Friday, October 28, 2011


I've sort of done this one before.  A few years back, in another blog, I spoke of my love for this astoundingly wonderful game.
I'm gonna do it again.
THIS image, the box cover of the Genesis edition is WHY I BOUGHT THE GAME.  Is that not the sweetest cover?  It says everything you need to know.  This game comes with everything but tongue-in-cheek, you supply that, mate.
First the official stuff- Zombies Ate My Neighbors is a 3rd person, top-down, run-and-gun style video game released in 1993 by Konami.  It was developed by LucasArts.  The game was pre-ESRB and as a result was censored in Europe and in the SNES version because Nintendo has no problem whatsoever with human bondage by reptiles, abuse of fungi, or allowing elves to smash up people's crockery and shrubs to steal their jewels, but for the love of Gort don't have any of that filthy BLOOD, it sends a bad message.

Now the personal stuff- I love this game.  This game is one of those things that manages to hit on several subjects I like, including campy, Z-Grade, drive-in double feature style monster movies.  There is a definite vibe going on that is inspired by sci-fi, horror and monster movies and comics from the 50s through the 80s.
These Chainsaw Guys are pretty tough.  I usually just freeze them and run because I have seen enough movies to know you don't get into a melee with the crazy
There is an example of an 80's moment.  Hockey masked chainsaw killer.  They first appear in a level titled "Chainsaw Hedgemaze Mayhem".  Retro level titling is one of the many great things about the game.  Let's list a few:
1. The Titles.  The levels are titled and themed like classic horror movies with such classics as "Evening of the Undead" (that's the first level), "Chainsaw Hedgemaze Mayhem", "Invasion of the Snakeoids" and the ever popular "Mars Needs Cheerleaders".  When the game is called "Zombies Ate My Neighbors" you should expect no less from the levels.
2. The Monsters.  Despite the name of the game there are so many more monsters than simple zombies with which to deal, although there are plenty of those as well.  The monsters are clearly inspired by sci-fi and monster movies and include zombies, werewolves, blobs, plants/pods, pod people (clones of the players), chainsaw killers, killer dolls, giant ants, fishmen, mummies, heck, even martians and football players.  Some monsters are easily dispatched by specific weapons while being resistant to others, which adds to the fun/difficulty of the game.
3. The weapons.  Any game that is called 'run and gun' by a reviewer must, by necessity, have some sort of weapons, right?  Of course, and ZAMN has plenty.  The default weapon your character has is a water gun, in keeping with the general zany theme of the game, but alternate weapons are found readily and include fire extinguishers (good for killing blobs or freezing other foes to temporarily stop them in their tracks), silverware (good for werewolves), tomatoes (Martians hate these for some reason), soda cans (shake and chuck like a grenade), a bazooka, a weed whacker and a few more.  Each weapon has its own damage, special features and such (bazookas open doors and breakable walls) and come in limited supplies.
4. The Music.  From the creepy tones playing at the opening screen

to the sing-song taunting melody playing while running from killer dolls, the music is a simple but enjoyable aspect of the game.
5. The Story.  A simple story, a little ditty, if you will, about Zeke and Julie.
3-D glasses?  Yep, that's all part of Zeke's charm.  Julie, on the other hand, doesn't quite look like a youth, does she?  Kinda looks like a 40 year old woman who is trying DESPERATELY to look like a high school girl.   Kinda looks like Peg Bundy now that I look at it closer.  
Yes, that's them, right up there, in all their 16-bit glory.  These guys are on a quest to save their neighbors, find the villain, Dr. Tongue, and put an end to all this monster business.  Actually, I get the distinct impression that Zeke wouldn't care one way or another if they stopped all this monster business.  He looks like the kind of guy that not only has a plan for the zombie apocalypse, but is LOOKING FORWARD TO IT.  Or maybe I'm projecting.  Okay, I'm talking about me now, I admit it.
6. The Fun/Challenge.  ZAMN was released in 1993, back when video games were actually challenging.  Modern games are often difficult, which is not to say they are challenging.  Back in the 8-bit era the NES games were often hard because they were hard to play.  I don't mean that they were challenging or anything, I mean that they were just bloody hard.  A good example of this was Zanac, a 1986 game where the player pilots a spaceship against a never ending wave of enemy fighters.  The game touted an artificial intelligence that adjusted the game's enemy patterns and output based upon the players tactics and skill.  Or, if you prefer, the better you played the harder the game became.  This was a common tactic in the old days, along with pixel abuse (what, I have to stand just a R.C.H. off the edge of the platform in order to make the jump?) and puzzle solutions no living person would ever think to try (equip what and kneel where again?).  By comparison modern games often have so many control options and buttons that not only do they have a 'tutorial' level, but often provide a perpetual tutorial to remind the player how to play whenever a "special" move is needed.  This is difficulty without challenge.  Difficulty with challenge is trying to complete a game with only 2-4 damn buttons or by typing in sentences of no more than 4 sodding words.  ZAMN has a simple control scheme, a simple mechanic, and a manic pace.  All of this equates to a challenging, fun, bloody, good time.
Peg Bundy, a strange meteorite, deadly plants and a hapless soldier...just some of the fun you can have in ZAMN
Summing Up: You have many choices for your gaming pleasure during Halloween if you are trying to play a theme-game.  You could play any of the Resident Evil games, or maybe fire up an emulator and play Atari's Haunted House (now updated for the Wii), or you could play one of the many Castlevania games on the market.  That doesn't even begin to the scratch the surface of the horror and monster games that make a good Halloween season gaming choice.  I recommend ZAMN if you have a Sega Genesis lying about and the means to acquire it.  If you have a Wii you could download it on your virtual console, but I am afraid that the Wii edition is the compromised (read censored) SNES version of the game.  Still a good game, but it disappoints me so to think that something as innocent and fun as a Genesis B-Movie game would be censored and disappoints me even more that the Wii edition couldn't be given an "uncut" upgrade in this more enlightened day and age.
Zombies Ate My Neighbors a classic game that appeals to me on many, many levels.  An action adventure game that manages to be action packed and the MST3K of video games at the same time.  Ed Wood would be proud.
I give it:
That's right baby, 4 Eds and a DIO!

Out of a possible 4 Ed Woods.

Until next time, keep your water guns full and your pumpkins lit.

No comments:

Post a Comment