With Halloween just around the corner, it seems appropriate to talk about a classic “horror” game from the 16-bit era, “Zombies Ate My Neighbours”. I put the word “Horror” in quotations because this isn't a particularly frightening game, especially compared to true horror games such as Silent Hill or Amnesia. However, ZAMN has all the trappings of a typical survival horror game even though it can't really be put in that genre. After all, you have to fight monsters. Not just zombies as the title implies, but a menagerie of classic horror monsters – there are werewolves, mummies, clones, slime creatures, axe-wielding maniacs and possessed dolls. The whole game is a tribute to the horror genre, a pastiche of 50s B-movies and 80s horror flicks that emulates the style of those films flawlessly.
The game-play is relatively straightforward. While there is a variety of monsters to fight, the main objective of each level is to rescue the denizens of the neighbourhood before they are killed by the creatures. There is a constant sense of urgency to the game as you rush to rescue someone who is surrounded by monsters. The way the neighbours are dotted around forces the player to explore the levels thoroughly. While the player starts off with a super soaker full of holy water, they can pick up new weapons and items as the game goes on. Some weapons have a specific advantage over certain enemies (for example, werewolves are weak against silver cutlery) while other weapons have non-combat uses (the bazooka opens up holes in walls). The player will have to conserve these weapons and learn to use them appropriately, which gives the game a light survival element to it. There's also a potion that turns the player character into an indestructible mutant werewolf that can punch zombies so hard they explode – if that doesn't sell you on the game, I don't know what will.
Even for the time the graphics are spectacular. The level architecture is highly detailed, looking suitably grimy while also being colourful. The human character sprites are full of personality despite limited animation and of course the monster sprites are iconic enough to recognise. The soundtrack is superb, giving each level that essential B-Movie horror vibe with catchy tunes that you'll be thinking about long after you put the controller down. The game does lack a save feature, but thankfully there is a password system – completing a certain level will reward the player with a Level Skip password.
Overall, Zombies Ate My Neighbours has solid, deceptively simple mechanics that complement its charming schlock horror aesthetic. This is a must for gamers who are feeling nostalgic for the 16-bit days, any fan of cheesy horror films and of course anyone looking for a fun way to celebrate Halloween. It's available on the SNES and Megadrive as well as the Wii's Virtual Console.