Teenage Zombies: Invasion of the Alien Brain Thingys! Review
While the rest of the gaming world is reveling in Russian gangsters, badly controlled vehicles and broken promises of a fixed lock-on system, there are a few of us video game enthusiasts who haven't dropped everything for Rockstar's crazy successful new entry in the GTA series. I was less than enthused when I found out that I'd need to put down The World Ends With You, SquareEnix's new DS masterpiece, to play through and review Teenage Zombies: Attack of the Alien Brain Thingys, also for the DS. What I found is that these zombies are twice as much fun as most reviewers have claimed and best of all, the game bears a striking resemblance to one of my all-time favorites, Blizzard's 16-bit opus, The Lost Vikings. Not bad for a game I expected to be less fun than George A. Romero's recent destruction of everything I know and love about the most under appreciated horror villain and perennial Raccoon City inhabitant, the zombie.
For this review, I'm going to switch things up and focus on the Teenage Zombies shortcomings first, mainly because I just couldn't find very many and I should get them down before I forget about them. My main issues with the game are flash game-style graphics and some, not all, of the humor that the game tosses at you. Teenage Zombies isn't the prettiest game on the shelves and normally, graphics don't rate too high on my scales of what is important and what isn't. My issue is that even though the zombies, enemies and environments have great design flair to them, it seems there could have been so much more. A little 3D modeling never hurt anyone, and after last year's Contra 4, it's been proven that it can add a lot of visual depth to a 2D game. I'll be a 2D, platform-style gamer 'til the end of time, but little touches here and there could have made this game a lot nicer to look at. Again, the game's style is just right, but the 'blah' environments and characters could have used a bit work and a few more frames of animation.
Teenage Zombie's other weak point is that while it is a humorous game, some of the jokes fall flatter than a 2:30 a.m. rerun of an Elaine Boozler comedy special (ouch.). I've often said that I'm all for games that are laugh-out-loud funny, but jokes that don't hit their mark are often more groan-inducing in video games than they are in any other medium… just look at the three Shrek movies box office numbers and you'll see what I mean. Teenage Zombies is about 50/50 on the jokes, some are great, some are awful; the game's tone will appeal to fans of Invader Zim, Strongbad and that whole brand of humor, which, in my opinion, is usually hit-or-miss. If you're looking for a truly hilarious game, go pick up Barnyard Blast on the DS (intentionally funny) or Target: Terror on the Wii (unintentionally (I hope) funny).
Now that we've got that out of the way, let's talk about what makes Teenage Zombies a great game for anyone who enjoys 2D adventure, puzzle-based fighting and platforming or just anyone who misses the glory days of the NES-SNES-Genesis era. The game puts you in direct control of three zombies - Lefty, a tall, girl zombie, Half-Pipe, half a zombie (no legs, just a skateboard) and Fins, the fat zombie with the ability to grow purple tentacles from his back. If it sounds gruesome or gross, it isn't; these zombies don't vomit blood or eat people, they spend most of their time and energy navigating through environmental puzzles and scattered, yet interesting, bad guys. There is a "save the world" story in there, but it's nothing new. The game's main draw is using and switching between your three zombies to overcome deliberately paced and rewarding obstacles.