Genre: Run and Gun
Developed by: LucasArts
Published by: Konami
Platforms: SNES, Genesis
Feeling Like: Zombie Slayer
Zombies Ate My Neighbors is one of the most delightful, zany co-operative experiences on the Super Nintendo. The variety of weapons, the macabre sense of humor and the incredible variety of enemies ensure that everybody playing is highly motivated to see the next level not for prowess or satisfaction, but to see what the fuck else LucasArts can throw at them. The controls are simple, the premise is arcade-y to a fault and is so easy to pick up and play that nearly everybody has a good time.
For the first few levels, at least.
It’s also masochistic in terms of difficulty. For such a bright, fun premise, Zombies Ate My Neighbors will only be beaten by the most hardcore players, those that practice with discipline and know the locations inside and out. If you’re wading through the labyrinthian levels without a battle plan, or for the first time, you’re not going to get past the first dozen levels, let alone all 48.
The game mercifully does have a password system, but it might as well just punch you in the face when you use it – when you zip back to the level you originally died on, you only have the base water gun as a weapon. All the gizmos, soda grenades, bazookas and blow up clowns you had in your arsenal are gone. You might as well present yourself to the zombies on a dinner plate and free yourself some time. You’re not going to beat this game’s horrendously challenging bosses without a million rounds of ammo and magic items.
That’s about the only downside, the rest is a treat. The game is swimming in the 90s while honoring every era of horror you can think of. Sandworms and mummies? Check. Werewolves? They’re here. Jason rip offs? One of the best levels and accompanying songs in the game. Seriously, the soundtrack deserves a ton of accolades. Every tune is hilariously over the top and puts you in the right mood. The opening theme still takes the cake, with that lonely guitar eventually hammering in the point that you’re going to die at the hands of some ghoul, and soon.
Co-op is an absolute blast. Since the object of each level is to search and rescue your neighbors of varying prestige (remember, Cheerleaders are great, Angry Teachers are not), it helps having a second set of eyes. The enemies will keep coming, so run and gun is very appropriate. Don’t even think of wasting your weedwacker or fire extinguisher on normal foes. Keep moving. The goal is not to kill everything, which is counter-intuitive to nearly every video game out there, but the instinct switch will happen quickly. If the bad guys reach a neighbor, they’re killed instantly and you have to move on to try and salvage what you can. Bosses are downright unfair – from giant babies to mutated deranged scientists, if you don’t have your monster potion handy and a metric ton of holy crosses, you might as well reset. It’s not just the high amount of health and damage they do, it’s just that they MOVE so damn fast. Shooting in a diagonal direction is tricky enough, but try doing it to something that’s at least twice as fast as you, with no discernable pattern. Yeesh.
The levels keep getting better and better, and the stage title cards are sometimes the highlight. Even though the game has a ton of horror elements, it’s not a scary game in the least. Everything is tongue in cheek and I’m convinced that’s why the game’s big bad is named Dr. Tongue.
I never did manage to get to the final level legitimately, but it hardly mattered. Everybody I tried this with had a blast – there are so few games like this nowadays and even then it felt totally unique. I can’t think of a better game to play with a buddy around Hallowe’en, especially since it’s up on the Switch eshop now for a very modest price. Give it a whirl, just don’t expect a happy ending.