After waiting for what seems like an eternity - even though it's really been just a month - Plants Vs Zombies 2 has finally been given a global App Store release. The good news? The wait has certainly been worth it, as this is easily one of PopCap Games' best offerings to date. Not only that, it's free.
Well, mostly free. Using a free-to-play system that's fairly balanced and helpful, the game gives you most of its content without asking you to drop a single dime, thanks to a plethora of coins and power-ups that drop onto the screen. There is some premium stuff you'll need to pay real cash for - like the Snow Peashooter and the Jalapeno - but you can get through the game just fine without them if you prefer.
The core gameplay of Plants vs. Zombies 2 remains the same as it was in the original, where you had to pick and place plants on your front lawn to protect your home from a horde of zombies. This time around though, there's a time travel gimmick that transports you through different historical settings, from the pyramids of Egypt to the dusty trails of the Wild West. Each new world introduces new plants to make use of, such as deliciously ranged cabbage-chuckers, lightning reeds and the rabbling Bonk Choy brawlers. Likewise, new zombies also emerge during gameplay, including pesky ones that try to steal your sun currency, and shielded opponents who require more than a few extra hits.
This variety is certainly welcome, and it ensures that Plants vs. Zombies 2 remains entertaining many hours in. Along with the strategic gameplay we've all come to know and love, there are numerous power-ups to get stuck into as well. Feeding plant food to one of your soldiers soups up their abilities for a few precious seconds, turning a pea shooter into a machine gun, or a cabbage-thrower into a screen-clearing catapult. There are touchscreen power-ups as well, where you can literally hurl zombies off the screen or fry them to a crisp. Availability of these special powers is limited, but they work tremendously well when you need them.
And there'll be times when you do. The early challenges in Plants vs. Zombies 2 are easily beaten, but later stages will be a true test of your placement skills. One maddening stage, for example, has you placing plants to defend sunflowers that are situated right in the center of the screen - easier said than done when you consider the proximity of the marching undead.
Not only are there numerous stages to get stuck into, but the presentation of Plants vs. Zombies 2 is delightful too. The on-screen characters move with grace and charm, even when they're unleashing devastating attacks on those poor zombies. The menu interface is easy to navigate through as well, with a variety of worlds for you to explore. The sound is equally appealing, with cute little effects and a calming theme that plays throughout each fight.
Plants vs. Zombies 2 is a sequel that not only outshines the original, but also does the free-to-play game system justice - a rare feat for apps these days. Besides, you need something to play while you wait endlessly for Peggle 2, right?