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Wednesday, August 16, 2006 

Classic Gaming Wednesday

Once again, here we are with another Classic Game of the Week. Because, after all, you can't go forward unless you know where you've been!

The other day, I was reading a review about the recently released, Dead Rising, in which the reviewer called the title's zombie-killing/survivor-saving premise, "innovative."

I couldn't throw the magazine away fast enough.

Don't get me wrong, Dead Rising is a great game, but no self-respecting game journalist would ever call this game "innovative" unless their idea of "old school" begins with the 32/64-bit generation. But fret not, folks, because unlike many gaming critics, we know a thing or two about our gaming history. And when it comes to zany, zombie-killing, lawnmower-using mayhem, we know for a fact that there has yet to be a game that tops the fun factor of Dead Rising's spiritual, 13-year old granddaddy, Zombies Ate My Neighbors.

Released on both the Sega Genesis and SNES, the LucasArts developed ZAMN was released in the US in Fall 1993, and quickly became one of the 16-bit era's undeniable classics. The premise behind the overhead shooter is that basically, monsters have somehow taken over a generic suburban town, leaving the town's residents to a "fate worse than polyester!" Practically every single major horror movie monster known to man decided, for whatever reason, to go after this particular town, and now, every resident is in danger of meeting a rather grotesque demise. Enter Zeke and Julie, two teenagers that are the only residents that have the cojones to go head-to-head against these supernatural baddies and save their neighbors from certain doom. Armed with super soakers filled with holy water, footballs, plates, weed-wackers, lawn-mowers, and popsicles (just to name a few), you control either of these spunky teens as you race against time to save your neighbors across 55 levels of horror movie mayhem. Whether you're facing Chucky dolls, Jason-wannabes, werewolves, or crazed cheerleaders, each level comprises of references to pop-culture (circa 1993) from various movies, novels, songs, and even games, making each level different from the last.

Zeke and Julie to the rescue... gotta have the 3-D shades!

Zeke, taking a weed-wacker straight to his demented clone

What makes ZAMN so fun is that between the constant spoofing of the horror movie genre, the variety of power-ups and weapons, the inspired level design, and the overwhelming multitude of enemies and bosses, this game just keeps you coming back for more. Even now, with the dawn of next-gen upon us, ZAMN can still keep you glued to the TV for hours. And, what makes this game even more addicting is that you can play simultaneously with another player, making this one of the greatest co-op games of all time. (Hell, not even today's Dead Rising has a co-op mode...)

Trampolines are the best way to escape a swarm of zombies

So, if for whatever reason, you have not played ZAMN, you seriously need to stop what you're doing right now, head outside, grab a copy of the game for either the Genesis or the SNES (the Genesis version has red blood, if you care about having uncensored games), get a friend to come over, and enjoy some classic gaming that's guaranteed to keep you hooked for hours. Get yourself gameducated, and learn a thing or two about the greatness of the 16-bit era. And if you see someone call Dead Rising innovative, make sure you smack them in the face with an agitated soda can and scream, "Zombies Ate My Neighbors!" Sure, you'll look like a complete psycho, and most people won't know what the hell you're talking about, but at least you'll know. And that's what it's all about, folks.

Modern Day Sequels?
After the release of ZAMN, LucasArts and Konami released the game's sequel, Ghoul Patrol, a year later, but unfortunately, everything that made the first game so fun didn't fully translate into the second title. As a result, the sequel became a critical and commercial bomb, and the franchise was effectively killed after that.

There have been no modern-day remakes or ports of the original game thus far, but the game has a sizable enough fanbase to at least hope for one.

Fun Fact: The zombie-spoof movie, Shaun of the Dead pays homage to ZAMN when the movie's protagonist uses a trampoline to jump over a fence to get away from oncoming zombies. There is also a ZAMN game poster present in the protagonist's shed at the end of the movie.