Review: Zombies Ate My Neighbors and Ghoul Patrol (Steam)
Before diving too deep, I want to make it clear that I think both Zombies Ate My Neighbors (ZAMN) and Ghoul Patrol are fun co-op adventures, but I am reviewing this collection as a package, so I will be focusing on the collection as a whole rather than each title included.
At the writing of this review, PriceCharting.com shows the Complete-In-Box (CIB) asking price for Zombies Ate My Neighbors on Genesis to be $73.44 and an insane $155.11 on SNES. The sequel, Ghoul Patrol is set at a whopping $292.50 CIB, which was only released on SNES. It’s an obvious understatement to say I was elated to hear of a collection involving these bank-breaking games since I only own one of the original titles. But just because they are costly, does it mean these games were worth putting into a collection? And is the collection even worth your time? Let’s find out!
LucasArts (currently known as Lucasfilm Games) originally brought ZAMN and Ghoul Patrol to the 16-bit era, but Disney Interactive helped bring this collection to life along with DotEmu. Yes, that DotEmu, the same company that recently put out Streets of Rage 4, brought Windjammers back to relevancy outside of Europe, and is soon releasing a brand new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game. Knowing DotEmu was helping with a beloved set of co-op 90s nostalgia added to the excitement for this release. That excitement however, was almost immediately lost once the game booted.
The title screen of this collection has no music. Absolutely no music plays until you hit a button to bring up the game selection screen accompanied by a background reminiscent of ZAMN’s hypnotic bullseye. Scrolling from left to right, our heroes Zeke and Julie greet you with a simple menus consisting of the meat of this package. You are also treated to music from Ghoul Patrol that sets the tone of both games: goofy, yet spooky and also charming. Eventually the track changes to harpsicords and creepier minor scales. I mention both tracks of music, because you may find yourself on the menus for an extended period of time looking through the museum areas and attempting to find the soundtrack music player – of which I never located.
Having been exposed to multiple collections recently among Blizzard’s Arcade Collection, Disney Classic Games: Aladdin and The Lion King, or even the Capcom Beat’em Up Bundle, I was expecting plenty of charm and style within the overall presentation. The main menu screen does not change, but a smaller window is brought up, which somewhat cheapened the experience for me that the museum did not earn itself a separate screen or presentation. The museum was a big interest for me, so we’ll go through each area briefly since those are the only additions outside of achievements/trophies, leaderboards, and a saving system outside of passwords.
The first of ZAMN’s museum is a 10-minute developer documentary with game developer Mike Ebert. The video includes subtitles (which you cannot remove) and an option to go into full screen, but the function buttons (Play/Pause, Stop, etc) cannot be hidden from the screen. This video is a nice treat and had a lot of fun factoids, but left me wanting more. I assumed since this was the first item in the museum that my wants would soon be met as I moved onto the rest of the areas. I will admit other collections must have spoiled me, because I was expecting more than just a single video or at least some more dev diary-type items. My expectations continued to dwindle as I moved over to the Ghoul Patrol portion.
The Ghoul Patrol museum had no dev diary, so I’ll continue by going through each area that both games share. Each game had their respective galleries, though I’m not sure that word fully describe the small bits of content. ZAMN’s gallery includes 4 pieces of concept art, and the respective regional box art while the Ghoul Patrol Gallery only includes box art. You can also go through each games’ entire instruction manual (remember when those were printed on real paper?), which is a fun time capsule considering this is primarily a digital release. Rounding out the museum are the in-game animations for our heroes, all the monsters except for bosses, and the neighbors. And that is pretty much what this collection includes.
Fans will be happy to know that local co-op is alive and well in this collection, but there is no online multiplayer. The closest thing to online interaction is Leaderboards. The biggest shock to my system is that the game remains in 4:3 ratio with no option of widescreen stretching, or monitor filters that have become a standard to almost all re-releases today. You can’t even change the wallpaper. Most emulators give you more options for screen ratios than this package.
I did some digging to see what type of marketing occurred prior to Zombies Ate My Neighbors (ZAMN) and Ghoul Patrol’s release, because it really felt like someone found the games’ assets, sent a few questions to Mike Ebert, and slapped this collection together in iMovie. I personally was keeping tabs on the nostalgia-laden editions Limited Run Games announced and assumed plenty of hype was also built around this collection by the publishers involved, but I had to check multiple sites and social media outlets to find what I did.
Lucasfilm Games tweeted last about the game on June 23rd reminding people to pre-order the insanely awesome collector’s edition of the release. On June 29th, launch day, Lucasfilm Games said nothing more about this collection. Their website does not mention the game anywhere. I also checked DotEmu’s social media accounts and website, and then even Disney Interactive’s website and socials. No company involved with this game has mentioned it since it has released. Limited Run Games has done more marketing for this game than the actual creators. Also worth mentioning at the time of this writing (4 days after release), the game is still not available on the PlayStation Store, but is downloadable on Steam and the Nintendo Switch eShop. Did Disney Interactive forget their game released? Or do they pretend they do nothing other than Mickey, Star Wars, or Marvel? These factors make me wonder how much confidence the creators had in their own product, and rightfully so in my opinion.
While writing this review I realized the full title of this release is actually just Zombies Ate My Neighbors (ZAMN) and Ghoul Patrol. There is nothing in the title signifying this is a collection, re-release, re-imagining, or anything like that. How many fun puns could we do incorporating zombies? The re-dead collection? Re-animated? Undead Nostalgia Nightmare? Anything?! So with the title in mind, this set of games really is just that: a set of games.
I struggle to recommend this pair of couch co-op quests, because on one hand the original versions are wildly overpriced and $15 for the digital versions is a steal. But on the other hand, this really feels like a cash grab with minimal effort that I do not want to support. As a retro collector myself, I would sooner suggest grabbing the physical cartridge re-releases that Limited Run Games is doing with a bevy of collectible add-ons. I initially wanted that $100 edition, but I don’t feel comfortable buying this collection twice. If this was the maximum effort put into bringing these games back, then maybe it should have stayed in the ground with their neighbors.