"I found this game randomly while searching for something interesting to play. Its sheer strangeness attracted my inquisitive mind. I didnít realize just how odd it would be, though. If the subtle allusions to other horror icons donít draw interest, the utter weirdness will. After all, how many games have you fighting a giant baby that squirts you with its milk bottle and squishes you flat when it stomps on you?"
So youíre walking down the road one day and notice an unusual absence of people. No cars cruise down the streets, no oneís out on a morning stroll. No dogs frolic in the yard, no children scream for attention. Then you hear a sound, a rather peculiar sound. Turning around, you see a ghastly sight. A malevolent zombie rises out of the ground and strolls toward what can be the only person left in your neighborhood. Within moments, the poor bouncing cheerleader is gone, her wispy soul rising to the heavens. Congratulations, everyoneís dead. You lose.
Zombies Ate My Neighbors (a misleading moniker; you fight more than just zombies) is a conglomeration of almost every horror idea ever invented, but unlike almost every horror idea ever invented, it refuses to take itself seriously. Weapons, victims and enemies all conspire to make the game a much more lighthearted experience than the title screenís spooky music and magic hypno wheel suggest.
Your chosen avatarís most versatile weapon for slaying undead hordes is not a Proton Pack nor even a boomstick, but a squirt gun. Yep. Your primary defense against zombies, evil Chuckie dolls, and mummies is water. Who knows; maybe itís holy water.
But as you roam through the myriad of increasingly more difficult levels, youíll discover all sorts of ordinary household objects that serve as useful weapons and items. Soda cans launched like grenades snuff out any blazing dolls and destroy Martian spacecraft. The weed whacker handily shreds pesky weeds, which deal damage as you walk over them, and also grinds minor enemies into clouds of smoke and ash. Silverware slaughters werewolves in one shot. Go figure. Fire extinguishers donít just put out fires; they freeze monsters in their path, and even make them more vulnerable to standard attacks while frozen.
You do get a bazooka, though. It can smash damaged walls, hedges, and doors as well as annihilate just about any foe in one shot. ThatísÖ sort of traditional armament, right?
The trick to Zombies is speed, orientation and strategy. You must move quickly to rescue all ten curiously stationary hostages per level. You must also learn the layout to the best of your ability, perhaps trying several times to get it right in order. Sometimes order is critical. When faced with tourist couples that transform into werewolves after a minimal time limit, you need that sense of direction. And lastly, you must strategize as you play. Conserving rarer weapons and first aid kits for later use can prove crucial to survival in later stages, especially against boss fights.
All three of these elements come together in the difficult hedge maze levels. Chased by chainsaw-wielding maniacs strangely reminiscent of something from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, you must save your ten victims (less if any died in previous stages), youíll have to think quickly. They can cut through the hedges to reach victims (and you) with ease, so youíll have to outsmart them by playing to the AIís inherent stupidity. Fleeing back-and-forth from one path to another will confuse them as to which way youíre trying to go, and sometimes theyíll get stuck on walls and other in-game obstacles, giving you precious seconds to build a lead over them. If you have a store of decent weaponry, you can try killing them, but their sheer volume of health makes them immune to almost anything except bazooka blasts. But try hard enough, and youíll even get extra bonus points at the end, which may contribute towards an extra victim awarded (if you have less than ten), or an extra life.
It pays to collect the extras in a level as long as youíre mindful of your victims in the process. Some bonus pickups lead to secret levels where even more quirkiness ensues. Some are designed to just giveaway easy hostage rescues (free of monsters!), while others are ďEaster eggsĒ. The incredibly hard to access first level bonus, for example, aptly named ďDay of the TentacleĒ, is a spoof of the game made some time earlier by the same developer.
Itís the little things like this that keep the game from getting boring, despite the fact that youíre doing essentially the same thing over and over again. The introduction of new horror stereotypes lends itself to thought on what could be targeted next (there must be some reason why jelly blobs are immune to just about everything except Popsicles). Often there will be objection completion bonuses, such as slaying all the vampires in a level (hard to do), or passing pigskins to random American football players while simultaneously trying to rescue a gaggle of cheerleaders from crazed cheer-deprived Martians.
Difficulty increases as these stronger villains become more prominent, and level design becomes more hazardous and tricky. Squidmen are the only amphibious monster; their appearance in several stages means those fatass pool guys are no longer safe lounging in the water. New hazards such as spikes, deadly weeds, electrical barriers, and disorienting collapsing walls add to the risk, threatening to take the lives of those you vowed to protect.
Yet should you manage to pass all 55 levels successfully, youíll face off against the mastermind of the whole affair, the mad scientist Dr. Tongue. Defeat this diabolical fiend, and youíll be rewarded with one of the coolest credit sequences youíll ever see in a video game.
Because itís not really a credit sequence. Itís a whole new credit level. A whole stage set aside just for discovering the various programmers, producers and designers. But itís more than that. You also have to rescue hostages again, dodge and destroy monsters again, and even fight a boss that appears midway through. Iíd swear itís the head of one of the animators. He spits at you.
I found this game randomly while searching for something interesting to play. Its sheer strangeness attracted my inquisitive mind. I didnít realize just how odd it would be, though. If the subtle allusions to other horror icons donít draw interest, the utter weirdness will. After all, how many games have you fighting a giant baby that squirts you with its milk bottle and squishes you flat when it stomps on you?
Community review by wolfqueen001 (March 21, 2009)
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