The Game: Run around, save people, and kill monsters with dinner plates and stuff.
Back in 1987 Lucas arts released it's first adventure game using the Scumm engine, the classic Manic Mansion, the story of a group of teenagers out to solve the mystery of the diabolical Dr. Fred and his fugitive meteor. From that game we got the excellent Day of the Tentacle, and a somewhat related game called Zac McCracken and the Alien Mindbenders. A spin off from those was a top down run-and-gun type game called Zombie's ate my neighbors which includes the world conquering Purple Tentacle in a hidden level. Which brings us to Ghoul Patrol, which is the sequel to ZAMN and the subject of our review.
Once again Zac and Julie return to rid the world of various movie inspired monsters, armed with common household items (along with the occasional bazooka.) The game is similar to the first one in that it's an overhead shooter type, where one must navigate through the level and rescue various people before they're eaten. Rescue all the people in the level and you progress - loose all your lives or hostages and it's game over.
First thing you notice in comparison to ZAMN is that all of the sprites are slightly bigger and more detailed, with much more fluid animation. Small details look great on the characters, facial expressions, dangling eyeballs on the zombies, drool from aliens, etc. As a consequence of everytyhing being represented larger there seems to be less characters on screen at once, which along with the slower speed makes the game slightly easier than it's predecessor. While it plays just as well the reduction in speed reduces the crazy hairball action factor, just a tad. This is really nitpicking, but that's what I'm here for.
Just like in the other games you must wander around through various buildings and find weapons, powerups, and such. You can also open and search desks, cabinets, cupboards, boxes, etc. Weapons range from the nearly useless default slow firing crossbow to the improvised (plates, tomatoes, footballs, etc.) to the destructive (Bazookas, lazer guns.) Certain enemy types are vulnerable to different kinds of weapons, and thus said weapons need to be saved for those specific encounters. Problem is just like in ZAMN, you never really seem to have enough ammo to feel comfortable. I find myself relying on the cheesy crossbow most of the time unless a specific situation requires another weapon. Nothing wrong with that, but it would be cool to be able to let loose with some firepower now and then.
In addition to weapons you also need to find keys (of which thankfully there are many.) You also find various power-up type potions, some of which will increase your speed, turn you into a zombie (which slows you down considerably,) or turn you into the invincible Grim Reaper.
Just like the first game we get tons of different monsters to take down - zombies, werewolves, mummies, vampires, aliens, etc, as well as the occasional giant boss creature that takes a bazillion hits to kill. The bosses are just as cheap and hard as the first game, and my same complaint there applies here - they take up all your ammo. Yeah I know you don't want to make the game too easy, but if you have a boss that's only killed by a certain weapon you need to make sure the player gets the opportunity to get enough ammo for said weapon. You end up running out of everything and just plunging the default arrows into the thing, which even the easy bosses seem to take 400 billion hits. Just a tad frustrating there.
Unlike the first game you can do more than just run around. You have the ability to jump, which you end up using a lot in certain levels (jumping over pits and such) as well as a running slide type move that doesn't seem to have much use at all beside helping you get around faster. It's good to have options I suppose, but game design 101 says if you have an ability, there needs to be places where it's used.
Biggest drawback to the game however is that the handling of your character seems to be somewhat floaty. The first game had spot on control, here you seem to drift ever so slightly to the left and right (very noticeable when taking corners.) Not that big of a deal I suppose, but distracting enough to be noticeable.
Bottom line is anyone who liked the first game will probably like this one also as it's just essentially more of the same. The slower gameplay and slightly off controls bring it down a notch from it's predecessor but it's still worth playing for fans of the series.
Graphics: Large, well animated sprites with lots of detail. Characters have good personality, good detail in the backgrounds. Levels look comic bookish, with a good variety in the background tiles.
Sound: Lots of digitized zaps, bangs, and screams. Music is of a spooky 50's movie quality.
Control: Slightly"floaty," might cause you to run into things unintentionally, but not so bad you can't learn it.
Gameplay: The exploratory and run-and-gun elements are excellent, but the "save the neighbors" thing gets a little old, especially when you're running around trying to collect ammo and they get killed, ending your game when you have full life. Bosses are too damn hard, but any fan of the first one probably wants it that way.
Zombies ate my neighbors
Zac McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders
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