Retro Review: Zombies Ate My Neighbors

The following Retro Review of Zombies Ate My Neighbors was written by SEGAbits third anniversary contest winner Nicholas C.

Our current era juxtaposes AAA titles, with huge expectations on presentation and endless cutscenes, and smaller package XBLA/PSN/Steam/etc budget titles. There’s a lot to love on both ends and in between. But a few elements many recent games lack, for me, are local co-op. The ability to not take yourself too seriously, and simply being able to pick up and play the game (sadly, there are only so many levels to Earth Defense Force 2017).

Zombies Ate My Neighbors brings all of these in spades. B-rated horror from every corner gets its due, and early 90’s LucasArts sees that it’s done right. Both the graphics and audio serve to create an experience that managed to stand out at the very pinnacle of 2D gaming: some of both SEGA and Nintendo’s contemporary efforts (as well as big 3rd party franchises like Contra, Castlevania, Mega Man etc) are still heralded as among the best we’ve seen, yet any top 10 Genesis list lacking Zombies Ate My Neighbors isn’t worth mentioning.

Gameplay is carried out by either Zeke or Julie, who presumably wish to save their careless and eclectic neighbors. The settings vary across levels – one moment you’re fighting a 50′ baby in someone’s backyard, the next you’re saving archaeologists in the pyramids! With these new settings often comes a host of new enemies, constantly keeping the player on his toes. The design and goals are simple enough, yet losing a few hours to several dozen levels is a common experience.

Use the weedeater on the blob-things! Silverware on werewolves, crucifix the vampires!

What’s also really cool is that the player quickly finds himself loaded with more items than Solid Snake, and at least half of them will seem useless until you start thinking about your enemies: Use the weedeater on the blob-things! Silverware on werewolves, crucifix the vampires! You find yourself getting creative during impromptu moments of terror: being chased by chainsaw baddies in a hedge maze, you accidentally use a clown doll, only to realize they’re perfect decoys. Additionally, Zombies Ate My Neighbors solves the ever-present problem in almost every JRPG (and the bane of Chris’ RE1 existence) by once and for all proving bazookas open every door.

On the minus side, the fantastic co-op is marred by the lack of split-screen, though I found the maps to be more forgiving of this slight, versus say the much larger ones in ToeJam and Earl. Additionally, the hit detection sometimes feels a bit off, but not so much as to feel overtly unfair (the game’s life meter/generous items seems to make up for this). Finally, settings/enemies will repeat, but given that there’s 48 levels (and a number of hidden ones!) and I got this game for $10 from Blockbuster, I’m hard pressed to point at recent purchases with this much value that don’t rhyme with Orange Box.

I can vouch for this one having aged magnificently: the co-op is still a blast

It’s only right that such a fun, clearly made-with-love title about cult horror/monster flicks be the cult classic that it is, but unlike many of the classics we namedrop here on SEGAbits, I can vouch for this one having aged magnificently: the co-op is still a blast, and LucasArts managed to do this while still creating a genuinely fun single player campaign. Zombies Ate My Neighbors, Rez and Katamari are on a short list of games I jump right back into whenever I tire of escort missions or QTE boss fights or anything else current gen titles throw at me at the wrong time, and it never feels like time wasted.
For posterity: I can’t vouch for Ghoul Patrol, but if you can find a copy on the cheap, Herc’s Adventures is also worth checking out.


One response to “Retro Review: Zombies Ate My Neighbors

  1. IrishNinja says:

    This guy knows what’s up!

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