Review by Retro
"ZAMN good stuff!!"
You gotta love it when you buy a used game and don't have the instruction booklet for it and the game itself leaves you wondering what the real story is all about. In Zombies Ate My Neighbors, it's apparent that the world is under attack, and two kids get to live the dream of their lives. They get to be the heroes! We don't need any Superman leaping tall buildings or a Captain Picard to cruise through space; a skinny freak boy with 3D glasses and an average looking teenage girl who both wield a squirt gun is all we need!
One thing is clear: Zombies are eating the neighbors! Real life zombies are a dime a dozen in this strangely enduring classic. They pop up out of the ground at an unbelievable rate and immediately turn their eyes of death upon you. Seen almost as frequently in the beginning stages are civilians who are minding their own business. Ugly men or women (I can't quite tell which) are grilling burgers out in the great wide open, babies are learning to walk, carrot tops are jumping on trampolines, cute cheerleaders are practicing, and fat bald guys are lying on a float in the pool enjoying the rays of the sun. Your one and only job is to run into these everyday people to rescue them before a zombie touches them, literally turning them into a spirit that rises to the heavens. As much as you despise the idea of saving your teacher who's openly pointing to a paper with a blood red F written on it, you must.
When the last remaining person is rescued or eaten by a zombie, a door will pop out of thin air. Enter this door, as it is the way to the next level. That was a cakewalk. The further you get in your mysterious quest, the more complicated the levels will become. Just one droplet from your squirt gun defeats those pansy zombies, making them go back under the ground from which they came. Why are there six packs of cans, forks, first aid kits, popsicles, and other items scattered about on the ground? Because it's not only zombies that have a hunger for your neighbors!
Apart from zombies, the enemies you'll butt heads with depend mainly on the theme of the current stage. The excellent variety of levels, along with the originality of Zombies Ate My Neighbors is what ultimately makes it so great. After only a few of the game's 45 levels are passed, you'll go shopping for your fellow friendly civilians in a shopping mall complete with escalators, coke machines, and locked doors that must be opened with one of the seemingly thousands of keys that are lying on the ground and hiding inside cupboards. Rendezvous with Dracula wannabes in dark dungeons; explore the deep undergrounds of tombs that feature burning fires and mummies that come alive; run across a football field as aliens take over the earth, with a spaceship firing a laser down at you from above; venture to a land of plants, in which icky pollution and hurtful sprouts pop out of the ground and fall on your head. Water can only help plants with faces, and throwing items such as bowls or even using protective rays that circle your body would be a waste. But you do have a garden tool with spinning blades that can clean up the ground as you walk, and it can also pierce the skin of that evil blob that is the source of this nastiness.
My favorite type of level are the ones set in a maze of thick bushes. Right away you'll hear the terrorsome roar of chainsaws in every direction. These chainsaw massacres that much resemble Jason of Friday The 13th fame don't like heroes, so they're out for your blood! As many dead ends as there are in sight, bazookas could come in handy for opening up new paths, and chuckling blowup clowns are great for keeping those invincible chainsaw maniacs busy for a few seconds while you run in the other direction. A little short on bazookas and clowns? Use one of those potions. If you're lucky, you'll turn into an invincible, muscular monster that can punch open any door, reveal new paths in bushes with his awesome fists of fury, and show nearly any nemesis who's the ruler of this world. But be quick, cause this, the best weapon in the game, doesn't last forever.
The two young heroes are just your average human beings. They run pretty fast, with short, quick steps, but unless they climb onto a trampoline, you'll never see them jump. Whenever they get hit, they'll simply say ''ouch'' and lose one or more units of energy. Things start out fairly easy, but it won't be long until you're bombarded with some nice little challenges. Some of the latter levels only have one person to rescue. If a zombie or other enemy reaches this helpless person (or...sometimes it's a dog) and kills him/her before you perform your rescue, your game will be over.
From time to time, a powerful boss will stand in your way to attempt to make your journey a short one. An innocent baby grows a million times its regular size and becomes evil! It will stomp all over you and squirt drowning drops of milk from its bottle. Even more frightening are the snakelike creatures that burrow under the ground and then stick their heads up to try and lick you with their slimy tongues. Try taking on two or three of them at once!
Zombies Ate My Neighbors just keeps getting more and more interesting as you go along. Overall, it seems to be a parody of several classic horror films, and it's overflowing with atmosphere and personality to no end. Here's just a few examples: When you're transformed into the monster and you attempt to jump into the water, the monster shakes his head and says ''uh uh'' in a hilarious fashion. Before ever showing its face, a werewolf will howl loudly enough for deaf creatures to hear, and when you kill one, its skin literally splits in half, allowing its slime green spirit to escape its body. When a game over becomes your destiny, blood slides down the screen, with the words ''Game Over'' written in the middle.
Everything about the game sounds good on paper, and the sounds themselves sound good too! The aforementioned howl of the werewolves, the boom of tearing apart the bones of a zombie, the loud splash of jumping into the water as if it's your best friend, and every other sound effect all have something in common. They're all loud, crisp, and atmospheric. The music is the same way. A distant tune is heard in Chainsaw Hedgemaze Mayhem, promoting the ''you're going to die'' theme of the stage. A fast beat plays in Mars Needs Cheerleaders, while a haunting organ lets you know you're in the midst of danger. Graphically, there's nothing that will make your eyes pop out in amazement, but all the characters have excellent animation and detail, and like the environments, they convey both a feeling of danger and humor in their movements and looks. For instance, when you destroy a zombie, its body crumbles into dust and its head becomes a skull as it falls down into the ground. From start to finish, you'll play the game with an overhead view. You can always see what's around you from a far distance, which is essential for a fast-paced action game.
Zombies Ate My Neighbors is an excellent one-player game any day of the year, but you can also play simultaneously alongside a friend in a two-player game! With double the firepower, double the energy, and double the excitement, the zombies, axe-wielding midgets that turn into walking flames when you destroy their body, amphibious fish, and even the aliens, will shriek silently in terror. The only downfall to playing two-player is that both of you must remain in the same screen at all times; it would've been a little better with split-screen mode.
Apart from that, I can't think of many ways that Zombies Ate My Neighbors could've been a whole lot better. Like thousands of other video games, it's always a fun title to pick up and play alone or with a pal, but with 45 levels, an evenly-balanced challenge, right-on controls, and best of all, tons of personality, it's one of those gems you'll never forget. I'm usually not much of a fan of movies and video games that are parodies of better known classics, but this is an exception.
An interesting fact is that Zombies Ate My Neighbors's abbreviation would be ZAMN. I'd be one of the first to tell you that it's a ZAMN good game!
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 05/25/01, Updated 01/17/04
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