Plays like an Arcade Game… But It’s Not One.
I thought for sure this game was designed to take my quarters.
Sydlexia’s Ranking: #24/100
There are only so many two-player games in the world. Sure, everyone knows about about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or Contra III or Super Mario Kart for the SNES, but the pickings quickly get thin. Zombies Ate My Neighbors (or ZAMN) seemed to be a viable remedy: a self-aware and irreverent top-down adventure with B-grade movie tropes should be easy enough to enjoy.
Everyone was willing to give it a try, but no one was willing to stick around.
ZAMN isn’t a bad game per say, but it doesn’t do anything to earn your undivided attention. Every attempt with different people followed the same crescendos — immediate interest, followed by a lull, ending with a let’s move on. I attempted a one-player go through thinking it might have just been my company, but I found that I solitarily followed the same peaks and valleys.
The reason is mostly in the gameplay; it uses an arcade design with lots of repetitive levels that are disconnected and has steep difficulty curves. There is plenty of weird but not enough substance.
The goal is to save an allotted amount of people from each stage. Time is ticking: the longer you take, the more likely they will die at the hands of a zombie or pink blob. Your arsenal to defend your property and life? Water guns, tomatoes, bombs, silverware and more. The environment is as varied as the weaponry as you navigate through backyards, pyramids, castles and malls.
This game tries to get by through referencing pop culture and being weird.
One moment, you are navigating a hedge maze filled with masked men chainsawing alternative pathways while you avoid them from opening up your thorax. The next, you have to defeat a 40 foot baby (the game tells you the specifics) to advanced to the next level.
And pop goes the only thing note worthy.
This game is pretty hard. I was able to get further on my own but still only got to level 10ish, or about 1/5th of the game. The differences between levels are really only a matter of imagery and is disconnected from what comes before or after. Nothing coalesces or builds. You save your people, you defeat the monsters, you leave through an exit door.
I get that gameplay needs to have a theme and repetitive goals, but the reason no one wanted to keep playing, including myself, is that there is no momentum. What difference is there from level 15 and 16, or 21 and 37, or 2 and 7? Once you complete level one, you have seen everything the game has to offer other than new references.
At a Christmas exchange party this fall, someone received The Office Downsizing Board Game. The purpose of this albatross was to dupe people out of their hard-earned money by preying on their affinity for a TV show. The game was chock-full of references but forgot to design anything that resembled a board game. Somehow, a coworker pretending to be Dwight for half-an-hour isn’t better than just watching The Office.
ZAMN tries to do something similar by hoping the oddball references are enough to keep you coming back.
ZAMN is a glorified Pac-man.
Other People’s Takes:
- Cracked A Jester: “This is a great game that should be cherished.”
- Games I Made My Girlfriend Play: “During the glory days of the 16-bit era, LucasArts released the co-op classic Zombies Ate My Neighbors. This was at a time when zombies were not yet an overused trope in video games.”
- Suburban Syntax: “Zombies Ate My Neighbors is a classic, and if you haven’t played it, you don’t know what you’re missing!”