LucasArts is known for many things; Monkey Island, Indiana Jones, Star Wars, and a few other classic games such as Day of the Tentacle and Metal Warriors, but out of all the old school games they’ve made, none of them are quite like Zombies Ate My Neighbors. Zombies Ate My Neighbors is a 2D run and gun style game that was released on the SNES and Sega Mega Drive in September of ’93. The game supports one to two players. I have a lot of memories jamming this game for hours with my friends and brothers. Even when we weren’t playing we’d be talking about the game and strategizing, planning our next foray. The game is intense, with a world superbly crafted and oozing with personality. This review is ultimately based on the SNES incarnation, but a comparison between the two will be made later.
Zombies Ate My Neighbors | Setting and Story
Two teenagers, Zeke and Julie, find themselves caught in the middle of 1950s horror trope monsters ravaging their town. Their neighbors are frightened and can only watch helplessly as they are taken out one by one. Armed with their trusty water guns (which I can only assume is filled with holy water), Zeke and Julie must rescue their neighbors and find the exit to each of 55 levels.
Image by Banshee Indian
One of the best parts about Zombies Ate My Neighbors is how much effort the developers put into the theme. There are monsters aplenty in this game. You’ve got all the staples; werewolves, zombies, axe-wielding dolls, vampires, and giant ants. Most monsters from 1950s horror movies make an appearance and each is frustratingly wonderful to see. The locations also range from mundane shopping malls and cul-de-sacs to more exotic locations like swamps, mines, and haunted houses. However, the tile sets are limited and many assets are repeated and reused in later levels, making some environments stale (That is, if you can take time to appreciate them while frantically looking for survivors).
Zombies Ate My Neighbors | Game Play
The goal of Zombies Ate My Neighbors is to navigate through the game’s 48 main levels and 7 bonus levels, battling monsters and saving victims along the way. Zeke and Julie are controlled with the directional pad and have two inventory slots, one for weapons another other for consumables. Each level has up to 10 victims to save and saving at least one is required to beat every stage. Once all them are saved or killed the exit door will appear, allowing you to move on to the next level. Weapons are cycled through with the A button and are fired with the B button while consumables are cycled through with Y and used with X. R and L turn a radar used for finding victims on and off.
Weapon types in this game are a little tongue in cheek but they get the job done. There are tomatoes, weed whackers, bazookas, holy crucifixes and more scattered throughout each level and you’ll have to be diligent in collecting ammo and weapons to combat the tougher challenges in later levels. Many of the weapons have different damage values based on what type of enemy you are fighting too. The fire extinguisher freezes enemies it hits but deals major damage to ooze-type monsters while silverware will put down the rather bulky werewolves in a single hit. Consumables range from potions that transform you into purple hedge-destroying monsters, med kits that fully heal, to inflatable clown dolls that act as decoys.
Zombies Ate My Neighbors also uses a password system instead of a save battery. Every four levels you will be given a password to continue your game, albeit without any collected weapons, items, or keys. This creates a tradeoff where you can have an easier time if you start earlier but more skilled players can go for a password to a later level and start from there.
The best part about this game is its multi-player. The single player experience is great, but you and a friend can each take a character and fill the screen with bullets as you hammer through. This reduces the difficulty in that you can both fight at the same time, but increases the difficulty due dividing pickups between the players. For a taste of the game play, check out some highlights Optimus Grind and I had the other day in the video below.
Zombies Ate My Neighbors | Graphics and Music
Between the Sega Mega Drive and SNES versions, the differences between the graphics and music are the most apparent. The SNES supports a larger color palette and can display more colors on screen simultaneously. The graphics on the Mega Drive take a hit, which is most noticeable in the background environment. The SNES looks crisp, while the Mega Drive version looks grainy and unrefined. The Mega Drive version also has a sidebar to display the map, inventory, and health bars while the SNES version displays them at the top of the screen.
When it comes to sound effects and music, the SNES has a huge edge. The Mega Drive version has gargled sound effects and the music tracks are pretty variable in quality compared to its counterpart. Generally, the music is really sweet and a high note for the game. All of the tracks fit the theme of the game and are catchy.
Zombies Ate My Neighbors | Breakdown
- Catchy music
- Theme is well-crafted
- SIMULTANEOUS TWO-PLAYER ACTION
- Clever humor
- Creative weapons
- Environments get repetitive in later levels
- Password system leaves practically naked
- The Mega Drive version suffers from poor execution
Zombies Ate My Neighbors | Rating
The SNES version is just an all-around great game that I had fun playing as a kid and still have fun playing today. If you want to pick up a copy, I would suggest that one over the Mega Drive version any day of the week. If you only have access to the latter, the game play remains completely intact and I’d still suggest playing it if you can.
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