When I was a kid, you had a console at home and a portable system in your backpack. There was the NES/GB years. Then the Genesis and Game Gear. Over the years you had GameCube and GBA. Or Wii and DS. But then something happened after the 3DS era... the dedicated handheld died off. You could say that it's because Nintendo decided that the Switch was both a portable and home console. You could say it's because Microsoft decided to never actually dip into the handheld market and instead focus on game streaming, thus turning virtually any device into a portable games machine. But really there's a bigger elephant in the room.
Over the years iOS and Android completely killed off a need for a dedicated portable gaming device. The same way we don't carry around cameras anymore. We can debate all day about if this is a good thing or a bad thing. And really I can see both sides. Sure, it's great that there's no access to thousands (more?) games right in my pocket at all times. But there's also stuff like microtransactions and a lack of universal tactile controls. There's also the whole thing where games just vanish from the app stores every day and they're never seen again. It's a mixed bag, for sure.
But I can't lie, it's nice to have a few go to games loaded up on my phone at all times. Imagine you're sitting in a waiting room at the doctor or mechanic or whatever. It's nice to have a game to jump into and kill some time without carrying around a gaming device. But I must say I'm pretty fickle on phone games. What I'm looking for is games with real substance. Games that will last me a while and not force me to pay a buck here and there to effectively see my way through.
Luckily, Plants Vs Zombies 2 doesn't seem like one of those games at all. EA published this thing way back in 2013 and I'm just now playing it almost a decade later, and it's still fun. Not mind-blowing, mind. But fun.
The original Plants Vs Zombies was a huge hit when it was released. I assume it was on phones? I don't know. I didn't actually play it until it was ported to console. And then there was kind of a novelty to playing a popular phone/casual game on a big screen HD console. So that was kind of the draw for me. I remember liking it enough to beat the campaign, but I was never compelled to explore the series further over the years.
I've gotten (back) into collecting Game Informer magazines. I've been sort of on-again/off-again collecting them for a decade, really. And I'm bummed because I threw out probably fifty or more issues last year when we were doing some home renovations and I felt I just didn't have the storage space. But now I'm back at it. There's something I really love about having these monthly gaming time-capsules that date all the way back to 1991. And with each new issue I acquire, I make note of whatever the highest rated game was that month. In my mind, it's like keeping a chronological list of what was cool at the time. And believe it or not, back one month in 2013, Plants Vs Zombies 2 – a phone game! - was what was exciting.
The game is definitely fun, though. Not extremely challenging really. If you've ever played tower defense game, then you know what's up. Each level takes place on a grid, and there's units (plants) to manage, and resources to pay attention to. It's just deep enough to suck you in for a small amount of time, but doesn't really compel you to play the way a full-fledged console title would. In short, it works well for a phone game that you'd kill time with in a waiting room.
The original PvZ games are of course your standard real time strategy tower defense games. Each level is played on a grid like a little board game. You position your plants on the left side of the board, and try to stop the hoard of invading zombies coming from the right side of the board. It's been far too many years since I played the first game for me to really remember what's new and improved here. But I'd wager it's the assortment of new plants you can unlock and level up. And also just the variety of enemies and bosses and twists on the gameplay.
After three or four hours of play, I think I just settled into a groove, though. I'm not really interested in new plants as I kind of like the selection of plants that I've gotten comfortable using. And even the overall strategy. Mostly, I start by filling up the third column with sunflowers to gain sun to add more plants. As needed (IE: if zombies start coming in in various rows) I'll add in the plant that acts as a catapult into the first column, or the little pea shooter into the second. And once things start getting hairy, I adjust as need be augmenting with the boomerang (lettuce?) plant or the little thing that freezes zombies in place, or the big chestnut roadblock thing.
Honestly, the game never really feels truly hard or overwhelming. It gets chaotic, sure, but I'm never too worried that my strategy won't hold up. And as such, the game doesn't suck me in for too long. At this point it serves a decent "I've got 10 mins to kill" game. Maybe a round before bed, maybe a round while my daughter is snacking. Maybe it's a good bathroom game, though I haven't gotten to that point yet, personally.