- Genre- Run and Gun
- Platform- Megadrive (version tested), Snes, Virtual Console
- Developer- Lucas Arts
- Publisher- Konami
- Release date- 19 July, 1993
Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “what’s this mug doing posting on a Sunday for?”. Well, I know my usual Retroplayer slot is on a Thursday but I got the go ahead from command central to post something extra today. And, well, seeing as today is Halloween I thought I’d review a retro game that suits the mood of this particular day. However, if you’re expecting a dark, grim and bone chilling game from Zombies Ate My Neighbours you’ll be disappointed. It’s a light-hearted, fun and often hilarious take on the horror genre. It’s one of those rare games where one of the enemies is a giant baby, where a major form of transport is trampolines and where you’re able to transform into a purple Werewolf. You like all that don’t you? So, get your water pistols ready, ladies and gentlemen- it’s time for some Zombies Ate My Neighbours.
Zombies Ate My Neighbours, developed by Lucas Arts in 1993, is a lovely game. Yeah, “lovely” isn’t exactly an academic way of describing something but it’s just that- lovely. Everything about Zombies At My Neighbours is just so simple, cute and lovable that it’s really hard not to like. You play the role of Zeke or Julie, two kids that just found out that, well, zombies ate their neighbours. Now it’s up to the dynamic duo to make their way through 48 levels infested with zombies, ghouls and demons in order to rescue their surviving neighbours. The game play is quite simple which has you roaming through each level, collecting power ups and rescuing your fellow neighbours. The neighbours themselves are often represented by comical caricatures of everyday life. For instance, you’ll happen upon cheerleaders, old people with strollers, burping babies and chisel chinned marines. They all need to be saved which can merely be done by walking into them. However, that’s easier said than done because it’s a race against time because if you don’t rescue all the neighbours in any given level fast enough they’ll be killed by the rampaging zombies. So, with the help of a simple yet effective radar system, you’ll need to find those neighbours while dispatching any zombies and ghouls that get in your way. The basic game mechanic thankfully keeps the game play moving along swiftly and you’ll find, if you’re good enough, that levels can be completed very quickly. This may sound like a bit of a design problem but Zombies Ate My Neighbours isn’t the kind of game you take slow, explore and enjoy your surroundings. It’s fast, frantic and a race against the clock. It all works wonderfully.
The weapons at your disposal are quite innocent. There’s no M16 or flash-bags. There is however water pistols and heavily shaken up soda cans at your disposal. Enemies, as I said before, can range from zombies, ghouls, ghosts, mummies werewolves and even to giant babies. Yep, in one infamous level you need to rescue your neighbours as a gigantic baby overlooks the entire level. This level is the perfect example of the charm Zombies Ate My Neighbours holds. It’s never too serious or dark and everything from weapons to the character design is playful, fun and tongue in cheek. The weapons shake up the game play quite a lot to the point where if you happen to have the rocket launcher and are without a key for a certain room you can merely just take out the entire way. This also becomes useful when making your way though the corridors of a house is too risky so you end up just ploughing through its walls to make a nice little short cut.
Zombies Ate My Nighbours also has some great stand out levels. I’ve mentioned the giant baby before but on top of that there’s also a terrific, and genuinely terrifying, level in which you have to escape from a hedge maze as you’re chased by a chainsaw wielding maniac. At first this might not sound that bad but keep in mind that this maniac, thanks to his trusty chainsaw, can make instant short cuts through the maze in seconds. So with that in mind it’s quite the experience being on your last life, trying to make it through a difficult maze while being endlessly perused by an enemy that just cuts right through it. Another stand out level is one in which you find yourself in a very Frankenstein-esque castle. It’s nothing too special unless you drink a purple potion that sits on a desk. Once you do this your character is hideously transformed into a large, purple and vicious looking beast. The transformation doesn’t last for too long but for that short amount of time you can knock down walls and obliterate enemies with a single attack. Once this happens it’s quite a turning of the tables and it easily makes it for one of Zombies Ate My Neighbours’ best moments.
The music is one the best aspects of Zombies Ate My Neighbours too. Composed by Joe McDermott, the music is is some of the finest to grace the Megadrive. It’s catchy, fun and is the final ingredient that keeps the game play moving along nicely. Over the 48 levels music is of course re-used but it always seems to suit the visuals of the level on screen. For instance, boss battles will give the player a heavy, lurching and perilous feeling track while the faster and more frantic levels will keep to a quick, high tempo pace. Really, it’s one of the better Megadrive soundtracks out there. Wonderful stuff!
Overall, Zombies Ate My Neighbours is one of the best 16-bit era. It’s an instant classic and, for this reviewer, brings back some of my fondest memories of gaming. It’s colourful, fun but also has a sizeable dose of the undead to balance that chirpy goodness out a tad. As I wrote this review I found myself humming the track above and getting that itchy feeling (no, not that one), that gaming itchy feeling to play it all over again. Being Halloween, I’m sure there’s plenty of sub-par horrors on TV and a whole stack of dark grotesque games at your disposal to satisfy your mood but I’ll say this- check out Zombies Ate My Neighbours. It may not be your typical Halloween game… and that’s a good thing.
Next week? Well, this Thursday I’ll be posting an interview I did with Sonya Blade herself- Kerri Hoskins. Stayed tuned! Or, myabe you have a retro game in mind that you think I should check out? Feel free to post suggestion in the comments below, dear readers.