"Zombies is a top down action-shooter horror game in which you rescue surviving victims each level."
Zombies Ate My Neighbors is a unique and entertaining game that went too quietly, but left a wrinkle in the gaming world. Take on the rising dead alone or with a friend in this 1993 Konami/Lucas Arts' misunderstood masterpiece inspired by classic horror flicks. Play as one of the two teenage heroes, Zeke or Julie, as you face 55 levels of horror. Zombies is a top down action-shooter horror game in which you rescue surviving victims each level. The gameplay is easy to learn but hard to master as the levels keep getting more difficult, which makes it a fantastic co-op experience.
The player is able to move in all directions and can switch items, shoot and use secondary tools. There were Genesis controllers released later in the console's lifespan, but the controls for the original three button design had the player holding 'A' and pushing 'B' or 'C' to switch primary or secondary weapons. In a tight spot, these controls can cost the player their life, which is catastrophic later in the game when they have accumulated numerous weapons. If the player is using the second-generation six-button game controller, then switching primary and secondary weapons is as easy as pushing a single button…and avoiding a lot of heartbreak. The hectic gameplay, especially when mixed with the three-button controller, requires fast reasoning to outmaneuver and destroy enemies and rescue survivors.
Run and gun through exotic locations from neighborhood back yards to Egypt, or even scary castles; the varying locations and surroundings keep this game fresh and alive. Each level acts as its own crazy puzzle, in a sense that the player must navigate from area to area through house mazes and gardens, while using their radar to hunt down surviving neighbors. As you play through the horror filled levels (forty eight main missions, six bonus levels, and an end credits level) you will begin to see the developers' influence from cult classic films, such as Them or Dawn of the Dead. Classic horror films also influence the enemies, ranging from chainsaw wielding maniacs, to creatures straight out of Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978's version: the one with Leonard Nimoy), to mummies. After saving all of the survivors in each level, a door with an exit sign will appear next to the last survivor. The door appears in a manner that makes the player feel as if the two teenagers are actually playing a game, and there is no real danger.
"The game allows you to open various objects like cabinets and trashcans, but opening things that are not transparent carries a risk, as occasionally there will be a tentacle monster inside waiting to slap you."
Playing Zombies Ate My Neighbors with a friend is most satisfying as it creates an adrenaline rush from tag teaming the undead. Though two-player is fun, it is limiting in a way that if both players are on opposite sides of the screen everything can get held up and some players can get trapped or killed. This is common to most top-down side scrolling games from this era and even some modern games. When playing two-player, the game seems to get more difficult and with out proper communication can lead to a faster death. If you or your partner lose all three lives, you will not respawn, leaving you alone to finish the battle. Beware, while going on an item-searching spree you might find yourself coming across things that hurt. The game allows you to open various objects like cabinets and trashcans, but opening things that are not transparent carries a risk, as occasionally there will be a tentacle monster inside waiting to slap you.
As with many games of this era, saving is password based. A password is given every five levels, allowing players with a high-mortality rate to succeed in increments. This system can get tricky as it can set the players up for failure over and over again. This is what developers like to call a "slow downward spiral to death". For instance, you're playing from level one, make it to level thirty, and get a password; but, then both you and your partner die. Using the password starts you from the same point you left off minus all the weapons you had before dying. This could leave you high and dry without a way to continue the mission successfully. A way out of this loop is to refer to the password for the level five before the current obstacle, get some weapons, and work your way back up into those more difficult levels. If that doesn't work, start over.
"The game was created a year before the ESRB was created in 1994, so it did not have a standard warning label for minor graphic blood, violence or horror."
Knowing where every survivor is on the level makes completion much faster, but not easier. There are no bonuses for speed, but there are bonuses at the end of each round for the player with the most saved survivors. This makes the two-player gameplay more competitive and fun. The only surefire way to make a level fly by is having a stockpile of weapons. Zombies Ate My Neighbors has a multitude of weapons called for a number of tasks with special and unique properties to either get from point 'A' to 'B', or to eliminate a specific character more easily. In this game you will use primary weapons such as soda can grenades, a water blaster, the Arch of the Covenant, rockets, and a weed whacker. Secondary weapons consist of health kits, potions, and other various items.
This forgotten cult classic had issues overseas for containing chainsaw massacring characters and lumberjacks that attack with axes, which led to some major game changes and the game being renamed, "Zombies". The game was created a year before the ESRB was created in 1994, so it did not have a standard warning label for minor graphic blood, violence or horror. If the ESRB where to rate Zombies Ate My Neighbors today, the game would probably receive an E-10 or up. Of course, back in 1993 this was a bigger step in gore than most, but this was released only months before Doom, which became the most gore filled game of that time. This is probably why the game was overlooked by many gamers. Zombies Ate My Neighbors definitely deserves respect and recognition, even in the modern era.
Review by: Kendall Berry | Reviewed on: Super Nintendo