I liked this game, and my two girls (age 8 and 3 love watching me play). I played part of it first (the free trial) before I purchased it. I highly recommend you try it first, "game of the year" or not. It is nice that all of the things I accomplished playing the free trial were NOT lost when I installed this game "out of the box" over the free trial. That being said, the free trial isn't really difficult, and it's kinda fun ...and funny (in a strange, twisted, weird sort of way). However, I play games ONLY to relax. That being said, as you progress through the levels, things get much more difficult (naturally) but there are several things that I wish I had known before I purchased this game.
The first thing is that there is no "novice to expert" difficulty settings for the user in the purchased version (as I had hoped) ...just as there are none in the trial. Everyone is simply forced to play at the same difficulty. In my opinion, that's very bad. Also, it is good to note here that there are not very many levels. I'd say that the free trial has about half of them, which is nice. However, most of the game is left "incomplete" after you play through. I find that odd. A "cheep cheat" if you will. How about defending another neighbor, a store, a boat, or an RV park? There are endless possibilities here that (I'm sad to say) were not used. Let the player earn a zombie-proof fence for the house and move on... Another thing is, that after you play through all of the levels (and decide to play them again), Crazy Dave "picks" plants for you. This is frustrating because he often picks things that you either don't want, or they are simply useless (like pea-shooters on the roof). This essentially makes you feel like you have wasted a lot of your time (which equals a whole lot of [fake game] money). Purchasing extra slots for plants is very VERY expensive... simply to have them arbitrarily taken away. In my opinion, this is simply a bad idea they used to make the game more difficult. Another issue to note is that unlike most games I have played, there is no way to save your game for replay if you really like a level. You must loose the level (let the zombies eat your brains) if you wish to replay a level. That doesn't make sense. You are also not allowed to replay/load levels at your leisure. You are simply forced to have to replay the few levels there are in order. I really DON'T like that! I suppose their reasoning is, "If you want to make "money" and build your garden (or whatever), you suck it up."
Would I purchase this game if I had known? Yes. The "end" credit video is kinda cute.
UPDATE: I have now played through the entire game 15 times. I used no cheats at any time. It has gone from being "hard" to being "challenging" to being "easy." Trivia below. You can only earn 9990 sun energy points in any level. You can only earn $999,990 to purchase things from Dave. No matter how many levels you play, Dave still continues to pick 3 plants for you, like it or not. The best "Mini-game" to earn money is "Last Stand." All of the "Survival Hard" levels are good for earning money too. The best plants to do this with are Gloom-shrooms (on the third row from the right) with Magnet-shrooms right behind them. Put them all in Pumpkins and then add a couple of Gold Magnets. Plant Marigolds as you can. Keep Garlic on standby. You should make at least $3500 and up too $27500 a level (if you get a couple of Zen Garden plants at $8,000 to $10,000 each!) My "Tree of Wisdom" is at 1111 feet and still growing. I suspect the limit may be 9999 feet tall...