Long associated with Star Wars games, both good and bad, LucasArts, founded in 1982 as Lucasfilm Games, is one of the few Hollywood Studio incarnations of a game development house to meet with success in the field of video games. Though initially partnered with Atari, LucasArts quickly became associated with the PC and Japanese home consoles.
People may not know this, but LucasArts was a video gaming innovator of sorts during the 8-bit and 16-bit eras, producing titles like Escape from Monkey Island, noir-thriller Grim Fandango, and run and gun shooter Zombies Ate My Neighbors for the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis.
A critical darling but commercial failure, Zombies Ate My Neighbours missed the zombie craze that swept the 2000s by about a decade when it debuted in 1993. The game is relatively simple in concept but proves itself to be amazingly deep and challenging as it proceeds, never once feeling repetitive or tedious.
It is a one-player or two-player game, with the choice of Zeke and Julie as your zombie warriors. As one of the two characters, you can explore suburban neighborhoods, shopping malls, pyramids, and other locales as you destroy everything from the titular zombies to vampires, aliens, and swamp creatures. The game takes its inspiration from the 1950s era of science fiction and horror, a theme heavily reflected in its aesthetic.
When evaluating the game, critics were careful to note the game’s beautiful graphics and unique humor. Featuring 48 stages in all, players rescue a variety of “neighbors” as they make their way through the stages. To rescue a neighbour you need only touch them; however, if a zombie or other enemy does this first, you can no longer save that neighbour. The game ends when either the player loses all his lives or the neighbours are killed, whichever comes first.
To help the player in the quest to save the neighborhood, the game provides Zeke or Julie with a variety of different weapons and power ups to use. These include everything from a weed whacker to an uzi gun.
Published by Konami, the game fits in with some of their more arcade-inspired titles even though it was developed by LucasArts. The weapon variety as well as the multiple pathways players can take through each stage provide the game with high replay value and a consistent challenge.
Zombies Ate My Neighbours is also notable for being one of the first instances of Nintendo stepping in to censor a game for the SNES. Completely adverse to violence in their lineup of games, Nintendo wanted all of the blood and gore in the game changed to purple ooze to fit in with its more family-friendly corporate image. This, of course, would change once the Sega Genesis’ sales of blockbuster fighting game Mortal Kombat outpaced Super Nintendo sales of the same game by a rate of two to one.
Today Zombies Ate My Neighbours is no critical darling but a cult classic that would be completely apposite to the modern era with its campy title and focus on zombies, a fad that just won’t die (pun intended).