Written by Paul Monopoli

System: Super Nintendo

Released 1993

By LucasArts/Konami

Zombies Ate My Neighbours (from here on referred to as “Zombies” which is the PAL title of the game) is a game I remember fondly from my childhood. It’s a wacky game which I remember being a lot of fun, but what about today? Let’s take a look.

Zombies is a game based on the horror films of old, taking inspiration from the Hammer movies as well as other B-grade horror & sci fi films. The story of the game is in the title really: You play either a guy called Zeke who wears 3D glasses (?) or a girl called Julie & you have to rescue your neighbours before they are killed by monsters. As far as the story goes it’s that simple.

From the start you are presented with 2 options: Start Game or Password. This is a little disappointing as I would have preferred an option to change the buttons on the controller. As it stands, “B” cycles through your weapons, “Y” uses the weapons, “A” cycles through items while “X” uses the items. Being that this is non standard for most SNES games out there, you’ll find yourself making more than a few errors while you get used to this strange button layout.

Each level is given a unique “B-grade” title & some levels are even sequels of earlier levels with corny sounding sequel-type names. It’s a small thing but it’s a nice introduction to the levels. One thing you cannot fault is the presentation in this game.

The graphics are brilliant & cartoony which adds to the tacky B-grade feel the game is going for. Everything is so well animated with the exception of the giant baby who I have a few problems with. Other than that the main characters, the zombies, even the purple tentacles (I’ll get to those) feel like a cheap B-grade movie/cartoon rip offs. Interestingly the blood that scrolls down the screen when you die is purple. I’m not sure whether this was supposed to represent alien/monster blood or whether it was changed from red due to Nintendo’s “family friendly” policy. Rumour has it that Nintendo did force the change, so we’ll stick with that story.

The music is moody, dark, gloomy but comical all at the same time. It plays along with the B-grade horror movie parody theme & includes deep laughs & cackles from various monsters. Each individual tune is unforgettable & while sitting here typing this I can hear them playing over & over in my head. Sure that could be some form of mental condition, but I like to think it has to do with the wonderful music in the game. You draw your own conclusions…

What about the gameplay? This is the big question I’ve been avoiding up till now & here’s why: I’m going to upset a lot of people here. A lot of people love Zombies & have a lot of fond memories playing the game, myself included. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m an adult now, maybe it’s the fact that the SNES is a few generations ago, maybe it’s because my gameplay skills aren’t what they used to be, but this game is very hard.

Allow me to elaborate here. The first few levels are reasonably fun to play & easy to get to. The weapon you start with is a water pistol & for the early levels this will easily take out any monsters you meet with a couple of shots maximum. The problem is that you have a limited amount of shots for every weapon you use, & some of them are awkward. The shaken up soda cans can go over your target’s head, the fire hydrant only freezes enemies, the alien blaster only puts them in a bubble, the cross requires you to be touching the monsters, the bazooka shots get used up VERY quickly & the other items are a mixed bag. Knives & forks don’t shoot as soon as you tap the button but instead seem to operate on a delay. Seeing as a lot of the enemies respawn endlessly you have to take out as few as possible & get out of there so you can conserve ammo. On a side note, the whipper snipper is FUN.

It isn’t just the endlessly respawning monsters that are the problem, very early on you will encounter small dolls with axes who move very fast & take a few shots to kill. Most of the time they can get a hit in before you’ve finished them off. Before you even get to level 10 you have the chainsaw maniacs (lumberjacks in the PAL version) who take a LOT of hits to kill & half the time you never know whether you are able to kill them in the level or whether all you’re going to do is keep on stunning them. That’s right, on some levels you can kill them, but on others all you do is keep on stunning them. You never know when it’s one or the other. I assume that’s down to the level you’re on anyway… I couldn’t quite figure it out.

I couldn’t get past level 10 playing the game normally without a massive amount of frustration. I could have used passwords to skip to further levels, but I wanted to play the game the whole way through. If you’re like me & want the complete experience I recommend the following. Either this:

Or this:

That’s right, if you want an enjoyable playthrough of Zombies then you’ll be looking to get either a Game Genie or Action Replay. But that’s not the end of the tale, oh no. The game is STILL not easy to beat even when you have one of these devices. For the recond the cheats I used were: Invincibility (which doesn’t work when the giant baby squashes you), infinite weapons, infinite keys & start with bazookas.

Later in the game you will encounter the sea monsters. These monsters can swim underwater, move very fast on land & worst of all, they home in on any people you need to rescue & take them out with 1 hit. On level 42 they are the main monster you encounter & there are 2 people to rescue (that I found). Being in a new level you have no idea where they are. If you see them & there are one of the sea monsters on the screen they will jump out of the water & take them out before you have a chance to get there. For this level you need to know where the people are first, then kill the monsters JUST before you make them visible on the screen & hope they don’t respawn & take them out before you get there. GOOD LUCK, I gave up in disgust. There was no way I would have made it this far without the Game Genie & in my opinion there is no reason to make a game this difficult.

Finally, the biggest thing to annoy me is the collecting of your neighbours & swimming. To do this you need to stand on EXACTLY the right spot, which isn’t easy when you’re being harrassed by multitudes of monsters. It’s part of the reason I had problems on level 42, trying to reach the neighbours by getting out of the water in exactly the correct spot.

So that’s the bad stuff there, but let’s end this review on a good note. The Purple Tentacle from “Maniac Mansion: Day Of The Tentacle” makes an appearance, or rather a lot of them make an appearance. This is a nice nod to that LucasArts comedy classic. Anything with Purple Tentacle in it gets a few extra points in my book. The prescence of Sam & Max would have gotten it a few more, but you can’t have everything.

So to recap: The game looks good, sounds amazing AND has the Purple Tentacle. The presentation is outstanding & the graphics & music really set the mood. If it wasn’t so “throw your controller into the wall in disgust” hard then maybe I would have been a bit kinder towards it. Being that I play games regularly I’d say I’m pretty decent with a controller, & if I can’t get past level 10 without a Game Genie then we have a problem, or maybe I’m just being too impatient…

In spite of all my criticisms I recognise that this game is a classic & give it a fair 70%

Play it with a Game Genie or Action Replay & I’d up it by 10%

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