Monday, 23 June 2014

Zombies Ate My Neighbo(u)rs


NeighboUrs, thank you very much.

It's hard to take a horror concept seriously when you've a back history of campy, cheesy, badly-made movies that don't really play on people's fears but instead, simply become risible with the low budget special effects, the poor acting and the god-awful monster suit some poor sod has to wear. So what course of action can one take with such things? Quite simple, lampoon the whole thing, make fun of it and create a parody of the whole situation. That is exactly what Zombies Ate My Neighbours is all about. Take the old clich├ęs of the film industry, throw them all together into a game and you'll come up with basically this, an interesting take on the top-down, 8-way shooter from Konami.

Chilling out by the pool, don't expect this to be safe later on.
Take your two kooky kids (or one nut job and likely his hot sister/unlikely friend, still playing on the bad B-Movies situations here) who realise there's monsters invading their place. Armed with the trusty water pistol, they're going to take on the monsters, the zombies, the werewolves, the blobs, plants, clones, hockey-mask-wearing-chainsaw guys, demonic dolls, giant ants, Martians, mad scientists, Frankenstein's Monsters and Dracula just to name a FEW of the creatures you'll find in this.

The variety and difference in levels is huge, but keeps the game fresh.
Your main objective, is to find all the innocents in the level and then exit through the magic exit (it just appears where you are...) without all of your innocents dying off. If you lose them all, game over right there and then regardless of the lives you have left. On some levels you're GOING to lose people and just hope you're not starting with just one person. In other levels you'd better be REAL quick on the task before some change into monsters and others are outright killed by the zombie you can see walking towards them while you're on the other side of a wall. A touch of unfairness in there but you CAN win some people back if you get sufficient scores during the levels. So a little bit of balance there.

Silverware for a one hit kill, nearly every monster has a weakness.

There's a LOT going on in this game. For a start, there's plenty of levels, plenty of items and plenty of weapons. Though in some ways there's TOO many. Aside from SOME of the monsters I named at the top and some more I just recalled, Mushroom people, Fish men, there's a lot of items to be found and used ranging from keys (more about that in a moment), inflatable clowns (decoys), Pandora's Box (the Big Weapon of the game, does a LOT of damage but rare), health packs, potions to turn you into an invincible monster, or a ghost, or random ones that can turn you into a zombie and kill the other player and innocents. Weapons range from water pistol, to soda can (grenade effectively), bazooka (great for blowing down walls), weed-whacker, tomatoes, plates, cutlery (silver... great for werewolves), ice-lollies, fire extinguishers (freezes some enemies, kills fire ones), bubble guns (great against ants) and many more including secret bonus ones.

It's the Blob! Where's Steve McQueen when you need him?

Therein, lies a problem... You've only one way to navigate through each list, with one button for each list taking you to the next weapon and not going backwards until you reach the end and come back to the start. So if you go past the weapon or item you're looking for, tough shit, you're going back through that list again. Not so great when you've rampaging monsters running after you, or, god forbid, need a health pack as you're on the last sliver of health.

Yes he made those holes, yes he killed the innocent, yes he's hard to kill.

Those aspects, as well as the unfairness of losing innocents to monster attacks you either can't see or they turn into monsters (nice going Konami, that's a half-foot floppy dickmove to the face...) some of the maps have wonderful little things called doors. These doors require either a key, being a monster to punch it (and damaged walls) down, or a bazooka to blow it apart. Unless it's a skull door, in which you either have a skull key or you're not getting in. Some skull keys can be found in hideaways, some in secret places (need a bazooka and knowledge of it BEING there) and some are on bosses. Such as the giant baby... Moves fast, flattens you and gives you NO chance to move once hit until you're standing up again, so it can railroad you to death it wanted. It also flattens innocents which then fucks your game up.

Either for fights like this or getting through lots of walls, monster potions are helpful.

The levels themselves however are bright, varied and intriguing. There's a few running themes in the levels, you've your backyard suburbia, malls, factories, hedge mazes (with those hockey guys... you either know what I'm talking about or you'll learn quickly to fear them), swamps, football fields, pyramids, castles (usually with vampires and/or Frankenstein's monster, or worse, a BIG boss), with some levels set in the daytime, some in the night-time. The music accompanying the levels ranges from the chirpy upbeat numbers that bounce jauntily along, to the sombre and ploddingly paced themes that would accompany a long hard slog ahead, to the downright fear inducing which usually goes along with any level that's got Hockey Mask guys. And then there's the giant baby music, which just sounds hilarious and would be were it not for the fact you've a giant baby with which to contend.

I'm the one in the far bottom-left.... maybe...

It's a long game, it's a hard game and in many places it becomes unfair and unwinnable. But if you're lucky, and you're careful, you can get through this but good luck trying to get to the real bosses and even more luck to you if you're heading for the secret bonus levels. Grab some codes off the internet or add in some Action Replay stuff and you'll still find this a tough one to crack. But still worth a good long look if only for the references and overall fun this game initially gives you before it ramps up the difficulty until it's leaning over you and coming down like a tonne of bricks.