Teenage Zombie: Invasion of the Alien Brain Thingys! DS Review

Zombies, I love zombies, thank you George A. Romero for making them so loveable. They’re normally a good laugh, particularly in games. You get to shoot them in the head, it’s gory, scary, sometimes even funny. On the flip side, the poor zombies don’t really have such a good time and anyone trying to say different is poorly mistaken. Teenage Zombies: “Invasion of the Alien Brain Thingys!” not only proves this theory but seals the coffin with a billion nails, soaks said coffin in concrete and buries it on Mars. Moral of the story, being a zombie sucks, full stop.

Ok, sure, these are no ordinary zombies. In true 50’s B-movie style, Earth has had its ass kicked by an invasion of brain thingys. The humans have been conquered easily due to powerful mind control; however the Big Brain didn’t do his risk analysis fully. Three teenage zombies have risen from their grave, the scent of pulpy brains giving way to their usual hunger for our skulls. Fair enough, sounds like a great laugh? The unlikely heroes Fins, Lefty and Half-Pipe set off to devour the Big Brain slurping on his brain horde army all the way, and I mean A LOT of brains. You must gobble through hundreds of brains throughout this game, not that it’s gory. The game has a bright colour pallet and the graphic styling is cute, with more than a passing nod towards Invader Zim. So yeah, it looks pretty good and the graphic novel sequences between stages are well done; you have to flip the DS round into portrait mode to view them which is a nice touch. However, I’m afraid no other praise is forthcoming.

When I first heard about this title, I instantly thought of Blizzards The Lost Vikings released back in 1992. “Oh yes!” I exclaimed, “side-scrolling puzzle, platform goodness will be mine, and with zombies too!” You see the thing that made Lost Vikings so addictive and fun to play was because of its simplicity. You had 3 Vikings, each with different abilities which you could switch between at will. The core of the game was using the individual abilities and their combinations to solve puzzles and progress. Now, Teenage Zombies does this as well, to an extent, but gets it all wrong. Instead of the three zombies being persistent throughout play, you literally switch between the zombies, meaning you only have one in play at any given moment. Sure this simplifies the game even further and I am aware that I’m not exactly the target audience for this title, but come on! This game mechanic throws out any challenge to the “puzzles” along with any hope of interesting gameplay. All that is left are the power-ups, which are another big pile of rotten brains if ever I saw one. The unlimited power-ups specific to each of the zombies: fire puke, a vacuum cleaner, and HUGE skateboard wheels etc need to be collected to pass certain obstacles encountered in the each level. The irony in this is that you have to have the suited zombie in play to pick up the power-up. Why, oh why is this necessary? I can switch zombies at any time so where is the fun in switching to the right zombie every time for each power-up? Not only this, but the power-ups are almost always placed right next to the hazard. This is not puzzle solving, it’s dull, repetitive, and in some instances just extra leg work.

So far, not looking good but the game still has the platforming element to make up for it…..oh no, it doesn’t. As you can change zombies at any time, clambering around the levels is a dull past time with both Fins (he can climb up walls) and Lefty (she can jump pretty high, and extend her reach) doing pretty much all the work. Half-Pipe can fling himself off ramps and such like and slip down narrow tunnels, but he’s pretty useless otherwise. Sure, these guys are zombies so I’m not expecting acrobatics but the ropy platforming makes the game feel really rough around the edges. The only fun to be had while navigating the dull, repetitive levels is bashing brain thingys and eating, well, their brains. Not that killing them is satisfying but it’s the most enjoyable bit of an otherwise uninspiring package. Puking fire on a horde of rats and watching them run about on fire wasting brain thingys is amusing granted, that is if you don’t experience slow down. Yes, this game is plagued with hideous frame rate issues throughout, particularly when using said puke, and most of Chapter 19. Yet another dirty blood stain to add to the now brown review page.

This slow down kills most of the fun that can be had in the mini-games too. In particular the zombie assembling which is effectively your extra life, the game comes to a grinding halt. It seems that the physics interactions between objects robs the game of its performance as you frantically try to stick the zombie together. Often it won’t register the connection between body parts as your time runs out leaving you in the middle of a horde of bad guys with zippo health. Very, very annoying as it’s then restart level time. The other mini-games fair a bit better but it’s all been seen before in The New Super Mario Bros and doesn’t alter the outcome of the game other than your score. The Big Brain challenge, a separate mini-gun convoluted from Warioware style gameplay is equally poor. It feels very much like the usual story with DS games; tack on some touch screen bits, because we can.

The sounds effects and music fit with the style of the game with the crunch of breaking brain thingy and brain munching being spot on, but the music is incredibly annoying. I had to switch it off after the first hour or so of play, it was just too much. Particularly once you notice that there are only 3 or 4 different tracks throughout the whole game, and it makes no attempts to hide this by endlessly repeating them to you until you GO INSANE!

Teenage Zombies feels like a beta game. The game mechanics have not been well thought out and the bugs are crawling all over its carrion smelling corpse. It’s clear that the focus has been on presentation over content and the game really suffers for it. Thankfully it is a short game and took me only 4 or 5 hours to complete. However, I did it on hard so there is certainly no replay value in the main part of the game. The mini-games and such like are unlocked for your enjoyment, but why you’d want to waste anymore time fiddling around with the hideous things is beyond me. The other thing that really got up my nose was that despite the game’s heavy focus on tongue and cheek 50’s B-movie humour, it just never came across as funny. Not only that but it is quite possibly the holder of one of the worst game endings in the history of gaming, both the boss and end sequence, what a pile of rubbish. I can not recommend this title to anyone other than sadists and masochists with a love for shiny graphics over fun. Avoid this one like a zombie plague, you’ve been warned. Just be thankful that I exposed myself to save you………hopefully I’ve not been infected………..oh noes! The teenage zombies have entered my brainquarters! Urrrrggghhh…..BRAAAAAAIIINNNSSS!!!!!!!!!!!