PopCap has just soft launched its much anticipated follow up to legendary tower defence game, Plants vs Zombies
, down in New Zealand.
This sequel is all about time travel, and those wacky new eras will introduces us to new plants, new zombies, and new ideas. But, controversially, Plants vs Zombies 2
is a free to play game.
So let's see how the game works, and - crucially - what you can pay for.
The basics are the same. In each level you will plant sunflowers to collect sunlight. You use that sunlight to pay for plants. And you use those plants to kill incoming waves of brain-hungry cartoon zombies.
Different plants are effective against different zombies, of course, and there are loads of different strategies to learn and experiment with. In that respect, it's no different from the fantastic original, and just as fun.
Plus, there are lots of fresh ideas. There's a sun god zombie, who tries to steal your sunlight. A zombie archeologist, carrying a deadly torch. And a boomerang plant that cuts through multiple foes. And that's just in Egypt - there's also the Wild West, and a pirate area.
But, here's where things change. There are a few items that you can use to get a distinct edge over the zombies. And yes, you can pay real money for them.
Plant food turns one plant into a super powered weapon of mass destruction for a few nanoseconds. A pea shooter becomes a machine gun, a cabbage chucker becomes a missile launcher, and a sunflower turns into a photosynthesis super factory. All very handy.
You also get power-ups. One lets you pinch the heads off zombies, another lets you flick them away, and one electrocutes those undead invaders. They are all super powerful, and make light work of your foes - especially in the tricky last-hurrah zombie waves.
As you might expect, you can either pay for these with in-game cash, or you can use in-app purchases to pay for more. As soon as your funds run out, you can top up with real world cashing, starting at £1.99 / $2.99, and going up to £34.99 / $49.99.
What else can you buy? Well, certain plants like the jalepeno, torch wood, and power lily are only accessible if you buy them from the shop, at £1.99 / $2.99 a pop. There are also general upgrades, so you can use more plants, start with more sun, or get a better refund when you delete an unwanted plant.
And finally, there are sections of the level maps that are locked behind a door. You'll need a certain number of keys to break it down, but they are random drops, and rare ones at that. If you want to see these hidden plants and levels without waiting, you better pay up.
Ultimately, this is all going to be a question of balance. We want to find out - is this game made artificially difficult, to push players into buying quick cheats like power-ups and plant food, or will the average gamer be able to get through without spending a penny?
We'll have to wait and see, when we review the game. Plants vs Zombies 2
will be available around the world, later this summer - everything we've mentioned today is totally subject to change before then.