A Fortnight of Fright: Zombies Ate My Neighbors

Posted: October 31, 2011 in Retro
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As Halloween night draws near, Chad has taken it upon himself to dig into the vaults to bring you some of his favorite horror-themed video games. Can you handle the madness? Read on, if you dare!

Not Just a Dead Man’s Party…

Zombies Ate My Neighbors Chainsaw ScreenshotZombies are hip now. They star in big-budget cable TV shows, appear in trailers for overhyped Borderlands clones, and enjoy a respect and admiration mostly reserved for corrupt politicians and overpaid celebrities. However, in the early 1990s, they didn’t have quite the clout they have today. In fact, many popular horror icons show up in Zombies Ate My Neighbors, stepping up to get the ever-loving stuffing shot out of them. Zombies making snacks out of your neighbors? Turn your Super Soaker on ’em. Werewolves shredding the cheerleaders? Toss some silverware their way. Chainsaw-wielding madmen ruining block parties? It’s times like these when you gotta step up to to plate and take a swing. And by “take a swing”, I mean attack them with bazookas, popsicles and grenade-ified soda cans.

Zombies Ate My Neighbors, released in 1993 on the SNES and Genesis/Mega Drive by LucasArts and Konami (what a team-up!), is a top-down action game set in a wacky, colorful world that homages schlocky horror and sci-fi flicks from the 1930s to the ’80s. To think that it just has zombies sells it short – you’ll run afoul of mummies, vampires, gill-men, giant ants, and killer dolls as you guide the plucky teenagers Zeke and Julie through mazelike levels that span suburbs, castles, pyramids, and shopping (chopping?) malls against increasingly insane odds. And to help you fight, you’ve got a huge arsenal of both dedicated and improvised weapons – ranging from ceramic plates and weed whackers to glowing crucifixes and alien blasters. The game also homages LucasArts’ own Day of the Tentacle, with both a secret level of that name and an appearance from Purple Tentacle in the credits level.

Zombies Ate My Neighbors Trampoline Screen
“What’s the matter? Never taken a shortcut before?”

It’s a pretty wild ride as you battle your way through the ghouls and goblins to stop the nefarious Dr. Tongue (of the in-cheek Tongues, apparently). The gameplay is simple to get into – I mean it can be condensed to work on a standard Genesis gamepad, so it can’t be too complex. Basically one button uses items, one button changes weapons, and one fires. And one button…crap, I don’t even remember how they mapped four commands to a three button controller. They did, somehow. Needless to say, the SNES version had better controls, but that version also has the slowdown typical of SNES games when the screen gets busy. Oh well, tradeoffs either way. Such was the 16-bit era.

Also of special note is the music – it’s just oozing with vintage B-movie vibes, heavy on electric organ and theremin (as well as the occasional zombie gurgle and chainsaw). And it fits the game perfectly. When you turn on the game and get that psychotically twisting spiral accompanied by its music that just shouts “WEIRD!”, you know you’re in for a goofy treat. It’s a great game to play while just kind of goofing off on Halloween night. Pop in Zombies Ate My Neighbors, fire up your 16-bit system of choice, get your hands on a few pumpkin-spiced ales, and don’t be stingy with the candy bowl. Your neighbors will thank you.

View Previous Fortnight of Fright: Shadowgate 

Proceed to Final Fortnight of Fright: MediEvil

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