways to approach a certain enemy progression is fun. And really – more of the same is quite fine when it’s this fun.

Now, the much-ballyhooed free-to-play aspects. The monetization is largely designed around getting the dedicated players going for the difficult challenges who need advantages that the coin system offers. The super powers are best for the occasional emergency, or if absolutely necessary to save a challenge, and the game makes this apparent in those circumstances. There are certain plants which are only available by spending money, which is the only true paywall, which is a bit unfortunate, as there are some plants from the original only available by paying.

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But all being told, this isn’t bad at all. The game hands out coins often enough to where the super powers or plant food can be bought periodically without worrying. There’s no wait timers. There’s no secondary hard currency. The main game definitely has that feeling of being actually free, like going free-to-play didn’t actually harm PopCap’s design sensibilities. The desire to pay only really kicks in for those who are very engrossed in the game and after a long, long amount of time. It’s not perhaps the ideal free-to-play, but it’s done in such a way that the need to spend just to play the game isn’t there. I think that the reaction to the game’s free-to-play is built around one’s personal biases: those who hate free-to-play will probably hate this, and those fine with free-to-play will love this. But really, it’s worth remembering just how much game is given away for free.

At its heart, Plants vs. Zombies 2 is more of the same great accessible strategy gameplay, while being a great free game too. Welcome back, Plants vs. Zombies, it’s been a while.

Plants vs. Zombies 2 Is Released

Plants vs. Zombies 2 Is Released

Oct 14, 2013

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A sequel to the highly-successful tower defense game about the advantages of being a florist during a zombie invasion, is on “soft launch”, and is available for all users in Australia, New Zealand, and China. You can get it for free from Google Play: Plants vs. Zombiesâ„¢ 2 On Google Play.

GameTanium Mobile Subscription Service Adds PopCap, RealNetworks, and Glu Mobile

GameTanium Mobile Subscription Service Adds PopCap, RealNetworks, and Glu Mobile

Oct 26, 2011

GameTanium Mobile, the subscription-based Android games service from Exent, has recently announced that they have added some more publishers to their service, including several big names. RealNetworks, PopCap, and Zulu Mobile are now providing games for the service. In particular, PopCap’s titles Plants vs. Zombies, Chuzzle, and Peggle are now available on the service. According to Andrew Stein, Director of Mobile Business Development at PopCap Games: “People play games all the time: at home, on the go, and in between. Our goal is to ensure PopCap games are available on the devices our customers want, and Exent’s distribution network helps us further our progress.” They join other publishers and developers such as Fire Maple Games, HandyGames, Hexage and Connect2Media who are already on the service. While these new games are not yet on the GameTanium service, their games should be arriving soon, providing yet another way to get a copy of Peggle for those who are way too addicted to the game.

PopCap Buyer Revealed: EA

PopCap Buyer Revealed: EA

Jul 13, 2011

The mysterious suitor for distributors of digital crack, PopCap, has finally been revealed, and it shouldn’t come as a huge surprise, as it is EA that has bought PopCap. The price is both less and more than the rumored $1 billion figure, as the deal includes $650 million in cash, $100 million in stock, and bonuses that can be earned by PopCap based on their revenue, according to TechCrunch. EA buying PopCap makes sense, as both companies have a notable mobile presence, and EA has been seeking to expand their mobile presence in the past year, having purchased mobile developer Firemint and publisher Chillingo.

What this deal could mean to Android gamers is potentially more titles from the PopCap library beyond their current releases, as EA has shown a focus on releasing games on Android as well as iOS, though Android’s library of EA titles pales in comparison to their iOS releases. PopCap are showing some humor in the acquisition, having left this little Plants vs. Zombies-inspired note for their new overlords at EA:

With that out of the way, now PopCap can get on their way to consuming more and more brains with addictive games.

Source: TechCrunch, EA News

Report: PopCap to be Acquired For $1 Billion

Report: PopCap to be Acquired For $1 Billion

Jun 23, 2011

Big news from the world of mergers and acquisitions; according to TechCrunch, PopCap is being bought for a $1 billion USD; that’s billion with a B. It is not known who is buying them yet, making this the tech industry’s equivalent of a “mystery team” that wanted to sign professional baseball player Cliff Lee this past winter. Hopefully, the rumors of an unknown suitor turn out to be true in this case as they were in that case.

This number sounds large when considered that their revenue is only in the $100-$150 million range, according to TechCrunch, who broke the story. However, considering that OpenFeint was purchased by GREE for $100 million when their revenues were only in the six figures, this is almost a bargain. As well, PopCap has a range of wildly popular intellectual properties; consider the popularity of Peggle and Plants vs. Zombies, then consider that they also make what is likely the most popular match-3 game, Bejeweled. They also release for many, many platforms – Peggle and Plants vs. Zombies, for example, are available on PC, Mac, iOS, Android, Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and Nintendo DS. So PopCap make games that are popular, and they have the ability to release them on a wide variety of platforms. It makes sense that they would be a popular acquisition target.

The question with PopCap’s acquisition is twofold – first, who is actually acquiring them? Secondly, what would the purpose of doing this be? Zynga is apparently out of the running, as the price tag was too high. EA could be a possibility, though their total valuation is only $7.4 billion dollars. Apple has the money to do so, but buying a game developer doesn’t seem like their style. One likely possibility might actually be Microsoft. Microsoft’s strength with Windows Phone 7 has been with gaming, in particular. Buying PopCap would only strengthen Microsoft’s gaming selection on mobile devices, along with being a potential boon for Games for Windows. There is also the possibility that games could come to Microsoft’s platforms like the Xbox 360 quicker than they have before.

Of course, if a large third party company bought PopCap, and it was one that had a vested interest in a singular platform, then would Android and other versions of PopCap games disappear? Microsoft has released apps for other platforms, but there’s a big difference between an app like PhotoSynth popping up on non-Microsoft platforms and releasing the latest PopCap addiction for other platforms. We’ll likely find out soon who the mystery suitor for PopCap is, and who knows; it could be a real surprise. Or perhaps an Asian company that wants to make a global splash the way that GREE and DeNA have with their acquisitions of OpenFeint and ngmoco, respectively.

Source: TechCrunch

Three Popular iOS Games Hitting Android This Week

Three Popular iOS Games Hitting Android This Week

Jun 21, 2011

The Android gaming library is getting a major kick in the pants this week, with 3 notable and addictive titles from iOS making their way to Android this week.

StarDunk: Released on Monday, June 20th, this freemium space basketball game featuring cross-platform multiplayer was reviewed here on Android Rundown. Click here to read our site’s review of the game.

Peggle: PopCap returns, after releasing Chuzzle and Plants vs. Zombies as limited time exclusives on the Amazon Appstore. Peggle continues the same tradition, releasing first on the Amazon Appstore before eventually hitting the Android Market at some point (they are not available on the Market at the present time). Peggle will continue this proud tradition, and should be free at time of publication, until approximately midnight Pacific time. So jump on it!

For those who haven’t played Peggle, it’s sort of a pachinko-meets-Puzzle Bobble game where balls are dropped from the ceiling, with the goal of taking out orange pegs on the board, and trying to get the ball in the basket on the bottom to get an extra ball. The game has proven to be extremely addictive across whatever platforms it has made its way to, and the Plants vs. Zombies port was faithful to the gameplay, although the aspect ratio rendering was askew. Click here to download Peggle from the Amazon Appstore, and keep an eye out for our review.

Cut the Rope: Is ZeptoLab’s iOS hit is about to be cut loose from iOS exclusivity and dropped into the game-hungry mouths of Android owners? An Android version has been mentioned before, and a Twitter account is going around teasing that an Android version of the game is coming this Friday. No immediate word on whether or not this will be published by Chillingo, the publisher on iOS, or if this will be self-published by ZeptoLab. We’ve reached out to Chillingo for comment and confimation that the game will actually be released this Friday, in case this is just a mean prankster.

At worst, this serves as a nice reminder that this is coming to Android at some point, after the demo video released earlier this year. The game involves trying to get a piece of candy hanging from a rope into the mouth of Om Nom, a cute if not needy little creature. Later levels involve elements like ropes that materialize when the candy comes in proximity to them, and even portals. We’ll find out soon if Om Nom will be devouring candy on Androids worldwide, or if Android gamers will be imitating Om Nom’s disappointed face at being fooled.

Plants vs. Zombies Review

Plants vs. Zombies Review

Jun 1, 2011

NOTE: Plants vs. Zombies is not yet available on the Android Market; it is exclusive to the Amazon Appstore as of publication. Click here to download the game.

Took them long enough. PopCap has finally brought their much-beloved take on tower defense, Plants vs. Zombies, to Android. The player must defend a house from oncoming zombies, by using nature’s finest plant defenses to repel the mindless hordes from trying to consume the brains of those unfortunate saps in the house. What really makes Plants vs. Zombies different is its lane element – instead of enemies traveling down a winding path, they travel through a lane on screen to the house; if a zombie reaches the end of a lane, a mower is started that kills all the enemies in the lane, but if they reach again, it’s game over. The player has sunflowers to collect sunlight, the resource used to buy other units, pea shooters of various types, potato mines, explosive jalapeños, mushrooms that only come out at night, zombie-eating venus fly traps, and even more. There are countless units in the game that get introduced, and success is based on choosing the proper units for a level, as each stage introduces new elements to account for, like darkness, water, and rooftop levels where specific catapult plants must be used on certain spaces.

This sounds very complex, and not very casual-friendly, as is PopCap’s usual MO. However, the thing that makes Plants vs. Zombies work is the way that the game gradually introduces elements in a way that never makes it feeling overwhelming. It introduces one or two new elements at a time, such as a new enemy or new defense unit, but continuously does this throughout the game. What this means is that the game is constantly expanding and providing something new. It takes a long time before the realization that there is a fair amount of complexity to the game. It just has that PopCap secret sauce that just make it so addictive, to compel players to pick it up and keep going at it until they absolutely must stop. Even I found myself suckered back into the game on Android, not too long after my first long-term experience with it on iOS, using it to pass time on long train rides. PopCap are just masters at making games that are fun to play, and are accessible to all audiences, even for atypical gamers. Give a non-gamer Plants vs. Zombies and they’ll still likely have fun with it. The Android port is faithful and identical to the iOS version of the game, and it even appears to run at a smoother frame rate than the iOS version on my iPod touch 4G. This doesn’t necessarily make a difference in gameplay, it just makes the animations look much smoother.

The one nagging issue with the Android port is that the visuals are stretched out for wider phones, like the Galaxy S’ 800×480 screen. This is a shame, because the game doesn’t deserve to unnecessarily lose crispness this way. While the game’s consistent introduction of new elements, it rarely ever takes any time to feel comfortable; there is always something new coming, and that is the tradeoff PopCap made with the game to keep players engaged, and to make the game feel perpetually fresh.

However, as far as tower defense games go, this one is quite different and extremely addictive, thanks to that PopCap touch. Brilliantly designed, with a charming concept and aesthetic, Plants vs. Zombies is instantly one of Android’s best games. Just fix the stretching, PopCap!