I'd been idly looking forward to Plants vs. Zombies 2 for some time, though not playing super-close attention to its scheduled release date. But suddenly, when I opened up PvZ 1 on my phone during a break at Vividcon, there it was: an announcement that PvZ 2 had dropped!
Let me tell you: I love PvZ 1. I bought it technically before I could even play it. This was before I had a smartphone (and before the game was out for phones), and my Mac wasn't advanced enough (the game required the kind with the Intel chip, and mine was just behind that). I tried the demo on the work computer at my old job, and loved it so much that I 1) bought the game, and then 2) would occasionally sign out a scarce Mac laptop from the University's tech center for a total Lost Weekend. I'd install the game and play the HELL out of it every waking moment, even setting up and advancing the various Zen Gardens, until I'd have to wipe the computer and return it on Monday.
But eventually I got a smartphone, and PvZ 1 was the very first app I got. Been playing it ever since, over and over, trying different strategies, striving for different awards, poking at various minigames, etc. Sometimes I open a new profile so I have to do it all over from scratch and re-earn all the plants and gardens and stuff. So as soon as I saw the new announcement, I downloaded PvZ 2, and have been playing on it now and then since Vividcon.
At first it made me nervous, it being free (the original computer #1 cost money, of course, but so did the #1 phone app, like 8 or 9 bucks). What I didn't want is for it to be one of those supposedly-free games that makes sure it's too imbalanced/hard to get through, and gets you stuck in an impassable level until you start buying a ton of upgrades and shit. (Yes, Candy Crush Saga, I'm looking at you. I gave that one a try, and I liked the visuals and sound design, but since I refused to buy upgrades or pester people about it on Facebook, I ended up getting so stuck for so long that I ended up throwing the game out. Not fun. Pfeh.)
Now, granted, I haven't finished everything in PvZ 2 by a long chalk, there's still lots to do--but I've opened the first three worlds by now (Egypt, Pirates, and just this morning Old West), and haven't purchased a thing. I haven't hit anything that feels utterly impossible, the levels and maps are flexible instead of there being only one path to go down, and I've been able to save up in-game currency/points to spend on boosts and things for the tougher tasks purely by playing. I read a review today that says the same thing, that for a Free To Play game (I think that's what that type is called?), it's nevertheless well-balanced and generous. That's how I'm experiencing it too, and I feel much better. (It also, funnily enough, makes me more willing to consider eventually spending a few bucks on in-game purchases just out of good will...I mean, I spent 8 or 9 clams up front on the first phone version, and I'm enjoying this one too.)
Anyway, I'm having a great time, I love all the new obstacles and new plants that keep turning up. Plus for some reason the yo-ho-piratey-concertina music in the Pirate levels is particularly enjoyable to play to.
(I suppose the one thing that I'm not as cool with is that you can't pause and save in the middle of a level and come back to it. That was a feature of #1 I used all the time, and the only thing that made it worth starting a level on a train ride or something that might end up too short to let me finish. Hmf.)
(Edited to add: I mean, you can pause in the middle of a level, don't get me wrong. But you can't save and quit the game, and have it save just where you were. Sometimes I need that--if for instance I'm going to work and have to pause a level, I don't like to leave the game paused in the background of my phone all during the first half of my workday, sucking down the battery while I'm working. But then, my phone is old and doesn't have the best battery life anymore...maybe other people don't have the same problems.)