The original Plants vs. Zombies was a fabulous mobile game even though it didn't debut on a mobile device. It launched on PC and Mac way back in 2009, a full year before it landed on iOS. Still, Plants vs. Zombies turned out to be ideal for an immersive touchscreen experience. The sequel has many of the same gameplay elements that made the first one so compelling, but there is more going on here. Plants vs. Zombies 2 arrives after developer PopCap has been acquired by Electronic Arts, which has not exactly won the internet's everlasting love. So, can the fun of plant on zombie violence make up for a new focus on in-app purchases?

Gameplay That's Not Brain Dead

Have you played the original Plants vs. Zombies? If you just shouted "yes" at the top of your lungs, then you pretty much know how to play Plants vs. Zombies 2. The undead will stagger/fly/ride in from the right, and you have to keep them from reaching the far left of the screen. To do this, you have various seeds at your disposal that will instantly grow into brutal fighting plants. The twist this time is that you're traveling through time with Crazy Dave and his sentient time-traveling car. Why didn't Dave mention his time-traveling car in the last game? Probably because he's CRAAAAAZY.

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All the classic plants from the first game like the pea shooter, sunflower, the wall-nut, and more are on deck. They are joined by newcomers like the explosive coconut cannon, fire-breathing snapdragon, and power-up-dropping power lily. Plants vs. Zombies 2 has the same sunlight system as the original – you scoop up the floating dollops of sunlight as they spring from your sunflowers and rain down from the sky. Each plant costs a certain amount of sunlight to place, so the first few minutes of each stage is a dangerous time as you ration your sunlight to build a passable defense.

A new addition to Plants vs. Zombies 2 is the plant food system. The occasional zombie will drop a unit of plant food, which you can collect and save for when you're in a tight spot. Dropping the plant food on a plant triggers a devastating special attack. Example: the pea shooter goes into turbo mode and fires off a torrent of rapid fire peas, the cabbage-pult tosses a projectile at every zombie on the map, and the wall-nut gets a spiffy new suit of armor. Plant food can really get you out of a jam and it's a good addition to the gameplay.

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The other new mechanic feels somewhat disconnected from the rest of this title. For 800-1200 coins, you can activate one of three special powers and use gestures to dispatch a large number of the undead without the aid of your plants. The three options are pinching the heads off zombies, picking up and throwing them off screen, and electrocuting them with a swipe. These might help you get out of a scrape, but I prefer using the plants – the powers feel a little like cheating to me.

The first game was linear – one stage to the next until the game was over. Plants vs. Zombies 2 has a map that you can traverse, unlocking new sets of levels by collecting keys and completing challenges in levels you've already beaten.

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Completing challenges gets you stars, which can be used to unlock more game worlds. You begin in ancient Egypt, then progress on to the pirate seas, then to the wild west. You can also have multiple profiles under your Google account so more than one person can play the game at the same time without messing up anyone's progress.

Plants vs. Zombies 2 does a better overall job of keeping the gameplay varied than its predecessor did, but there's a reason there are new gameplay elements – many of them are tied to with in-app purchases.

In-App Purchases Just Won't Die (Even If You Remove The Head Or Destroy The Brain)

You pay nothing to start playing Plants vs. Zombies 2, which is hard to argue with. Early on you'll start encountering things with price tags, but you don't have to buy any of it. Even so, it's off-putting just how much of the game has been monetized. For example, rather than play through and get all the stars to unlock the next world, you can pay a few bucks to unlock it. Similarly, you don't have to hunt down all those keys to unlock more paths on the map – you can buy access. That's the way most of the IAPs are in this title – they're shortcuts that get you around actually playing the game. In many ways, Plants vs. Zombies 2 is a better experience if you don't pay.

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The plant situation seems more troubling at first than it actually is. There are several plants that you may remember from the first game that are offered for sale in the store (like the snow pea and torchwood). You can spend some money to unlock them, but they're a few dollars for each plant. It would be nice to have them at a more reasonable rate, but there are still lots of plants that show up in the game normally. You can also get many plants by collecting keys and unlocking new areas of the map. 

I feel like the cost of items in the store is just a little high, though. Paying $4 for a single plant seems crazy to me, as does a $10 bundle with a plant, perk, and some coins. I'm not opposed to in-app purchases, but there are a lot of ways to overspend in Plants vs. Zombies 2.

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The cool new game mechanics like powers and plant food are also subtly pushing you toward dropping some real money. Each time you use a power, it costs you some of your coins. Players can also stock up on plant food in exchange for coins. Out of coins? No problem – just buy some more. The "Best Deal" tier for coins is helpfully listed as $99.99 for 450,000 coins. Yeah, what a "deal."

Again, you don't have to buy any of this, but it would be very easy to spend a lot of money on PvZ2. One good thing about buying content in Plants vs. Zombies 2 is that anything you do buy will be available to all your in-game profiles.

Look And Feel

Plants vs. Zombies 2 is not about rendering high-resolution, realistic textures and creating dynamic lighting effects – it's about cute little cartoon-y plants and zombies. This game is still recognizable as the a Plants vs. Zombies title, but the graphics are clearer that the original. The lines are completely smooth and free of aliasing, and the animations are lag-free even with a ton of zombies on the screen. Strangely, I am coming across some lag on the map while panning around. I have no explanation for this, but it doesn't really affect the gameplay.

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The decision to build three completely different worlds for Plants vs. Zombies 2 makes the game much more varied in appearance than the original. The different locations also allow the mix of zombies to stay fresh and a little quirky. For example, the ancient Egypt world has zombies carrying stone slabs covered in hieroglyphics as shields, and the pirate zone has zombies that launch themselves at you with cannons. It's just a very endearing game.

Odds And Ends

Yes, Plants vs. Zombies 2 has implemented an annoying system of in-app purchases. There were times that I felt I was forced to grind through challenges as an alternative to spending an unreasonable sum of money. However, grinding might not be the right word – this game is genuinely fun. Even if I have to go back and complete a challenge to get more stars or keys, that doesn't really bother me. Additionally, Plants vs. Zombies 2 is dropping keys at about the right rate that I'm not getting annoyed.

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Almost everything that is on sale through the store can be obtained by simply playing the game (except for some plants, as near as I can tell). Your progress will be slower, but it's not like there's a crappy section of this game that you're going to have to force yourself to play through – it's all pretty good.

The developers have also (to my great joy) included Google Play Games support with leaderboards, achievements, and cloud synced game progress. Note that it may appear at first that your game isn't syncing, but just input a new profile name on each device, then log into Google Play Games. Then you will be able to switch profiles to the synced one with all your progress.

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We can complain about in-app purchases forever, but they aren't going anywhere. After playing this game over the past few days, I am of the opinion that there's enough here free of charge to dive in – there is a whole game to play without touching the IAPs. Plants vs. Zombies 2 is a seriously fun game that you can spend money on if you want, and that's it.

North America:


Ryan Whitwam
Ryan is a tech/science writer, skeptic, lover of all things electronic, and Android fan. In his spare time he reads golden-age sci-fi and sleeps, but rarely at the same time. His wife tolerates him as few would.

He's the author of a sci-fi novel called The Crooked City, which is available on Amazon and Google Play. http://goo.gl/WQIXBM

  • http://www.Nave360.com Sebastian Gorgon

    Can't even get past the loading screen without it crashing on my HTC One, shocking.

    • Good_Ole_Pinocchio

      Works fine on mine the again in running 422

    • remister

      Fine for me also. HTC One on TMobile latest update.

  • TY

    I tend to avoid these kinds of IAPs because they feel like...cheating.

    • solbin

      Subsequently, these are the ones I don't mind in F2P games. The IAP I detest are ones like Candy Crush, where you can only play for a few minutes at a time before shelling out money to play longer; or where the levels become so unfair that the only way to realistically beat them is to buy IAP that *might* let you go to the next level.

      It would be nice to not have a few select plants behind a paywall, but overall I can deal with these types of IAP and still have fun with the game.

      • candycrushplayer

        If you can't beat candy crush levels, then you haven't learned how to play. I do agree that there is some luck involved but there is definitely an element of skill

        • https://plus.google.com/108596272537415356460/posts Jason Farrell

          IIRC, levels 100 and 143 were a bitch to finish without paying (and I never will). lvl 143 took me hundreds of tries. Have to wait for luck to be on your side.

          • Keith Jenkins Jr.

            You can always go into your device, turn off the "auto date" set the date for manual 1 day ahead, exit time/date, reenter, put auto date on and you will have 5 lives...you don't need to pay to play more than a few minutes.

          • https://plus.google.com/108596272537415356460/posts Jason Farrell

            Yeah, I know the workarounds, but I can't be bothered. I'm usually tired of playing after the 5 "lives" are up anyway and want a break.

      • MasterofCC

        I'm on level 423 in candy crush and have NEVER spent money. Candy crush is about skill and luck

      • kash-63

        Actually, you just have to tweak the settings on your phone to play longer on candy crush. Just move your clock forward 3 hours, go back to the game and you will have 5 turns again, then switch your clock back. You can do this as many times as you want.

    • mlj11

      Really? If I had to choose one type of IAP, these would be it - they just unlock stuff quicker than you'd do if you played through the game normally.

      The IAPs I can't stand are those that you need to get past a "pay wall" (pay in order to continue playing) and those that give benefits in adversarial multiplayer battles.

      • James Francis

        That's not entirely true. The keys drop incredibly rarely, so while you can technically get everything for free, you're more likely to develop carpal tunnel syndrome before that happens.

        • John McNichol

          I've had 3 key drops in two sessions of play, about 2 hours each session, not exactly dropping "incredibly rarely".

        • Bruce Carrick

          Maybe its me and you James, but keys seem rarer then hens teeth!!! I have played through Egypt and Pirates and have only received a handful of keys. PvZ original seemed like much better game play....

  • Alan Shearer

    "Paying $4 for a single plant seems crazy to me," I bet crazy dave set the prices!! :P could not resit, good review, will try it out. Should it get anoying will be time to pull out the ol game cheat apks. Until developers stop the iap crap, I will use cheat apks. Make the game premium, such as square does, and take my money now when it is a good game. (FF4, FF3, dimensions, ravensword, aralon, etc. )

    • Frettfreak

      You know, i would usually disagree with pirating things like this, however, i would have to agree this time. i am so FN SICK of IAP crap.

    • PhoenixPath

      "Should it get anoying will be time to pull out the ol game cheat apks. "

      Easier said than done. Evrything seems tucked away behind surve-scams at the moment. Can't find a decent one anywhere.

      If you find a tool or modded apk for this, let me know...was so much easier when we could just go in and alter a file or two in the apps data folders.

      • Alan Shearer

        Been having much success with gamekiller, though does not work on all games, but does work on most. If you need the apk let me know ,version 2.6 that I use (or google it).

    • Keith Jenkins Jr.

      I would rather pay $8.00 for the whole game...even 10 than have to deal with this IAP crap

  • yuvas

    Thank you so much Plants vs Zombies 2 team. I was waiting this game. It's really great user friendly & smooth.

    • Chris

      Thank you so much Plants vs Zombies 2 team. I was waiting this game. It's really great user friendly & smooth.

      • Roberto Stefanini

        HAHA this cracked me up. Stupid

    • Max

      Touche lol

  • bat0nas

    I hate those IAP games :( Why not just ask us for 1.99$ (or whatever price they think is fair) and that's it. IAPs ruin the game. Really.

    • Dennis Ulijn

      Because Android users don't buy games... Android users may not want to hear it, but it's a simple truth.

      • Frettfreak

        Except its like this on iOS too. And those a-holes love t spend money. So this is just a shameless money grab. And also, IMO, that may have been true in the past, but i think most people have realized its better to pay a little and get a game than deal with crap like this. I know i have.

      • ginobili
      • Arthur Dent

        I almost always buy a full version of a game over an ad-filled 'free' version. I have no problem supporting devs that make good games, and prefer to pay once rather than IAP or micro-transaction bullshit.

        I like PvZ2 but yeah, I'd have preferred a $5 full version game. I am not going to spend $20 or more buying plants and powerups and support the IAP model. Screw that. I'll buy one plant (snowpea) to support the development and that's it.

      • Marcell Lévai

        It's a simple... myth. Read Robb Nunya's comment below.

      • StriderWhite

        Holy sh*t, this is so untrue! Well, there are many that wouln't pay a penny, but there are many that actually buy some games...Look at how many bought Final Fantasy games, for example...

      • Phil B.

        I'm with Arthur on this one. Free is nice, but if the game is decent I'll gladly pay a few bucks to support the dev if it gets me an ad and IAP-free game.

    • Robb Nunya

      Heck... $1.99 doesn't even buy you a jalapeno!

    • tekfr33kn

      No one is a fan of IAP's but think of it this way. If you do decide to pay for even a few dollars worth of stuff, it helps to support the developers in the same way that paying one higher price does. It's a way to continue thanking the developers for a game you like. If you don't like it, the IAP system used here doesn't require payment to keep playing and you still have a good game. Ask yourself if you would donate to a good developer. If you do, then an IAP system like this can be tolerated.

      • StriderWhite

        Yep, you're right, BUT I ended spending more than 10 euros in Monster Shooter 2, to "finish" the game, whereas for Riptide GP 2 I spent less than 3 euros...Needless to say which developer deserved more those 10 euros...I'll never buy IAP more than a couple of euros, from now!!

        • tekfr33kn

          I think you have the right idea. The developers deserve to be paid for their hard work. Obviously, free or $1 doesn't cut it but, like you, I tend to cut it off when I've paid what I think it's worth. If I haven't finished the game and they still want more money or it becomes too frustratingly difficult, I just move on to the next game. It's a game after all. It's supposed to be fun, not put you in the hospital or make you want to climb a clock tower with a shotgun. Hopefully, the developers will also get the idea that making a game so frustrating that people stop going back to it will encourage them to rethink how they structure their IAP's. If I have to pay $4 for one plant, that's the equivalent of most other games as a whole. I would consider the one purchase and that would be all.

      • James Francis

        I agree. But you should go see what this game wants to charge for extras. If you add it all up, PVZ2 is arguably the most expensive game yet on Android. Some single plants want over $4!

    • James Francis

      I agree. I'd even pay more than $5.99 for the game.

    • The Man In The Suit

      That's why I am running hacked version of the game which has unlimited coins.

      I have done same with asphalt 8 as well (I also bought the Asphalt 8 to support the developer though but PvZ 2 is free).

  • Gustavo Parrado

    I really like this game, IAP are not that annoying, but an unlock price is a better option, charge $10 to unlock everything to be affordable with no more IAP, or tune the mechanics so I can buy a coins buster forever, something like epoch did.

  • mlj11

    Hmm I'll be disappointed if there really are some plants that cannot be unlocked without spending real $$$.

    • Himmat Singh

      It's a free game. It's perfectly fine as such to have some content locked behind a paywall.

      • James Francis

        Yes, but go add up all the content they are selling and what it will cost you to buy. I'm fine with IAP, but this is a rip-off and unfairly squeezes fans of the series.

    • StriderWhite

      imagine a free-to-play Pokemon game, where you have to unlock all those 150+ Pokemons paying 99 cents every little monster!!!!

  • jeffhesser

    Hope they get a patch out quick!. The animations and gameplay are so far from the fluidity I came to enjoy on the iOS version. =[

    • atlouiedog

      It runs perfectly on my Photon Q.

    • Arthur Dent

      Perfectly fine on my SGS2. No lag or stutter.

  • ginobili

    I downloaded today and start playing and looks great 'till now, but i was worried for IAP and this review talks a lot about that and i appreciate. Now i can play happily.

    I'm not sure how to explain it, but i kinda prefer the previous graphics, the plants and all were like "happier" and more cartonish. I hope somebody understands that haha.

  • Kesey

    Ugh, I'm constantly activating Google Now on my N7 when trying to swipe up from the bottom to use Plant Food. Just me?

    • hairyback

      That is the most annoying thing about the soft buttons on the N7. Get yourself a stylus- works great for this title.

  • Matthew Fry

    I think the PvZ2 IAPs are pretty mild. My wife played through the whole game (all stars) with no grinding and no IAPs but she did have to eventually delve into her cash (which was in the tens to hundreds of thousand at that point) to complete all the challenges. In fact, it kind of feels like they just replaced in game currency (to satisfy EA) with dollars for the extras and left the gameplay balanced like a paid title. The difficulty is definitely ramped up but I think that's more in response to the original being on the easy side.

    The thing that I am most disappointed in is that they were too afraid to stray far from the original music, instead opting to make thematic renditions of the first songs. I would have loved to hear some more original Laura Shigihara tunes.

  • Walkop

    My favourite feature?


    Finally, a game other than GoF2 where the TEXTURES are super-high-res.

  • http://www.geekchoice.com/washington-dc Dagmar Schneitz

    I've been looking for good games to buy and this sounds like a fun game to play. Plus, zombies are so popular now. Thank you for the update.

  • Mastle

    Anyone having an issue listening to 3rd party music whilst running pvz2? Google music and audible cut out as soon as app starts..... Any ideas?

    • StriderWhite

      maybe there isn't enough memory, so the music app is killed by the system...

  • j¤n Gårrëtt [5,000+]

    AP is the ONLY site that ever gives complete information on stories you guys report on. no other site even comes close.

  • hairyback

    I don't mind so much that they included the IAP, but to charge so much for them- in some case more than you would pay for a AAA game like GTA5 that cost in the hundreds of millions to make is just plain greedy. I really hope no one falls for this insanity and it forces EA to rethink their pricing.

    • Thomas’

      Yeah, $4 for a single plant? Really? For this price I'll get ~2 great games in the Play Store - or a full price game on Steam sale.

      Nope, that's just pure greed to milk the true fans of the game.

  • Crispin Swickard

    Seems to work great on my N10. looks pretty damn sharp too.

  • Thomas’

    The IAP system of the Chinese version is worse btw. They have two currencies and one can only be obtained with real money. And this is the one you use for super powers and speeding up the game (yeah, that's a feature in the other version).

  • James Francis

    You're not correct about never needing to pay. I've read a few guides and the verdict is that the keys drop so rarely you are better off paying to unlock gates. I must have replayed over a dozen levels on the Egypt scenario and I have yet to get more than one key drop. Yet to pay for the gates will end up making this one of the most expensive games I've ever had on my tablet.

    I think the in-app system has ruined this game. You can play to the end without any, but you'll have far less luck getting stars without some of the extra power-ups and plants you need to purchase. Sadly the online reviews and success indicate that this will be how these games squeeze us for cash.

  • Hamza Javed

    Great job. Thanks EA!!!

  • GraveUypo

    you put a weapon on IAP and even if i wanted to buy it i won't, because iAP unlocks in my mind are just cheats for weak people. even if they aren't.

  • DeadSOL

    Has anyone else noticed that the game plays at poor framerates and then may play at 30+ FPS for a millisecond at random times?

    It's not optimized properly. That's the sad part. I'd love to play at 60 FPS.

  • eve

    "Additionally, Plants vs. Zombies 2 is dropping keys at about the right rate that I'm not getting annoyed."
    Not for me. ..sadly I haven't got any more keys even though I have played and gained all the star (in the main path) in egypt world.
    So I was only able to unlock one gate only among total 4 gates in egypt world.
    Even the yeti only brings diamonds and never key. I encountered yeti around 7times, never once gave me a key.

  • Giovanni Di Frisco

    As a long time fan of PVZ, started playing with my transformer tf101 then pay the $4.99 to play it with my iPad 3. I've spent over 30 hours and haven't finished it yet(2 stars still remain to be conquered). I decided it's not worth to spend a penny on it. This is an amazing and addicting game and the only game I actually play on IOS or android platform. However $4.00 for a torch wood plant(my PVZ favorite plant) is simply ridiculous. I was tempted to buy some plants just for the fun of it and probably still do it after I finish the game. This is a game that requires some serious skills(a few levels are almost impossible to get without the proper plant or without the 7th plant seed slot) and lots of patience. The optimal setup would be to get the 8th seed slot(achievable),I think this is what developers intended, you end spending money in some way or the other. I'd rather pay $10 for the whole game and that's it. A $15 iTunes card is not gonna be enough for example to acquired all the plants are not achiavable by getting every star in the game.

    • Keith Jenkins Jr.

      I agree, I would pay $10 for everything to be unlock-able without paying

  • Mr. X

    How did you get cloud saving to work? I'm signed in on the same account but have no syncing going on between tablet and phone

  • rs2hej .

    Apparently this game is not compatible with my phone... (HTC Desire 500) Anyone who knows why it's not compatible? I love PvZ but can't play...

  • Alexis

    I kinda disagree with the keys dropping at the right rate. I've unlocked all of the ancient egypt gates so the keys are useless to me but i keep getting more. I think at this point I have 45 pyramid keys but i cant get a pirate key or cowboy key to save my life! I still have gates that are locked, but i have 45 pyramid keys!? Thats so ridiculous. Kindof annoying :/

  • Blackburd

    Uninstalled and voted 1 star when I saw the prices of the in app purchases. It disgusts me the direction that the game industry has taken.

  • ben

    Sorry for not reading everything, (as it is well written), but I agreed with the title and stopped reading when I understood that you were writing the reason why I deleted the game from existence in my life. m o n e y No thanks !

  • jldevoy

    IAP would go somewhere if players refused to play games based on them. EA are taking greed to new levels with their games based more around IAP then game play.

  • Anonymous…?

    Welcome to Plants VS Zombies 2 Puzzle Game IOS FREE-TO-PLAY! Where you can Travel back in time with your OWN Time-Traveling Car! Pick from a wide range of FANTASTIC PLANTS! Adverage Sunflower! Adverage Peashooter! Adverage Wall-nut! Adverage Potato Mine! And...Bonk Choy! In our first levels, Pick from our astounding abilities that REQUIRE COINS! Your character will grind like a noob and FEEL like a noob as the rest of the community pays 100 bucks. BUT, if you get anyone's credit card OR STEAL IT, You can purchase In-Game Coins or Upgrades! 5 Dollars is 10,000 Coins! Big Costs are better, right? You can get, like, 5 "Powers", And 2 Plant Food! That's AWESOME! Or, If you like downloading Fake Apps, You can REMOVE THAT FEATURE! Really though, It's like a free virus! After you've spent all of your Credit card up, It's time for the MOST IMPORTANT PART OF THE GAME! Using Patience! That's right! Just sit there and watch your plants kill your enemies! or, for an extra 9999999999- Whoa, thatsalotta, thatsalottanines WE CAN PASS TO THE END FOR YOU! Yes, I just used Jaltoid's FTP Video as a template for this. amd yes, it WORKED.

  • Daniel

    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=tw.com.cih check this out for unlimited coins on pvz2..

  • Paul Cortel

    Why the plant is need to pay instead we play it like some of the plant and sometimes we get the plants for free and not to buy it and why don't you add more good plant and zombies idea like does who picture on the Google they have more plant and zombies idea with places.

  • bobbyawesomeness

    Yeah! I love Plants vs. Zombies 2! Was absolutely waiting for it! I really enjoyed it a lot! Remember that I was addicted to this. Now, I'm hooked on Tapslayer. Such a good game where I can kill zombies by using upgraded weapons. You guys should try it too.

    • [email protected]

      Thanks bobbyawesomeness! Will definitely try playing Tapslayer, as I am a huge zombie killing games fan!