Picture the scene; you’re happily going about your business one day when suddenly a vast armada of evil alien Brain Thingys descends from the sky and rapidly proceeds to zap your friends and relatives with deadly lasers. Those they don’t fry to a crisp they turn into mindless robots via malevolent mind-control, and order them to lay waste to our green and pleasant land.
In scenarios like these you have to expect salvation to come from an unlikely source, and in Teenage Zombies: Invasion of the Brain Thingys, this is certainly the case. The evil Big Brain and his marauding hordes obviously didn’t plan on facing the restless undead, which rather handily turn out to be the ultimate weapon in humanity’s arsenal. For one, they’re resistant to brainwashing due to the fact that they’re shambling, mindless corpses, and more importantly they love eating brains. The hunter becomes the hunted, you might say.
As you might have gathered from the introduction to this review, Teenage Zombies is a fairly unique game. The plot is fantastic stuff, poking fun at comics, TV, music and other videogames. The dialogue displayed in the numerous cut scenes (which ingeniously call for you to turn the DS sideways and hold it like a book) is fresh, witty and most of all side-splittingly amusing and at several points during play we found ourselves tittering uncontrollably at the on-screen events.
At its core, Teenage Zombies is essentially a platform puzzle game. You assume control of a trio of undead heroes, each gifted with their own unique abilities. For example, Lori is able to reach tall ledges with her extending arm; Zack can use slopes as jumping ramps to access hard-to-reach parts of each stage and Finn is able to scale walls with his tentacle appendages. It’s vital that you use all of these skills in order to complete each stage; thankfully switching between each protagonist is a breeze – just tap their icon on the touchscreen.
Along the way our decomposing heroes face a wide range of brain-like enemies, ranging from the bog-standard Brain Soldier to the more imposing Brain Tank. It’s very likely that you’ll take some damage when facing off against these unusual foes but fear not – you can feast on the tasty brain-meat that is dropped whenever an enemy bites the dust, and thereby replenish the vitality of your undead avatars.
As well as the core game, Teenage Zombies contains some surprisingly addictive mini-games; although it’s not mandatory to participate in these entertaining asides, you’ll feel compelled to regardless. Many are based on famous videogame franchises; for example, one sees you using the stylus to dig holes in the same fashion as Namco’s retro classic Dig-Dug. These games merely result in additional points being added to your score but they go a long way to extending the appeal of Teenage Zombies.
Which is a good thing, because despite the quality of what InLight Entertainment has produced here, it’s not likely to keep you busy for long. It’s not a massive game and what’s more the core mechanics can get a little boring; although the abilities of the three lead characters help to maintain a degree of freshness, this dissipates after a few levels have been beaten. Combat is a little on the basic side, too – although the power-up items that are dotted throughout the landscape do offer up some engaging offensive options; sadly, they’re often few and far between.
Even with these meddlesome issues taken into account Teenage Zombies remains a thoroughly enjoyable experience. Navigating the levels is a joy and the satisfaction of successfully completing a particularly taxing section (which calls upon you to utilise all the talents of your zombie team) is considerable. It’s a shame that it couldn’t have been longer and showcased more variety but it nevertheless contains more wit and charm than the vast majority of games can muster; if you’re a fan of games with a twisted sense of humour (like Lucasarts’ Monkey Island titles, for example) then this is virtually guaranteed to bring a smile to your face.