Yes it is time for another Retro Review by Mania’s Toy Maniac. It seems only fitting that this week we look back at a classic game from Konami and LucasArts called Zombies Ate My Neighbors (1993). In this current era of realistic gore, Nazi Zombies, Space Mutant Zombies and the dark regions of Left 4 Dead this simple “kids” game packed enough thrills, chills and excitement for hours of entertainment. Two teenagers, the ever so cool Zeke and the smart but hot Julie, are all that stand between legions of the undead and whatever else goes bump in the night. The game play was simple. Run, kill, grab as many supplies as possible and save those too stupid to know any better. Zombies Ate My Neighbors created a lot of tension outside of the game as well. Who was going to play Julie was usually the biggest concern since, and let’s face it, Zeke was pretty damn cool. Outside of that debate organizing a collective strategy to survive long enough was the key issue. With only three lives for each and the occasional bonus life Zombies Ate My Neighbors was a pretty tough game.
For the uninitiated Zombies Ate My Neighbors is a simple run and gun game that is reminiscent of the same kind of play that made Gauntlet (1985) so popular. Now in the confines of your own home as either Zeke, Julie or together you were to battle through your neighborhood. A neighborhood which had been turned into a Zombie wasteland that is. The undead wander the land seeking out you and anyone else that hasn’t headed for safety. Those that are too stupid to know any better are an old school teacher, a baby, two tourists, soldiers, a chef, cheerleaders, a scientist and some fat dude lounging in his pool. There is a variety of these characters scattered throughout each level. It is essential that you save as many as possible. Though as the level’s difficulty progresses, saving at least one is all you really have time for. That one person is all you really need to advance to the next level anyway.
Zombie games are make or break on the weapons. Zombies Ate My Neighbors has an incredible assortment of paraphernalia that is both practical and deadly. Your basic side arm is a water pistol loaded with holy water. Though it might not seem like enough, when you are empty you quickly miss its speed and effectiveness. The weapons change per level but their collection and storage are key to surviving what comes next. There is a weed whacker, which takes care of a lot of baddies but essential in surviving the mutant plant over growth. Forks and knives seem silly at first until the werewolves arrive. Two of my favorites are the multifaceted fire extinguisher and clown punching bags. The fire extinguisher puts a lot of characters on ice, albeit temporarily. These are characters that you would rather not deal with such as a hockey masked chainsaw wielding mad man and the blob. It works on everyone but by putting a lot of the bad guys on ice you’ll have the chance to get the hell out of there. The clown punching bags also make great decoys and/or diversions. Dropping one and running like hell is a great thing to practice. It might seem cowardly but when the odds are not in your favor it is always better to run and fight another day. Your cache of weapons grows as each level progresses. Everything from soda can grenades, bazookas, magic crosses, tomatoes, footballs, quick shoes and turn-you-into-a-monster potions are scattered throughout the levels. It is wise to make quick passes over the each level when your mission is over. After all these weapons are the only things that will keep you alive.
Since this is a 16-megabit cartridge game there is no memory to save your exact game. This in turn brings about the pass code nightmare and the true challenge of the game. With only a standard four digit pass code all of your weapons, gadgets and keys are truly gone after you die that third time. Starting all over again might not seem difficult but when the werewolves are on top of you, you’ll miss that silverware you picked up three levels ago. My suggestion is to stay focused, play with a buddy and keep that cache of weapons going for as long as your can. After they are gone the true battle really begins.
There are levels upon levels in this game and each is both a great tribute the horror genre and those classic B movies of the fifties. Many of the levels seem to repeat in some way. Whether it be villains or layout. Rest assured they keep changing to make you waste all those keys and rockets (a great way to knock down walls and hedges) so that it is harder to save the day.
Remember: get the goodies, save the people and get out. Zombies Ate My Neighbors may not pack the realistic horror of Left 4 Dead or Call of Duty’s Nazi Zombies but it is just as much fun. In an era where most games either have or they don’t Zombies Ate My Neighbors still has it. That says a lot about a 16-megabit game that is sixteen years old.
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