Welcome to the first article of a new series, Voodoo Farming: A Not-Quite In-Depth Look At Zombies In Popular Culture. In this series, I’m going to try to enlighten you to the many varieties of zombies depicted in popular culture.
When the inevitable Zombie Apocalypse (colloquially referred to as the Zombocalypse) comes, I want my fellow meat shie- er, fellow humans to be prepared to fend off the vast hordes of oncoming undead. After all, every one of us that falls in the forthcoming zombie onslaught will only bolster the ranks of the terrifying, shambling undead.
Every day, many of us get up and go to work. But before we do that, we often like to go outside, grab the morning paper, and wave hello to nice Mr. Jones next door. But one day – and that day is coming soon – you will turn to wave to your elderly neighbor only to discover that he is missing half of his head and he’s all too happy to look in your direction for some replacement brain matter.
So what would I do, my friends? What would I do when Zombies Ate My Neighbors?
Descriptive title is descriptive.
First, my gentle, hopefully still-living readers, here’s the hard facts:
Zombies Ate My Neighbors is possibly one of the biggest ball-busters out there, only barely beat out by swift kicks to the groin, horse riding, and the ill-conceived combination of rollerblades and a downward-sloping railing.
This classic SNES game contains 48 aneurysm-inducing levels of zombie and B-movie monster terror. Zombies? Check. Werewolves? Check. Giant, rampaging toddlers? Check. There’s so many more terrifying beasts in the game, from cheerleader-kidnapping aliens to Frankenstein’s monster to giant ants.
Apparently the squirt gun is enough to take out the more common enemies like zombies. The variety of weaponry in this game is crazy for a top-down shooter game. The short list, from memory: squirt guns, canned soda grenades, silverware, ice pops, fire extinguishers, weed whackers, Pandora’s Box, a cross, a potion that turns you into a raging monster, tomatoes… there’s probably a good dozen other weapons that I’m forgetting.
Cause of the Outbreak:
Where should I start? Throughout just the first ten levels of the game, you see:
Toxic chemicals dumping into water. Toxic chemicals dumping into water near a graveyard. Radioactive waste in the back room of a supermarket in a mall. A mysterious, glowing meteor crashed into the ground. A mad scientist who disappears by drinking a magic potion.
Take your pick.
Werewolves, Chainsaw-wielding maniacs, Martians, mummies, Frankenstein’s monster, giant ants, giant babies, pod people, killer plants, blobs, killer toy dolls, midget mushroom men… and probably more.
Odds of Survival: Low.
I consider myself a pretty decent gamer. I’ve been playing games since I was four – almost twenty years. But I have never, ever beat Zombies. I think I may have gone as high as the mid 30s. This game is insanely impossible, and anyone who has told you that they beat this game is a bold-faced liar. The difficulty curve slopes so steeply upwards than if it were a mountain and you’d try to climb it, you’d find that you’re walking upside-down halfway up the damned thing.
The Devilish Details:
Let’s take a quick peek at the game, starting with the character select screen:
An example of early ’90s fashion.
Zeke is on the left, and Julie is on the right. These are our teenage protagonists. Save for the sprites, the characters have no differences between them.
I would like to restate that our main characters are teenagers. Take a look again at Julie. She’s awfully… voluptuous for a teenager. Where the hell were these girls when I was in high school? I would have shown up to school every day and gotten straight A’s just to get a look at women like this. (As an aside, I’ve heard my buddies say stuff like “Oh, well, you were too stupid to notice the hot girls” and similar things. I, like most teenagers, was a walking bag of raging hormones. Bullshit I wouldn’t have noticed.)
On the opposite end of the spectrum is Zeke. Zeke has apparently just stepped out of a late-night rave, or perhaps he is such a hardcore fan of 3-D movies that he never takes off his special glasses. Half the time I let this tool die on purpose for such an inane fashion statement. If it was a game featuring little kids, it’s be cute. But since they are high school age kids, that makes Zeke either a rave-hopping ex junkie, mildly retarded, or both.
The objective of the game is to rescue at least 1 survivor every level. If you run out of lives, or all of the survivors die, you lose the game. Up to 10 survivors spawn in a level, and the amount of survivors that spawn depends on your score in the previous level(s).
Braaaiiiiiins. (I swear, I’ll try not to use this as a caption all that much.)
Here we have a shot of Level 1. Toxic waste surrounded by zombies? Not a good sign in my book. Zombies are slow and dumb, but they will bum rush you or a survivor at three times their speed if they get within a few feet.
Here we have a picture a couple levels into the game. Note the zombie approaching the toddler.
Not the mama!
Apparently, they would.
Sometimes, the game makes it hard to want to rescue survivors. Observe this fine member of our armed forces.
He seems to be wielding a World War I-era rifle (complete with bayonet), and the uniform matches. Judging by the quality of his equipment, I’m going to guess that he’s Army Reserve. Actually, even the Army Reserve gets better gear than this. Is there an Army Reserve Reserve?
Let’s check out this guy’s training. Uniform? Check. Weapon? Check. Shitting your pants in fear and not shooting your rifle? I don’t think they really cover that at basic.
Later on in the game, you’ll see these same poor, ill-equipped soldiers with bazookas sitting right next to them. You think someone besides a couple of rowdy teenagers would pick up a weapon and shoot at the marauding hordes of ungodly horrors roaming through the countryside.
Here we have the “Fun Baby” dolls. Apparently, there’s a bit of fine print on the box you can’t see, namely something about these dolls being hellspawn who throw and/or maul you with axes. They often work in groups. I have never seen a group of toddlers so organized since A Streetcar Named Marge.
HEY BART WANNA SEE MY NEW CHAINSAW AND HOCKEY MASK?!
Here we have your standard chainsaw maniac. Anyone who is into vintage horror movies knows how intimidating Leatherface is. Jason Voorhees is a tank. These guys apparently lean more towards Jason Voorhees.
Note that I have the bazooka equipped. Ammo for the bazooka is rare, but that’s because it can take down pretty much anything in one shot. It can break down doors as well as bust open walls and hedges. It takes five shots – five shots – to take out a chainsaw maniac.
For your reference, here is a picture of an actual bazooka:
Dude, we could totally turn this thing into a bong.
Bazookas were designed to heavily damage tanks and introduce machine-gun nests to our good friend Mr. Fiery Molten Shrapnel, Esq. These chainsaw dudes have to be doing more steroids than the Yankees starting lineup allegedly does.
The first level you encounter them you have to deal with several of these guys. Your best option is to freeze them with the fire extinguisher and run.
Mama? (I’ve used this caption four times already, and it’s been relevant every single time.)
You thought that I was joking about the giant toddler? That flat pancake-y thing underneath the toddler is Zeke. Yes, he steps on you and smushes you.
Wrapping It Up:
Zombies Ate My Neighbors is forgiving at times (a life bar, health kits you can use at times, three lives, co-op play, and bonus levels where you can get more health kits and extra lives). Most of the time, however, it is a game that is very challenging. If you are a fan of B-movie horror movies and delicious satire, you will enjoy this game.
As for the possibility of a real-life Zombie invasion, what can we learn from Zombies?
Stay the hell out of hedge mazes and the toy aisle.
Ihmhi is a developer for Fortress Forever, a free, fast paced Team Fortress mod for Half-Life 2.