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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 / 5)
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The Last of Us: Episodes 8 and 9: The End
Sometimes life gets in the way. Maybe you watched the episodes the nights they came out, but then you got your stomach tattooed so you didn’t have the energy to type on your computer, and then you had to work nonstop for six days straight and housesit 20 miles out of town, and then you got into a hit-and-run car accident with your boyfriend (luckily you’re both okay but really very angry at the asshole that just drove away), etc. etc.. March has been a lot, but I finally rolled up my sleeves, made time for my computer and stopped procrastinating the job of writing my final review on HBO’s The Last of Us.
Here we will cover the final events of Joel and Ellie’s saga. Both episodes were directed by Ali Abassi and written by Craig Mazin and, in episode 9, Neil Druckmann. The adaptation continued to cover the story elements of the game, leaving out and/or changing most of the fighting and action scenes. This change is especially noticeable in episode 9, “Look for the Light,” but we’ll get to that in a minute. Let’s first do a recap of episode 8, “When We Are in Need.”
“When We Are in Need”
Ellie is on the hunt for food and comes across a deer, which she shoots down almost effortlessly. It is in this moment that she meets a preacher named David (Scott Shepherd) and his partner, James (Troy Baker, (Joel’s voice actor in the video games)). After a moment of hostility towards the stranger, Ellie agrees to give the deer to David in exchange for penicillin. Shortly after giving Joel the medication, Ellie has to leave again to deter David’s religious crew from hunting her and Joel. It turns out Joel killed a few of David’s men, and the preacher is out for revenge.
The religious group captures Ellie and puts her in a cell, where she discovers David has been feed them human remains. Meanwhile, Joel finally awakes and is stable enough to escape the house and search for Ellie. He tortures two men into disclosing her location, but he is almost too late. David places Ellie on a butcher block and is just about to chop her up when she narrowly escapes. The two fight until she finally has the advantage and takes him down, bludgeoning him to death with an insurmountable fury of vengeance.
“Look for the Light”
Episode 9 begins with a flashback of Ellie’s pregnant mother, Anna (Ashley Johnson, (Ellie’s voice actor in the video games). An infected bit Anna just moments before she gave birth to Ellie. Moments pass, and Marlene finds the two in a pool of blood. She is forced to take the baby and kill her friend. Fast forward 14 years, and Joel and Ellie are almost done with their journey. They finally made it to Utah. Ellie, still processing everything that happened with David, is sad and somber. Joel tries his best to cheer her up, but nothing seems to work.
Suddenly, the youth sees something and runs off to get a better look. Joel chases her until he stops and stares in awe. The camera pans from him to Ellie inches away from a giraffe. She is her old self again, cracking jokes and asking a myriad of questions. Later on, when Joel reveals that he tried to kill himself after Sarah’s death, Ellie provides him as much comfort as she can. But the fact that Joel can trust her enough to reveal such a secret means is a comfort on its own. He asks Ellie to read some puns to lighten the mood, but his moment is interrupted when a group of Fireflies knock them out.
Joel wakes up in a hospital to see Marleen, who informs him that the doctors are preparing Ellie for surgery to remove the part of her brain that makes her immune. This procedure, however, will result in Ellie’s death. No matter how hard Joel fights, Marlene won’t budge. She instead has two Firefly soldiers escort Joel out of the hospital, but he kills them and everyone else until he finds the surgery room, where he murders the doctor in cold blood. He escapes with an unconscious Ellie and makes it as far as the parking garage until Marlene stops them. The camera cuts to Joel driving a car with Ellie in the backseat.
Ellie wakes up and asks Joel what happens. While he lies to her that there is no cure, the camera flickers back to the parking garage scene with Marlene. He shoots her once. After listening to her begs and pleas, he kills her with a final shot.
The duo have to walk the last few miles to Tommy’s town. At the top of a waterfall, they get a spectacular view of their new home, their new futures. Before making the final trek, Ellie tells Joel about her past and how she saw her best friend die. This lead to watching Tess, Sam and Henry die because of the disease. The fact that they all had to go through such gruesome deaths, only for there not to be a cure, is too much for Ellie to handle. She makes Joel swear that he is telling the truth, and in a beat, he does.
HBO’s The Last of Us is a remarkable video game adaptation that deserves all the high praise it has received the past few months. From the set design and effects to the filming, screenwriting and acting, the show is a peak example of how to do an adaptation well. It is heart-throbbing and terrifying.
A few issues with HBO’s adaptation is how much they excluded the game play scenes. Despite the world being filled with infected, they were rarely on screen. This is disappointing, especially because it increases the stakes and so much of Joel and Ellie’s relationship builds in these fight scenes. The biggest disappointment was in episode 9, in which the show completely cut out the game’s highway scene. Furthermore, there are numerous creative weapons the show could have included to illustrate Joel and Ellie’s means of survival, from molotov cocktails and nail bombs to the beloved shotgun and its shorty companion.
Despite these small quibbles, the show is arguably one of the best American video game adaptations out there. Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey were the perfect casting choices for Joel and Ellie, as was the casting for all the other characters.
It will be exciting to see where Neil Druckmann and Craig Mazin take The Last of Us 2. I hope they will include more gameplay (aka a little more violence), more screen time for infected, and some creative liberties with the original story while also sticking to the heart of it. We will just have to wait and see what they come up with. Until we meet again, don’t forgot to read about the other shows and games we’re loving here at HauntedMTL.
(4 / 5)
Review: A Plague Tale series
Asobo Studios A Plague Tale series consisting of Innocence (2019) and Requiem (2022) has been out for a while. Weirdly enough, I struggled to put my thoughts into words about these games until now. The way I see it, it’s impossible to talk about one without the other, so let’s dive in, shall we?
Plot and characters
The story of A Plague Tale games takes loose inspiration from the Black Plague times with a touch of the Hundred Years’ War. Amicia and Hugo are siblings on the run from soldiers while also fighting off infected rats, meeting allies along the way. A huge theme of Innocence is Amicia finding a solution for Hugo’s long-term sickness. As one would suspect, it turns out to be connected to the plague itself. Amicia also goes from being a disconnected older sister to his biggest protector throughout the game.
Hugo himself is more or less an annoying kid who wants his mother. This is frankly a realistic characterization as he actually speaks and acts as a child would act. Granted, him essentially walking into the Pope’s trap is frustrating but the climax needed to be set up somehow. I also enjoyed Lucas’s character as an alchemist apprentice as he proved to be one of the more consistent helpers to the duo.
While Innocence ends on a hopeful note, with the characters on the verge of starting over somewhere new and the plague contained, Requiem shows this was a fake out. The sequel really puts Amicia through her paces. Her character is broken both physically and mentally to the point where she is barely recognizable. Hugo is more mature, although his insistence on this magical island that will fix the Macula issue is an immediate red flag. It’s not surprising the supposed safe haven turns into hell quite quickly.
The generational curse where the protector and carrier story repeats itself means a tragic ending for our protagonists. This means it can feel fruitless to play the two installments as the whole point of Amecia’s journey is to protect Hugo at all costs, which proves to be impossible. Was it because of certain choices they made or just extremely unfortunate circumstances? Either way, I felt horrible for them both while playing Requiem, so at least it invoked a strong emotion in me.
The series is a third-person stealth adventure with survival horror elements. Innocence has a clear-cut mechanic that relies on Amicia sneaking past or distracting threats with a certain number of puzzles to get past the rats. She is also extremely vulnerable, dying from one enemy hit, forcing the player to start all over. This is something Requiem updates, adding the opportunity for you to recover by running away from the enemy.
It can be frustrating to have to restart a whole section because of one mistake. However, it does make the player think methodically about what the best approach is. I found the challenges a tad repetitive which stopped me from binge-playing the game, but that’s just my opinion.
After taking this time to digest my feelings towards A Plague Tale games, I can still vouch for the amazing experience. The historical aspects are endearing, and the graphics are beautiful, as is the score. The scriptwriters knew what kind of emotional punches would hit the players just right and the voice actors really gave it all. It’s obvious a lot of love went into this project and I am grateful to have played it.
Regardless, there were certain aspects of the story that for me personally, did not sit right. I am not a massive fan of a tragedy that ends, well, in tragedy, especially with hints history will repeat itself again. The entire concept of the ‘greater good’ and the main characters sacrificing their happiness has been done before and while I can understand why they went that way, it also left me feeling a bit empty.
(4 / 5)
The Last of Us: Episode 7: Left Behind
The Last of Us series is winding down with only three episodes left. Directed by Liza Johnson and written by Neil Druckmann, “Left Behind” adapts the video game’s DLC story of the same name. Ellie and Joel are hiding out in a basement, and Joel is suffering greatly from his stabbing. He orders Ellie to go back to Tommy and leave him behind, but she’s reluctant. The episode cuts to a flashback of the events that happened before Ellie and Joel met, thus beginning the sweet, tragic backstory of our young protagonist.
Ellie is stuck in a FEDRA boarding school in Boston. Her best friend and roommate, Riley, ran away a few weeks back and Ellie has been grieving the loss. She gets into fights with classmates and even sends one girl to the infirmary to get 15 stitches. Everything changes when Riley suddenly returns and reveals she joined the Fireflies, the organization FEDRA is training students to fight and kill.
Ellie disapproves of her friend’s choices, but there isn’t anything she can say that will change Riley’s mind. However, as a sort of apology for leaving without saying goodbye, Riley asks Ellie to sneak out for a few hours and join her on a little adventure. Ellie reluctantly agrees.
The two sneak into an abandoned mall that was once used to hoard infected. Now it is filled with wonders and surprises beyond the youths’ wildest dreams. The girls connect like they haven’t been separated for weeks, and their chemistry is sweet and wholesome. Riley gives Ellie an array of gifts, from a photo booth and carousel ride to an arcade with Mortal Kombat and a brand new pun book.
All Good Things End
The evening comes to a halt when Riley reveals the Fireflies are sending her to the Atlanta base and this is her last night in Boston. Ellie is furious and runs away, fully intended on returning back to her dorm room. But she only gets so far before caving into her feelings and running back to Riley. They reunite in a Halloween store, where they wear goofy wolf and clown masks (replicas of the game’s masks) and dance to Etta James’ “I Got You Babe.” They share a kiss and the moment is so delicate.
Everything is perfect until it’s not.
An infected emerges into the store and attacks the girls. Riley shoots it and Ellie stabs it to death, but neither are unscathed. The clicker bit both of them. At the moment, any and all hope has been destroyed.
HBO’s “Left Behind” is the show’s truest adaptation of the video game thus far. The show cuts out the parts of the video game where Ellie roams through a mall and evades hunters as she searches for a first aid kit for Joel. Instead, The Last of Us focuses on Ellie’s history with her best friend and first love, Riley.
Just as Bella Ramsey is the perfect casting for Ellie, Storm Reid is perfect as Riley. The actors’ chemistry maintains the game’s charm; their portrayal of teenagers after an apocalyptic pandemic is pure and authentic. For the first time, Ellie and Riley can act like the kids they are, not the soldiers every adult is training them to be. It is endearing to see their relationship come to life.
Ellie’s backstory mirrors Joel’s in that it emphasizes their experiences of loss and grief. The pair have formed a connection they cannot lose. It is because of this that, at the end of “Left Behind,” Ellie goes against Joel’s wishes and stays with him to help him heal. She had to leave one friend behind before and she refuses to do it again.
“Left Behind” deserves five out of five Cthulhu. (5 / 5)
There are only just a few episodes left in The Last of Us. Episode 8 releases Sunday, March 5, where we should expect to meet the notorious cult leader, Dave. Until then, check out the other shows and games we’re loving here at HauntedMTL.