When we pretend that we're dead.
One day, the zombie apocalypse is going to occur. On that day, how ready will you be to face the unyielding hordes of flesh-eating undead? I know people like to think they're clever and such, but let’s be honest, most of us would soon be turned into yet another mindless zombie hungry for delicious brains, and I think I’m no different.
But let’s continue with our theoretical questioning. What if you were a zombie and the world was invaded by giant flying brains with lasers? It would be a feast like none other. Oh sweet, sweet brains. How yummy you would taste to Zombie Blake.
Teenage Zombies: Invasion of the Alien Brain Thingys, the latest offering from InLight Entertainment, is a game that takes you out of the more traditional role of zombie hunter/survivalist and makes you the zombie. In fact, the whole premise is that of zombies saving the world from invading brains (big surprise given the game’s title).
To accomplish this task, you’re given control over three dead adolescents: “Lefty” Lopez, a lanky girl with one arm that can stretch to reach high places; “Halfpipe” Boyd, who is only half a torso and rides around on a skateboard; and, last but not least, “Fins” Magee, a fat kid who has tentacles growing out of his back for some inexplicable reason and can climb up walls. Fins can also deal out some seriously lethal vomit with the right power-up.
It’s your job to guide the three of them through various platform stages, making use of each one’s abilities to get through certain areas a la Lemmings or The Lost Vikings. Each level is like a puzzle, except none of them are extremely hard to figure out. Most of the time the solution is blatantly laid out for you, such as a ramp for Halfpipe to slide down or a ledge only Lefty can reach. To further ease your path, one clever idea is that all the training captions are dialogue boxes that are also actually platforms. Even though the game was already pretty easy to figure out, they do come in handy when identifying power-ups, and it adds to the cartoony aesthetic.
Sometimes the hardest challenge is just getting the controls to respond properly. I cannot count how many times I tried to grab a ledge just to be dropped back down to where I started from for no explainable reason. This is compounded by the fact that some areas have a huge number of enemies that will overwhelm you quickly, and since attacks are slow and inaccurate, it’s almost a guarantee that you will be taken out and have to start over at the beginning of the level. I mean, I know zombies are slow, but it’s ridiculous when you’ve got ten bad guys surrounding you, and you can’t get a hit on any of them because they’re standing a centimeter too close.
The levels themselves all feel the same for the most part. Nothing really changes and the backgrounds all look the same, which gets worse when there is only one song throughout the entire game that gets repetitive very, very quickly. Furthermore, you will hear the sound of creaking coffins every time you switch characters. It's maddening.
The enemies do not come in too many varieties, but every ten levels or so, a new one is introduced. Most of the time, you are fighting some variation of the alien brains which works out pretty well for you, since once they're defeated, you can devour them and all their juicy synaptic essence for health. Other than brains, you will run into a lot of rats; your best bet is to try and avoid them or find some clever way to take them out.
The enemies are usually not that tough. I played through hard difficulty and found that the only difference to be the amount of damage taken off by each hit. Since you eat your opponent’s carcasses when you’re victorious, it’s not hard to keep your health up, somewhat negating the whole point of a hard mode.
Throughout Teenage Zombies, various mini-games where you use the stylus or mic are thrown in to break up the monotony of the levels. The games would have been fun if the accuracy of the stylus wasn’t so off, to the point that certain mini-games range from extremely hard to nearly impossible to play. One that I found particularly annoying was a Robotron: 2084-like game where you have to use the stylus to move your character... and to shoot. Just give up after a few attempts; there's no way to play it successfully.
Another mini-game they’ve thrown in is the Big Brain Challenge, where you try and solve little puzzles put forth to you by the almighty Brain himself. The biggest problem with this challenge is that the instructions for each ten-second puzzle are not always spelled out clearly, leading to some “WTF!?!” moments when you lose and have no idea why.
However, the game does not fall short everywhere. The humor is spot-on in most of the cut-scenes, which play out and read like a comic book (you actually turn the DS sideways and read them like a comic), and the game’s concept of teen zombies devouring alien brains is at least bound to make you snicker. Unfortunately, a good sense of humor and interesting, if not quirky, concept does not a great game make.
A little more time in level and enemy design would have done wonders. As it stands, though, Teenage Zombies is a mediocre game at best, offering less and less incentive and getting increasingly repetitive the more you play. While the game is funny, I think at one point, the monotony might have actually turned me into a brain-dead zombie. Which would explain why Duke had teeth marks on his head and was screaming at me when I woke up from my post-lunch nap …whatever, his brains were tasty…