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SummaryZombies?! Where's my Super-Soaker!
The GoodThis has got to be one of the top-ten most fun games from the 16-bit days! The replay value is high, graphics are great, sound effects top-notch, music imminently hummable, controls are slick and responsive, the AI is advanced beyond its years and technology and the difficulty is almost perfectly balanced.
This is the definition of "sleeper hit". Why ZAMN didn't get more attention when it came out than it did is beyond me. The fast-paced arcade style gameplay is nicely complemented by the variety of weapons, enemies and locales to create a deeply satisfying and fun playing experience.
It's somewhat ironic, though, that a game packed with so much nostalgia has itself become a piece of 16-bit nostalgia. If you've seen even a fraction of the horror movies that have came out in the nine decades before the game's release, you'll recognize some of them in this game.
The BadIt gets somewhat repetitive after a few hours, and the password system was a wrong move for continuing, but it still keeps you coming back for more, regardless. Also, the weapon and item selection system is a little tedious, especially if you have large caches of each, and it can get annoying to hit the selection button two dozen times because you missed the item/weapon you needed.
The Bottom LineThink of it like Resident Evil meets Gauntlet in "Abbot and Costello meet The Monsters!" It's got homages to all the great horror classics of the last century, including Living Dead, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Child's Play, Creature from the Black Lagoon, Frankenstein, Dracula and many many more.
The premise is a simple one: Save the victims, kill the monsters and don't get killed yourself. It never gets more complicated than that. Not to say it's not a challenge; often times the victims are positioned so that you can see them, but you still have to fight through half the level to get to them. And even then, they're usually so close to an enemy spawn point that it's a mad dash to rescue them. But there's no greater feeling than narrowly snatching a victim from the claws of a Werewolf.
Game design is pure genius; you go from bouncing on trampolines in your backyard one level to fending off chainsaw-wielding maniacs in a hedgerow maze to battling giant babies in a shopping mall. That's just the tip of the proverbial iceberg; there are haunted castles, caves, beaches, factories, schools...the list of levels goes on and on and on.
So does the list of enemies; the title Zombies are only the first of a wacky cast of enemy characters you'll encounter. Others include evil ax-throwing dolls (which naturally erupt into flaming dolls if damaged enough), giant toddlers who stomp on you and shoot milk out of their bottles, giant plants that can spawn walking mushrooms, jelly blobs that will spit jelly balls at you (and that prevent you from using your weapons and items for a few seconds if they hit you), vampires, werewolves, and tons of others.
With the variety of weapons, items, enemies, levels, victims, music and sounds, it's not just a wonder that they were able to cram it all into a 16-bit cart, it's a testament to the creative and programming teams at Konami. Do yourself a favor, go out and find this game to add to your SNES library. If you don't have an SNES, get one!