Teenage Zombies: Invasion of the Alien Brain Thingys!

Braaaaiiiinnnnsss!!!

Sorry, I couldn’t help myself. You see, I love zombies, I love zombie movies, I love zombie games, but mostly, I love killing zombies. There’s nothing better than blasting a zombie clean in the head, only for the bugger to get back up, chase you down a narrow corridor and bite a huge chunk out of your ass.

A part of me, though, has always wondered what it would be like to actually play as the living dead. The sheer thrill of hunting down a snotnosed college kid, some nerdy scientist, or the spoilt, bitchy, bratty ex-girlfriend for miles on end and then munching on brain burgers till my stomach’s content, has always left me more than a little curious. Teenage Zombies allows you to act out those sick, revolting fantasies, within the safety zones of two DS screens.

…Or so I thought. Instead, it’s just a mere teaser of what could have been, void of any presumptuousness and restricted by senseless conservatism. At best it allows you to play Devil’s Advocate, and even then it still tries to restrain you.

As the story goes, some really big-headed alien brain thingys (seriously, they’re just brains in jars) have invaded Earth and are controlling the world’s population, via their massive brains. Only the undead are safe from the alien thingys’ mind control, presumably because they have no brains, which may have solved the age-old question that has perplexed mankind for decades: why do zombies like to eat brains?

Anyhow, man’s last line of defense comes in the form of three teenage zombies, each with their own unique abilities, awoken from their slumber by the sweet, sweet smell of fresh brains. First off, there’s Lori ‘Lefty’ Lopez, an ex-basketball player who has the ability to reach high ledges. Lori is folled by Zack ‘Half Pipe’ Boyd, who, sans any legs, rolls around on a skateboard and can traverse tight, low areas. Finally, there’s Finnigan ‘Fins’ Magee, who despite being the token “fatty” of the group is an ex-swimming enthusiast and can amazingly sprout tentacles and climb walls…almost like Spiderman!

Have the zombie musketeers really awoken to aid mankind in its darkest hour? No, of course not! Some dudes were muscling in on their turf, now they got to put those cats straight, plus they get to chow down on some extra chunky, juicy, braaaaiiiinnnnsss!!! And that, I promise, is the last time I’ll do that.

Throughout your adventure, you switch between all three. The action is displayed on the top screen, while the bottom screen is used to select each protagonist from their coffins. Along the way you’ll come across some very light puzzles which require a power up to bypass, exclusive to each character. The problem is that it’s not very difficult to find each power up; often they’re right next to the puzzle that they’re needed for, which highlights a lack of imagination and ambition in the level design department. Also, at fixed points, you’ll be thrust into some stylus-only minigames, which are neither that much fun nor do they add to the gameplay experience in general.

Combat, meanwhile, is simply bashing one button over and over, until your alien tormentors are no more. When killed, they drop meat which you can eat to replenish your health, so any hopes of jumping them and stuffing your mouth with alien brains has sadly been dashed. Controls, while limited to the d-pad and face buttons only for the main game, feel alarmingly woolly and imprecise. You never quite feel as though you have a complete grip on the trio. Combine that deficiency with the aforementioned monotonous combat and poor level structure and you’ve got a game that fails to hit any of the key bases.

On the plus side is some nice, cheesy, ’50s comic-style presentation that tells the story via panels, turning your DS vertically; ‘book’ style. However, the humour is lacking and while it may raise a chuckle or two from a younger audience, overall it seems to be trying too hard to amuse, usually falling flat on its face.

There’s something, no pun intended, ‘dead’ about this game — it’s lifeless to the point of being moribund. Putting aside the drab, colourless, cheap graphics, the forgettable soundtrack, with the seemingly missing sound effects, or the poor, unimaginative, claustrophobic level design lacking in any spark of creativity or faith in the ability of the player, all that remains is what seems like a steadfast approach to not deviate from the norm.

Zombies throughout history have represented a complete breakdown in society, rules, pecking order, etc., while Teenage Zombies is so conservative to the point that it would make a Tory Party convention seem like an S&M orgy in comparison.

It’s quite bizarre to see a game which in the concept sounds incredible — playing as the dead, awakening to feed — when the ultimate experience is so the opposite. Even by today’s abysmal standards of platformers, this is lacking.

Why were we not allowed to wreak havoc on Earth’s population? Why were we given a by-the-book platformer, when on paper the idea seemed so rich in possibility? Why are zombies aiding humans? Why oh why were the developers being so PC and ‘safe’ when in reality it would have been far wiser for them to have pushed the boat a bit further? There will be plenty of why this, why that, questions you’ll ask yourself, with apparently no clear-cut answer. There is one question, though, that I’ll both ask and answer my dear chaps and chappettes: Why would you buy Teenage Zombies: Invasion Of The Alien Brain Thingys!? The answer is: you wouldn’t.

RATING 3 / 10
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