Available now for the first time in a single package on Nintendo Switch and more comes LucasFilm Games’ very own Zombies Ate My Neighbors and Ghoul Patrol the perfect combo for a Halloween season review! In this version, remastered for modern systems by DotEmu, you will fight against scores of the undead to save innocent people and defeat some devilish bosses along the way. Sure, this might not be the sequel/reboot that some around KeenGamer were hoping for, but it is still a great thing to see. Especially bearing in mind this is the first time Zombies Ate My Neighbors has been released uncensored in some territories.
These two classic titles are available for the first time in a single package. This means I am pretty much reviewing two titles at once. Though thankfully given how similar both titles are that isn’t too bad. Though as similar as the two titles are they aren’t without their differences. With one being a far better title than the other.
Story – Bump in the Night
The stories of Zombies Ate My Neighbors and Ghoul Patrol are fairly straight towards. In Zombies Ate My Neighbors you must defeat the sinister Doctor Tongue and their undead buddies before they gobble up the neighbours and likely take over the world. And in Ghoul Patrol our dynamic duo returns this time facing off against ghosts and ghouls that escaped from a haunted exhibit. Also saving people all be it far less impressively animated ones. As explained earlier this is a re-release of two retro games from the 1990s. As such how they present almost all their story in their manuals.
Something that anyone who didn’t buy a limited edition physical release of this collection (or had the originals on SNES knocking about) is going to miss out on. But fear not! The game does include digital versions of the manuals from both titles. So if you want to know the story of Zombies Ate My Neighbors then you can. Honestly, I wish more games would do this. Even if the versions scanned look rather ‘used’.
Ghoul Patrol does feature an opening cutscene which is finely written for what it is. It fits the tone well and is very much of its era. This isn’t a bad thing. But it is worth pointing out for those of you with more ‘modern’ sensibilities when it comes to writing; These are games that put gameplay first, what a novel idea! I will admit that the cutscene isn’t quite as zany as I hoped. But with that said Ghoul Patrol feels a little more serious than its predecessor. Though not that much.
Beyond this, there isn’t much to fault either title for as far as their story or their narrative structure is concerned. I feel that both convey a great halloweeny/b-movie/Saturday morning cartoon feel. Zombies Ate My Neighbors and Ghoul Patrol is aimed at kids who have an interest in spooky movies. An audience that seems largely ignored these days. But that is a discussion for another day. Zombies Ate My Neighbors and Ghoul Patrol has a great personality, with some fun gags thrown in here and there. However, it is in its gameplay where it (mostly) shines.
Gameplay – Too Cool for Ghoul (Patrol)
Both Zombies Ate My Neighbors and Ghoul Patrol share a similar core gameplay loop and controls. Both are top-down 2D action games where you must rescue as many innocent people from the legions of the undead as possible. All whilst gunning monsters down with a wide variety of weapons, items, and power-ups that you collect along the way. It all has a rather arcadey feel to it which translates well from Zombie to Ghoul Patrol. At least for the most part. Ghoul Patrol itself isn’t without its issues, though more on that shortly.
An added complication to the games is that every time a neighbour is killed it reduces the number you will need to rescue in the next level. Once you run out of people to save it is Game Over. So a degree of memorisation and trial and error is needed in both titles if you want the best chance to succeed and get the highest score. Which, yeah, to some of you whippersnappers out there getting the high score isn’t a big deal, but to people like Ol’ Chris here it meant something dagnabit!
The best way to think of the rescue mechanic is to imagine a less involved version of the one seen in the good Dead Rising games. Only instead of escorting the survivors to a safe house, all you need to do is run into them like they are collectables. It is a simple system that works well and keeps the momentum up. They are both titles that are fun just to pick up and play through either alone or with a friend. Though of the two, I feel that Zombies Ate My Neighbors is the better title. Sporting maps that are easier to navigate, more colourful and imaginative levels, and a better control scheme. That isn’t to say Ghoul Patrol is bad. But I do worry it was made as complex as it was for more ulterior motives.
Regardless of 1990s gaming paranoia, Ghoul Patrol does feel like a conscious effort was made to make it more involved and mechanically complex. Well, if you can call adding a jump button, taking away the mini-map, and making more elaborate levels adding mechanical complexity. I suppose my biggest issue with Ghoul Patrol is the controls; they just feel rather sluggish and slow versus the tight controls of its predecessor. And having both games in a single package only further exemplifies this difference.
Dead by Night Light
Again, this isn’t to say Ghoul Patrol is bad, I just feel it may have been a little too ambitious for its own good. The levels feel larger and hard to navigate. At times feeling rather obtuse in how you get from point A to point B. Which makes reaching the survivors all the more difficult and infuriating. Goodness, given how quickly the ghouls can respawn some areas can become almost impassible without wasting a powerup to pass through.
Of course, none of this is to say that Zombies Ate My Neighbors isn’t without its issues either; I think the controls aren’t quite as intuitive as an arcade title should be and that the title feels a tad too long. Additionally, the title doesn’t introduce new gameplay elements well at all. A lot of the weapons can serve other purposes; the rocket launcher can blast open locked doors and hedges, and the lawn trimmer is the only thing that can kill the mushroom things. Things the game doesn’t tell you about.
Living After Death
It is stuff that I likely wouldn’t have known about had I not seen Let’s Plays of the title months/years in advance. Sure, part of this is the whole ‘learning from the manual thing’ but this isn’t 1993 anymore. The vast majority of people playing this for the first time will be playing it digitally and without manuals. And whilst I am hardly someone that feels that all titles should hold the hands of their players it is a bad holdout from that era of gaming.
Still, despite all of this I feel that both halves of this release are decent enough. The differences between the two feel like they come as a result of them catering to different audiences; Zombies Ate My Neighbors feels more like a game you’d play with friends at a party and Ghoul Patrol is more like a title you’d play with a friend over an afternoon. And how much enjoyment you get out of either depends on what you are looking for. Either way, there are worse titles and rereleases out there.
Graphics & Audio – Grabbed by the Ghoulies!
Both Zombies Ate My Neighbors and Ghoul Patrol are well-produced titles. With great graphics for the time, decent music, and fun art styles. Zombies Ate My Neighbors has this distinct Saturday Morning Cartoon crossed with classic Universal Horror and a drive-in B-Movie feel. Giving it a look and feel that has a charm and appeal to it that is hard to deny. All the sprites are filled with character and a wry ghoulish sense of humour that gives the title great personality.
If Zombies Ate My Neighbors is an 80’s Saturday Morning cartoon then Ghoul Patrol is the 1990s Xtreme sequel. The colour pallet is a little dimmer, the character and monster designs are less cartoonish, and the weapons look less like toys and more like legit monster-killing instruments. Or as legit as said things can realistically be. Is this a bad thing? No. But this is one of those matter-of-taste deals that I’m not going to knock the title for. Mostly due to the fact I am more concerned with the practicalities of the art style and graphics than the aesthetics of them. Still, they both look good. And both have a feel to them that makes them perfect Halloween games.
Zombies Ate My Homework!
The soundtrack to Ghoul Patrol sounds more or less the same as Zombies Ate My Neighbors does. And honestly, I’m not sure what to feel about that. On the one hand, it keeps the tone and spirit of the first game alive and well in the sequel. And on the other hand, it just feels like more of the same but not as good. Which sadly seems to summarise the entire Ghoul Patrol.
Still, it isn’t a bad soundtrack and fits in well with the events on screen adequately. As a whole collection Zombies Ate My Neighbors and Ghoul Patrol is a well-presented package and handles well on Switch, which honestly made reviewing it a lot easier. In handheld mode or on TV screens the title looks and plays well with no performance issues. Or at least ones that aren’t overhanging issues from the original SNES release which this release is drawn from; it can suffer from slow down here and there so do be aware of that.
Zombies Ate My Neighbors and Ghoul Patrol was reviewed on Switch.