Welcome, one and all, to another exciting edition of Retro First Impressions. This time around, Konami are taking me on a trip to the 90’s, as I give the run and gun classic Zombies Ate My Neighbours a try.
The game was released on both the SNES and the Mega Drive/Genesis, with the US version landing in mid-1993 and the UK version not coming out until the start of 1994. I only had access to the SNES version of the game, so that was what I played here. As I understand it, that means that I had access to a flamethrower that wasn’t in the Sega release. Given that the Mega Drive/Genesis tended to be a little more violent than Nintendo’s 16-Bit titan, that surprised me.
The game itself can be played by up to two players, with the choice of characters being the spiky haired, 3d-glasses toting Zeke or his baseball cap and tracksuit top wearing female counterpart Julie. The gameplay doesn’t change between the characters, so the difference is really just aesthetic. So, whichever hero you choose will be running around a bunch of different locations, such as their street, a supermarket, a castle, a pyramid, and so on. During these excursions, you will of course be facing the titular shambling brain eaters … but that’s not all. Mummies, pod people and chainsaw wielding maniacs (as well as a bunch of others) all join the fray, and each has their own weakness.
Now, that weakness is an important point to mention here. You see, you pick up a veritable bounty of weapons to utilise, ranging from water guns and dishes to lawnmowers and bazookas. Are there poisonous mushrooms on the floor? Mow them. Need to bust through a hedge? There’s a bazooka for that. Accosted by a vampire? Grab your crucifix and get fighting! While some weaknesses are obvious if you know your classic horror – werewolves don’t like silverware, for example – experimenting with the various weapons and power ups is genuinely a lot of fun, and that combined with the overall variety of enemies really helps add some longevity to what would otherwise potentially be a repetitive slog.
The other thing to note here is that your task doesn’t just involve fending off monsters. You also need to save your neighbours. They’ll be scattered around the levels in different places, and your job is to get to them before they’re killed. That can be equal parts fun, such as when you’re trying to find a way to reach them, and frustrating, when you can’t find said route and can see a monster closing in.
The game has a wonderfully tongue-in-cheek feel to it too. The plethora of monsters on display certainly hark back to old movies, but the soundtrack also pays homage to the older generation of horror movies. Between that and the colourful, cartoony graphics, it’s campy b-movie at its best.
Now, the interesting thing is that, thought the game was praised upon release, it wasn’t initially a hit. It became a cult classic as the years went on and was eventually added to the Wii virtual console after becoming one of the most requested titles for the system. Looking at it now, it’s vast, has a steep difficulty curve, and is more than deserving of its reputation as a fun little tribute to all things spooky.
But what about yourselves? Did you play the game? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below.