Want more plant food? Just spend 1000 coins, which are occasionally acquired by defeating enemies (at random, of course)—you'll also get up to 50 coins if you complete a level without any major mishaps. Want more keys? Just keep playing and replaying levels until more drop, and spend them wisely. Naturally, you can just open up your wallet and buy all the coins and keys you'll need. But I refuse—it's a shortcut all too akin paying to win, and I'll be damned if I'll have that on my conscience.
And just like that, everything becomes too awesome to use. I play conservatively, stockpiling plant food and only spending it when I've reached the cap and a glowing zombie makes an appearance, securing my supply line. Any keys are simply hoarded—that plant looks pretty nice, but I've only got seven of these things and who knows what'll be available on the next map.
But my heart didn't well and truly sink until I was introduced to the touch-centric powerups. Pinch zombies to pluck their heads off. Swipe them up into the air, and then flick them off the screen. Or press and hold to zap one, then drag your finger across the screen to fry his buddies. Incredibly fun, well-balanced abilities (only active for a few seconds) that serve as a sort of Hail Mary pass when the game is at its most hectic. But they'll cost you a considerable number of coins—more coins than you'll earn in fair number of levels. Unlike plant food there's no way of accruing them "naturally," so I play knowing that those powerup icons sitting on the bottom of my screen may as well not be there, as I'd feel foolish ever wasting that much currency on them.
I paid $20 for the original Plants versus Zombies. And then I purchased it again, for my iPad. And then it was released on the iPhone, which is a lot easier to hold when you're standing on a bus, so there goes a bit more cash—I'm not averse to rendering unto PopCap what's theirs. But I'm pretty sure I'll never shell out any cash for Plants versus Zombies 2, and this irks me.
What was once a fun, fluid tower defense-esque experience can at times feel more like a sort of a resource management sim—not because of scarce resources, but because those resources cost real money. Still fun, but forever plagued by that nagging sensation that you're only worried about playing so efficiently because you know you could be wielding awesome power for just a few bucks. And have a full arsenal of plants to choose from—many of them old favorites—for just a few bucks. Look, I love the Snow Pea ($3.99). But is a single plant really worth as much rymdkapsel?
Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.