Teenage Zombies: Invasion of the Alien Brain Thingys Review

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Publisher: Ignition Entertainment
Developer: InLight Entertainment

Platform: DS
Reviewed on DS

Our planet, our sparkling blue orb, is being overrun by floating alien brains with a penchant for the melodramatic. These brain... thingys... have nearly taken over the planet, killing civilians and taking mental control over armed men who can further the brains' nefarious desires.

Unfortunately for the invaders, they disturbed a cemetery, startling into unlife three teenagers buried there. Now, these teenage zombies, immune to mind control and with a ravenous hunger for brains, are humanity's only hope. And a brain thingy nightmare.

Kyle Ackerman

Teenage Zombies: Invasion of the Alien Brain ThingysTeenage Zombies: Invasion of the Alien Brain Thingys gets a lot of points for style. Partly, that's because Teenage Zombies is a straightforward puzzle game and platformer that's all style – it's a conventional game with an amusing premise that's pulled off with incredible panache. You may have seen this type of play hundreds of times before, but Teenage Zombies brings undead teenagers to the formula in a grotesque and horrific take on the genre that is both endearing and appropriate for children and adults. If zombies sound too disturbing to you, ask yourself: Do you enjoy Tim Burton's films? If so, you'll like Teenage Zombies.

Teenage Zombies: Invasion of the Alien Brain Thingys Teenage Zombies adheres to the conventions of a platformer, but is far more of a puzzle game – each level is arranged so that you'll have to use each of the three zombies' skills (and sometimes their power-ups) to get past the aggressive alien brains and their ray guns, ultimately marching on the Big Brain himself. The platforming and combat aren't hard (the final two levels require a little skill), so this game is well suited to gamers of nearly every age and coordination level.

The whole package is presented in a comic book-style that is better executed than many games with colossal budgets have managed. Everything from the menus to the cut-scenes is presented as part of a comic book, and several power-ups are introduced as advertisements at the back of those books. Whenever such a screen occurs, you turn the DS on its side and use the DS to flip through the pages. And that's supported by lots of great touches from the coffins on the DS touchscreen that let you switch between teenage zombies at will, to the collectible health-restoring power-up that requires you to collect the body parts of a talkative zombie and then assemble them (with more parts to stitch together as the game progresses) to restore all of your unhealth.

A Motley (and Decaying) Cast of Characters

Teenage Zombies: Invasion of the Alien Brain ThingysThe zombies themselves are great – they may have been buried together, but they each come from different times and cultures, granting them a diverse set of skills. My favorite, Finnigan "Fins" Magee, was a member of the school swim team in the '50s. In the intervening years, the sea saturated his grave, and his body incorporated fins and tentacles that give him the ability to scale walls with their suckers and move, tentacle-over-tentacle, hanging from beams and ropes. Zack "Half-Pipe" Boyd is a child of the 80's who sadly never made it past the 80's. Still obsessed with skateboarding, he doesn't let the loss of the lower half of his body stop him from sliding around on his board. Lastly, Lori "Lefty" Lopez was on the basketball team for her school in the '90s. She may be missing her right arm, but her tremendous vertical leap and only partially attached left arm let her pull herself up to ledges. Each has a remarkable amount of character packed into their tiny, pixilated bodies. Fins shambles around corpulently in his old swimsuit, gas bloating his body. Half-Pipe rolls around in his hoodie, looking even more sullen now that he's dead. And Lefty doesn't let broken ankles stop her from looking unalive out there on the courts in her team attire.

Each zombie is necessary for certain tasks, and all of them need to be used to figure out how to escape every level, slowly battling back the invading alien brain thingys. Fins is an eater. He'll devour piles of garbage and rancid food, allowing him to puke corrosive vomit that can eat through grates and doors. If those piles of rancid food are spicy, he can belch fire that's good for burning alien invaders and mutant rats. He'll even eat soap if he wants to blow bubbles. Lefty likes replacements for her missing right arm. She'll happily graft umbrellas, vacuum cleaners or rivet guns to the stump and use them to defend the planet. Half-Pipe prefers to trick out his skateboard. He'll happily add truck-sized tires, tape spray-paint cans to the back for an extra boost, or use "hoverdiscs" to float into the air.

Variety is the Spice For... BRAINS!!!!!!!!

Teenage Zombies: Invasion of the Alien Brain ThingysNearly everything in the basic game works well – collision detection in combat could be a little better and Lefty didn't always grab a ledge when I thought she should, but those aren't key points in a game that requires careful thought rather than superior reflexes. I was particularly amused by the sucking sound Fins' tentacles made as he scaled walls. The sound is good, and while the game's tune gets repetitive, the music that is there is strong and the game deserves headphones so that you can enjoy the music and sound that the DS speakers can't do justice to. Teenage Zombies does rely on an autosave function &ndash you have to make it through a puzzle to continue from the beginning of the next, but puzzles change frequently, so this isn't a burden unless you are tackling the very last puzzles in the game.

Teenage Zombies doesn't restrict itself to platforming puzzles. The game breaks up the action with lots of simple mini-games that use the stylus to provide a break in the action and add to your score. These might have you snatching brains from elevators or hunting zombies, primitive-Robotron style. These events are nicely timed to break up the action (and accessible from the main menu) to keep the puzzles from becoming monotonous. The mini-games are simplistic, but forgivably so, given that they supplement the main game. There's even a "Big Brain Challenge" that becomes accessible at certain point totals that's like a short collection of microgames, bearing some resemblance to mental training-type games. Frankly, all these mini-games together are better than some microgame collections available, and they aren't even the focus of the title.

If you have the least appreciation for the amusingly macabre, give Teenage Zombies a try. Even if you aren't typically a fan of platforming action, the game will work its way under your skin until you want to play a few more levels, like a worm burrowing into a corpse. The game may be short, but it's a good laugh for nearly all ages.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on April 27, 2008 4:31 PM.

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