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One of my favorite games from my childhood was the Lucasarts and Konami monster game Zombies Ate My Neighbors and I was eager to review the new release. I was also anticipating getting in some time with the sequel, Ghoul Patrol, which I only had a minimal amount of playtime with when it was first released. I even wrote a brief tip article about the game as part of my hype to return to a classic.

What a difference getting my hands on the actual product makes, however. While still delivering some of the nostalgic thrills, some questionable decisions also reduce the overall enjoyment of the collection.

Ghoul patrol street screenshot
Zeke on the street!

The Games

The package consists of emulated versions of Zombies Ate My Neighbors (1993) and pseudo-sequel Ghoul Patrol (1994). Both games are classified as run-and-guns, where gameplay revolves around resource management of two types: victims and ammo. Both games require players to make their way through levels by rescuing several victims based on the remaining total. That means that as you lose victims the pool of rescues become smaller, and if monsters claim all victims, the game is over. The second resource across both games is ammunition, as you need to keep up your supply of monster-slaying tools across increasingly dangerous combinations of horror tropes.

And what tropes there are. Consider the series the greatest hits of B-horror monster goodness that delivers everything from vampires to mummies to giant ants and pod people. Ghoul Patrol mixes up the monsters by going on a sort of world tour, showcasing terrors from around the world across several stages.

ZAMN screenshot from Mobygames
Zeke rescues a soldier in ZAMN.

While both games share similar player characters and gameplay, they vary in style, specifically in graphics and mood, mainly because Ghoul Patrol was initially developed as a separate project in the same engine but later adopted as a follow-up to Zombies. Ultimately, however, most players will find Zombies to be the stronger of the pair, from graphics to gameplay to music as Ghoul Patrol is a bit too serious of a departure – and a shorter one at that.

Despite this, there is a ton of value to be had in this collection, and around $15 is worth the buy – be aware of some issues, especially if you are a long-time fan.


What Works

Overall, both games in the package are enjoyable and provide a rare bit of challenge. For gamers who want to push themselves, ZAMN can be particularly punishing, but that is part of the fun. Later levels, in particular, consist of intense monster mashups such as chainsaw-wielding slashers and ax-throwing killer dolls. Each monster has its weakness, and the gameplay can become frantic when trying to dodge monsters and cycle through to the right weapon to take them out. When you get into the game’s flow, it can be quite fun, but for some gamers, it may be a bit much.

The graphics of the game and the larger presentation are generally great across both titles. Zombies and Ghoul Patrol are generally cartoony and appealing, but Zombies is brighter and more pleasing to look at as Ghoul Patrol can be a little gloomy. Between the two games, the more iconic soundtrack, one of the best of the 16-bit era, is still Zombies Ate My Neighbors, though Ghoul Patrol is certainly no slouch, either.

Ghoul Patrol‘s transformation option is Death itself!

But when it comes to video games, the most crucial part is the gameplay, and both games are admirable in that regard, but again, the original game of the pair, Zombies, wins the day. There is a certain chaos in that one that you do not get in Ghoul Patrol. The random spawns and patterns of the monsters of the first game prove more challenging to the more scripted and obvious movement patterns of Ghoul Patrol‘s monsters, and the variety in ZAMN can result in some rather devilish combinations of hazards. ZAMN is also the easier game to exploit, and that is to its benefit, surprisingly. It may feel easy to be overwhelmed until you take the game engine’s limitations into account and start controlling the spawns of monsters yourself.

What Doesn’t Work

While Zombies Ate My Neighbors and Ghoul Patrol are both challenging, they can be a little much at times. Part of the appeal of the game for many players is the difficulty. Still, for more casual audiences, the steep rise of the difficulty curve can be frustrating, especially as the game’s resource management style becomes strenuous given the presence of fewer items after the first twenty or so levels of ZAMN. A rebalanced version of the game to adjust the difficulty would be a welcome enhancement – though not exactly necessary.

The greatest challenge, especially for long-time fans of the games, is the sudden reversal of the button controls. It is especially problematic for ZAMN, where gamers’ muscle memory acts faster due to having played the game so much. In my time replaying both games, I found myself annoyed at the arbitrary change in the button layout and found myself burning through items unnecessarily. Even worse, there is no option to change the controls or adjust the button bindings. That is a fundamental feature in most games that is entirely absent in this release. It can be even worse with Ghoul Patrol and the extra functions included in that game.

ZAMN office scene
Due to possible copyright issues, the “Day of the Tentacle” levels do not appear to be in the re-release.

Perhaps one of the oddest misfires is the packaging and presentation of the release. While there is certainly a level of care applied that suggests this is a respectful tribute to a cult classic series, there are a lot of curious and downright puzzling choices. Perhaps the most emblematic is that the art gallery features scans of the box art to the games… but marred by pen marks. It’s strange that they couldn’t find a nice, untouched copy of the box. I have a sealed Zombies Ate My Neighbors box – how does the developer let something as silly as this happen?

The most damaging part of the release is that to create a presentation over the releases, they employ a very strange partial emulation – you can’t access the game’s original title screens and menus. Instead, you must use the new release’s packaging. The opening to the original ZAMN is incredibly iconic, and its absence is felt.


The Bottom Line About Zombies Ate My Neighbors and Ghoul Patrol (Switch)

While the release makes some questionable and downright frustrating changes, it still evokes the series’s fun. While Ghoul Patrol isn’t as iconic as Zombies Ate My Neighbors, having both games in one package for $15 and on the go is worth overlooking some of these tweaks.

Overall, the core, fun games are still there despite some odd packaging choices and annoying deviations from what fans might have wanted and expected from the re-release. With any luck, some post-launch patches can fix some of these issues and really let this release live up to the obsession surrounding it for the fandom. 3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

Enjoy our game reviews? Let us know in the comments!


David Davis is a writer, cartoonist, and educator in Southern California with an M.A. in literature and writing studies.


Stygian: Reign of the Old Ones (2019), a Game Review

Stygian: Reign of the Old Ones (2019) is a tactical role-playing video game developed by Cultic Games, evoking Lovecraftian horror.



Stygian: Reign of the Old Ones (2019) is a tactical role-playing video game developed by Cultic Games, evoking Lovecraftian and cosmic horror. Published by Fulqrum Publishing, this game is available through Linux, macOS, and Windows. This review will cover the $19.99 Steam release.

The Great Old Ones have awakened, exiling Arkham after the events of Black Day. Design your character and face the abominations of Arkham. Explore the 1920s through a Lovecraftian aesthetic as you unravel the secrets that plague Arkham, facing unknowable cosmic horror and malicious abominations.

The eye icon with tentacles reads Stygian: Reign of the Old Gods. To the left hand side is a woman in a 1920s dress. To the right is a blue abomination.
Stygian Promotional Art

What I Like Stygian: Reign of the Old Ones

The depth of character creation starts the game off on the right foot. While appearance has various options, the game provides greater variety in motives, age, and origins, adding different gameplay elements. For example, age reflects lived experience and physical competency. The younger your character, the less experienced but more physically capable. This dynamic requires trial and error to find the best choice for you.

The paper cutout art provides a unique interpretation of a familiar (but stylish) Lovecraftian aesthetic. While not the most haunting execution of the Lovecraftian, it still manages to unsettle and unnerve while maintaining visual interest. That said, if the style doesn’t suit the player’s taste, Stygian: Reign of the Old Ones might leave that player wanting.

While I find the story engaging and the mysteries worth exploring, there’s a massive caveat to that claim. Regardless, if you fancy the Lovecraftian, few care as deeply and express as much knowledge of the genre as Cultic Games in this installment. This love and knowledge shines through in the often subtle allusions and references to the expanded universe. It may earn its place as the most Lovecraftian game out there.


The characters vary in interest and likability, but there’s usually something about them to add to the overall mystery. Naturally, this remains most evident in the companions that accompany the player on their journey.

In terms of horror, Stygian: Reign of the Old Ones achieves notable success. Despite the subjective points of aesthetics, the game brings out the most unsettling and uncomfortable elements of Lovecraftian and cosmic horror.

White background, rubber stamp with disclaimer pressed against the white background.
Disclaimer Kimberley Web Design

Tropes, Triggers, and Considerations

With an understanding of the Lovecraftian comes the question of how to deal with racism. Most properties try to remove this context, but Stygian: Reign of the Old Ones recognizes the text and era (the 1920s) with caricatures such as a lunatic in blackface. I won’t say it fully explores these toxic elements, but it’s not painted in a positive light.

Insanity and mental illness play a large role in the mechanics of the game, such as becoming a key component of casting spells. Loosely related, drug addiction and usage are mechanics with varying degrees of necessity depending on your build.

If these are deal breakers, perhaps give Stygian: Reign of the Old Ones a skip.

Several listed classes on the left hand side. At the center of the screen shows the Explorer class with their dog.
Stygian Character Selection

What I Dislike about Stygian: Reign of the Old Ones

In terms of story, this game is unfinished, leaving many plots, quests, and arcs with unsatisfying cliffhangers. My understanding is that Cultic Games planned to finish the game, but money ran out, and the focus shifted to an upcoming prequel. I imagine the goal is to use this new game to support a continuation. But that doesn’t change the unfinished state of Stygian: Reign of the Old Ones. The beginning and middle remain filled with content, but the final act (loosely stated) falls monstrously short.

While this unfinished state mostly affects content, I did run into game-breaking bugs. From my understanding, these bugs completely hinder progress. Most are avoidable, but some are unlucky draws.


It’s these points that make this a challenge to recommend, requiring the potential player’s careful consideration.

Final Thoughts

Stygian: Reign of the Old Ones accomplishes what many games fail, bringing to life the Lovecraftian. Unfortunately, this game falls short at the end and leaves game-breaking bugs as potential deterrents for full enjoyment. If what you read above entices you, it may be worth the investment. However, it’s unfair to recommend this game within its compromised state.
2 out of 5 stars (2 / 5)

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Ashen (2018), a Game Review

Ashen (2018) is a souls-like action RPG developed by A44 and published by Annapurna Interactive available across all platforms.



Ashen (2018) is a souls-like action RPG game developed by A44 and published by Annapurna Interactive. This game provides a single-player and multiplayer experience with passive multiplayer mechanics. For this review, I am discussing the 39.99 Steam release, but it’s also available in the Epic Game Store, Xbox, Nintendo Switch, and PlayStation.

In this bitter world, your character seeks to make a home for yourself and others. This goal requires you to fight for every inch of land, building connections and alliances to maintain a thriving village. Venture further to make the world a more hospitable place, but know the further you travel, the greater the threats.

The beginnings of a small village. A man waits by a pillar, facing the player.
Ashen Vagrant’s Rest

What I Like about Ashen

In 2017, Ashen earned a nomination for the Game Critics Awards’ “Best Independent Game.” It would later earn several more nominations in 2019. At the National Academy of Video Game Trade Reviewers Awards, it received nominations for “Game, Original Role Playing” and “Original Light Mix Score, New IP.” It was nominated for “Most Promising New Intellectual Property” at the SXSW Gaming Awards. Finally, at the Golden Joystick Awards, it earned a nomination for “Xbox Game of the Year.”

The multiplayer experience remains essential for Ashen, focusing on you and a partner venturing together to explore an open-world environment. However, the single-player experience is my focus and the game accounts for this gameplay. Ashen often pairs you with a villager who helps with the challenges.

The art style remains a plus throughout the gameplay. Though muted in colors and lacking finer details, the style creates a unique world that allows players to get lost along their journey. If the aesthetic doesn’t evoke that curiosity, then Ashen becomes hard to recommend.


Vagrant’s Rest and the inhabitants remain a strong incentive to continue on your journey. Seeing the progression of the town and building connections with the people provide the most rewarding experience.

In terms of horror, the art style often evokes an eerie atmosphere. However, I won’t go so far as to say the game is haunting. Instead, it evokes emotions that can unsettle and unnerve the gamer.

White background, rubber stamp with disclaimer pressed against the white background.
Disclaimer Kimberley Web Design

Thoughts and Considerations

The souls-like influence remains straightforward. Progression requires the player to defeat enemies and collect currency for weapons or certain item upgrades. Ashen simplifies and focuses its gameplay, reducing variety to polish its choices. The gameplay remains fluid, with a few hiccups that might be a computer issue.

If you prefer magic or defined classes, the gameplay doesn’t enable this variety. Item upgrades and choices define your playstyle, allowing most items to be playable at any stage of gameplay.

Weapons make a greater difference in playstyle. Most of these differences are self-evident (i.e. blunt weapons are slower but stun), but upgrades make any weapon viable. You pick an aesthetic and function, sticking with it until something better catches your eye.

A character helps another limp away, using a spear to help walk. Above reads Ashen.
Ashen Promotional Art

What I Dislike about Ashen

As mentioned, the game had some technical issues. I often assume this to be my computer, but I did note a few others mentioning similar issues. The gameplay remains fluid, so take this comment as a small point of consideration.

With limited roleplay options, liking the characters or art style remains essential for your time and money investment. As mentioned, the game doesn’t hold the variety of FromSoftware, which means their selling point comes from that unique art style and world. 


Passive multiplayer is a major part of the marketing for Ashen. While I don’t mind this mechanic, 6 years after release reduces the overall impact. When so few wanderers appear in your game, it’s hard to see the overall appeal.

Final Thoughts

Ashen delivers a highly specialized souls-like experience, preferring to perfect what it can at the cost of variety. If the art appeals and the thirst for a souls-like has you wanting, Ashen stands as a strong contender. However, there are many contenders which make this hard to overtly recommend.
3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

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I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream (1995), a Game Review

I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream (1995) is a point-and-click horror game based on Harlan Ellison’s award-winning short story.



I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream (1995) is a point-and-click horror game based on Harlan Ellison’s award-winning short story of the same name. Developed by Cyberdreams and The Dreamers Guild, this adaptation brings a new perspective to a familiar story. I heard of free purchasing opportunities for this game but cannot verify the quality. For this review, I played the 5.99 Steam release.

Play as one of the remaining humans on earth: Gorrister, Benny, Ellen, Nimdok, and Ted. Each faces a unique challenge from their common torturer, the AI supercomputer known as AM. Chosen by AM to endure torment, these challenges require the participants to face their greatest failures and tragedies.

I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream Cover Art. A mutilated face with no mouth.
I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream Cover Art

What I like about I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream

Having experienced this story a few times, Harlan Ellison provides the most substantive execution of his vision and moral questions in this game. While all have individual merits, I assume the added content and context better dive into the relevant points he hoped to explore. He also played the voice of AM, giving us the emotional complexity of the machine as he saw it.

As the above comment indicates, I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream remains a faithful adaptation with only one notable change. While that one change does reflect in that character’s journey, it uses that opportunity to the fullest. Where the short story left room for potentially inaccurate interpretations of the characters, this added context makes us better understand them.

The game’s writing remains a selling point for this story-driven experience. It dives further into the lore of the human characters and even allows further development of AM in the process. There are many ways to progress, and the multiple characters allow gamers to adventure further if stuck. That said, progressing individual characters to complete their journey remains essential for the true ending and experience.


As a point-and-click game made in 1995, I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream holds up well. In many ways, it pushed the genre in its time with dynamic storytelling and game features. Harlan Ellison was someone who pushed boundaries to challenge himself and others. He saw the gaming industry as another opportunity to evoke story-driven art, a focus reflected here.

White background, rubber stamp with disclaimer pressed against the white background.
Disclaimer Kimberley Web Design

Thoughts, Triggers, and Considerations

I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream adapts a dark and bleak story from an author notorious for his dark material. This game is no exception to that standard. Mental illness, sexual assault, genocide, and torture envelop the game. These elements are handled with attention but remain triggering to those sensitive to such dark material.

If these are deal breakers, I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream will likely earn a skip.

A cartage with red flames, a face in a circuit.
I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream Game Cartage

What I Dislike, or Considerations, for I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream

While the short story remains a haunting example of fiction in every sentence, I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream doesn’t evoke the same tension. It allows room to breathe or refocus on another character, which reduces the horror such a story evokes. While the characters participate in their torment, the loss of agency and hopelessness doesn’t translate in the execution.

Some mechanical and gameplay issues are noteworthy. For example, the saving mechanic remains dated, piling up if you save often or for specific reasons. Most of the mechanical issues stem from outdated UI from a gamer of a more modern era. Play it long enough, and elements start to click, but it needs that user investment.

Point-and-click caters to a niche audience, so modern gaming audiences aren’t inherently the demographic. The puzzle-solving and gameplay won’t win you over if the genre isn’t to your taste. Even within the genre, many of the puzzles remain challenging. For fans of the genre, this likely earns a positive merit. For those looking to continue the short story, this challenge will prove an obstacle.

Final Thoughts

I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream provides a new opportunity for the award-winning story to reach new audiences and continue to grow. Not satisfied with repeating his story in a new medium, Harlan Ellison expands this bleak world through the point-and-click game. While not as haunting as the short story, this game provides the most context and development of any adaptation before it. 4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

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