People talk about LucasArts’ golden period as if all it created was text adventures (which, indeed, are wonderful). But one of the things about that particular incarnation of the studio in the ’80s and ’90s was that it didn’t feel like an addendum to LucasFilm’s’real’ business, but rather an independent entity free to create its own characters and universes and make games the way its designers thought they should be made. Sure, it made the odd Star Wars game (and they were typically good), but it wasn’t a Star Wars factory.
Zombies Ate My Neighbors is perhaps my favorite LucasArts game, with apologies to the enthusiasts. This co-op top-down run-and-gun action game, published for the Super Nintendo and Mega Drive/Genesis in 1993, had some of the best pixel art you’ll ever see with an irresistibly rapid pace. It’s all about speeding through the stages, grabbing neighbors to save them from foes (who will murder them if they touch, at which point a sad little ghost flies above), evading villains, and acquiring household weaponry. The soundtrack, the escalation, the continuous horror allusions, and the sense of comedy are all one-of-a-kind, and this is one of the genuine jewels of the genre in my opinion.
Someone who probably agrees with me is Dude27th, a Chilean genius who is recreating Zombies Ate My Neighbors, as a Doom II mod. There are mods that make your mouth drop, and this is clearly both a labor of love and being accomplished with some serious ability. Just a few seconds of Terror in Aisle Five, the game’s second level, and you’ll realize how well the game’s style has been transferred into a new format.
You’ll need a copy of Doom II to play, and the mod can be downloaded here; but, because it’s still in development, Dude27th is only up to level 7. (the game had 41 levels and 7 bonus stages, another reason it was insanely good).
If all of that seems a little too much for you, and you’re just nostalgic about Zombies Ate My Neighbors and its sequel, Ghoul Patrol (albeit that one wasn’t actually a LucasArts production), I have good news. Both games were published as a bundle on Steam a few weeks ago. For my money, the first game is still underappreciated for how wonderful it is. Anyway, that’s the end of my evening.