Blogtober 2019 – Zombies Ate My Neighbors

For today’s Blogtober post we are going to take a trip back to the year 1993. During this wondrous time arcades were still thriving in part to the popularity of fighting-games like Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, and Virtua Fighter(released in ’93), Nintendo and Sega were locked in a fierce competition for home console supremacy known as the “Console Wars”, and id Software released a little game called Doom. Also in 1993, Konami and LucasArts teamed up to create an odd game titled – Zombies Ate My Neighbors.

Zombies Ate My Neighbors, or known simply as Zombie in Australia and throughout Europe, is the result of a fruitful partnership of developer LucasArts and publisher Konami. The game was released for the Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo and has since become a bit of a cult hit with retro gamers.

The game is a top down action/shooter in which players control characters Zeke or Julie as they journey through suburbia and beyond saving their neighbors that have managed to survive an invasion by zombies(of course…) and other outrageous creatures. The player must navigate 48 levels, along with 7 bonus levels consisting of backyards, shopping malls, creepy old cabins, and ancient pyramids; rescuing up to 10 survivors in each level with each level being completed when all survivors are rescued….or they are all killed by monsters. Survivors will be indicated by dots on a map/radar icon located to the side of the screen; I spent WAY too long(entire childhood) hunting for survivors before even noticing this! The core gameplay element is fairly similar to that of the ToeJam&Earl games on Sega Genesis – being tasked to find a set amount of survivors(or rocket ship parts in ToeJam&Earl) before an exit door pops up to allow you access to the next level. Another difference would be the word “funkalicious” is nowhere to be found in Zombies Ate My Neighbors(?).

Zeke and Julie are both brandishing Uzi squirt guns filled with holy water to combat the monster masses awaiting them( Zombies did it first, Robert Rodriguez!), they are also able to pick up various makeshift weapons such as fire extinguishers, soda can grenades, and silverware to battle any werewolves roaming the neighborhood. You will need to evade not only zombies, but also a vast roster of b-movie monsters including: mummies, werewolves, and toxic blobs. Other enemies with exemplary names are Vlad Belmont the Vampire, Tommy the Evil Doll, Dr. Tongue, and perhaps my favorite – Stanley Decker the Chainsaw Maniac.

One of my favorite aspects of the game is the LucasArts style and humor that seems to be sorely missed in today’s games. LucasArts at one time was known for more than simply making Star Wars games, but providing popular games on PC like Maniac Mansion, Day of the Tentacle or the Monkey Island series which showcased a trademark humor and personality. Nearly all of Zombies Ate My Neighbors is a reference or callback to the many b-movie horror films of the past, the 1950’s through the 80’s in particular. Each level has a title referencing many of these films such as “Evening of the Undead”, “Dr. Tongue’s Castle of Terror”, or “The Day the Earth Ran Away”. Zeke wearing 3-D glasses also being a nod to the 3-D horror movies of the 80’s.

Yup…a giant baby

The game itself can prove quite challenging, I recently played through most of the game and it hasn’t gotten much easier over the years. This is made slightly easier by the fact the game incorporates a password system and provides a different password every few levels as to not discourage players by having to play the entire game from the beginning after getting a game over. One of the later levels finds you searching an area strewn with trees, also hindering your progress are the many giant spiders that begin to swarm the level and leave you very little space to maneuver. One of the final levels will require you to search for survivors in a hedge maze, the problem being the maze doesn’t seem to have many openings, essentially trapping you within a confined space forcing you to lure one of the many chainsaw maniacs wandering the level to cut through the greenery allowing you access to additional areas. Of course, there are a few boss monsters throughout the levels that will either take nearly all your ammo or a specific type to defeat. Early on in my playthrough I kept getting flattened by the level boss – A giant baby that can leave you seeing game over screen all to quickly. I played solo in refreshing my memory of the layout of the game, but the game is definitely best experienced with a buddy in co-op mode. Others undoubtedly have the best memories of the game playing couch co-op. My one biggest complaint would have to be the game is somewhat cryptic about what exactly the items you’re picking up actually do, I had no idea what the little clown face on my screen did until I would hit the item button to find Zeke or Julie leaving an inflatable clown dummy that distracts nearby enemies. The enemies themselves can be a bit difficult to defeat as some require a specific type of weapon to defeat, otherwise forcing you to simply run away as soon as they enter the screen.

Zombies Ate My Neighbors is a fun and unique experience that in many ways has only gotten better with age…as I’m older and generally more aware of the references and humor of the game. If anyone out there is looking for a fun Halloween-themed retro game that you can play with a friend, Zombies Ate My Neighbors definitely fits the bill. The game is still a favorite for my wife and I to play together.

That’s all for today! I had been wanting to play this again for a while and after playing this I would like to go back and track down some of the older LucasArts games to play and possibly cover in this blog. Have you ever played Zombies Ate My Neighbors? How about its unofficial sequel – Ghoul Patrol? Let me know in the comments, thanks for reading!