We've got Zombies on the brain this week. (Maybe that should be "on our BRAAAAIIINNSSS"?) It was quite easy to tie the theme in to Co-Op Classics this week, as there is a sweet little gem from the early 90s featuring the shambling undead: Zombies Ate My Neighbors. Besides having one of the best names of any game, ever, it has quite a bit in common with the recent blockbuster co-op zombiefest, Left 4 Dead. Sacrilege, you say? Read on to see what I mean.
Zombies Ate My Neighbors hit the shelves in 1993, and came in both SNES and Genesis versions. The gameplay is quite basic. The main characters are a blond boy with 3D glasses, and a brunette girl with a baseball cap and short shorts. The two are on a mission: massive amounts of zombies and other weirdos are attacking the town. Apparently, only these two kids have noticed, because they have to run around and save their neighbors. A cheerleader, a fat guy in a swimming pool, a dad with a grill, and a little old lady are among the folks you must rescue. Using a limited amount of ammo, and a convenient radar feature, you have to save the ten neighbors on each level. Once you have done this, a door magically appears and sends you to the next level. Lather, rinse, and repeat. It's a simple formula but still quite fun.
Remember how I said this game is similar to Left 4 Dead? It goes beyond the subject matter. Many of the gameplay elements are the same. First of all, you have limited ammunition. Instead of constantly spewing your shots all over, you have to really make them count. There's a variety of weapons, too. The basic gun (which is a water pistol, awesome!), a bazooka, and a flamethrower are all pretty standard for even today's games. Some odd weapons like footballs, silverware (silver, get it?) and tomatoes are as useful as they are usual. There are items you can store up and use, like medical kits and invulnerability potions. Stuff like this should sound familiar to anyone who has been playing left 4 Dead this week.
And then, there's the presentation. One of the most striking features of Left 4 Dead, to me, is the feeling that you are in a zombie movie. And a really good zombie movie, at that. The music, the Director controlled waves of enemies, the big explosions, the locations, all put you in mind of classic Zombie films. Zombies Ate My Neighbors feels like a movie, too, but more of a 50s and 60s schlocky horror film than Night of the Living Dead. The silliness of the weapons, the funny protagonists, the names of levels, and the fonts used all would feel right at home in a good old B-Movie. Giant babies and a "monster potion" which changes you into a huge, powerful creature temporarily all add to the cheese, and to the fun, too. While Left 4 Dead feels like a slick new horror film, Zombies Ate My Neighbors is an homage to the wacky, horrible effects-laden, yet still classic movies (well, classic to me anyway).
Zombies Ate My Neighbors is a great, quirky little game. The graphics are bright and colorful, easily as good as most games from the time. Playing the game is enjoyable even these many years afters its release. But the best part is easily the over the top elements shamelessly ripped off of B-movies. You may not get the same rush of adrenaline playing this game as you would Left 4 Dead, but I think you'd still enjoy an evening playing Zombies Ate My Neighbors. Let's hope it hits the Wii's Virtual Console at some point in the future!