Recently I was flipping channels on a recent excursion to Baltimore. I came across a show on Nickelodeon called Fairly Odd Parents and was stunned at the sheer amount of adult jokes and double entendres that the show was presenting. Kids likely wouldn't get the secret jokes, making it something that both adults and kids could enjoy together, to an extent. In many ways, just like that Nickelodeon show, Teenage Zombies straddles that line between kid's entertainment, and adult themes, albeit to a lesser extent.
As far as DS games do, Teenage Zombies is quite funny. The general plot has to do with an invading army of brains annihilating humanity. Thankfully, popular culture has a weapon against attacking brains. Zombies. Teenage Zombies to be precise. Since Zombies have an insatiable appetite for brains, they make a perfect opponent for these invading brains. The writing is genuinely funny, especially in regards to the brains' overzealous leader and the underappreciated, undersized first mate.
The game features some full voice acting, with decent clarity for a DS game. The story is presented in stunningly drawn comic book style cutscenes. When the cutscenes take place, you shift the DS over to its side, and read it like an actual comic book. You even flip the pages using the stylus.
After an effective introduction, you are introduced to our heroes, Lori "Lefty" Lopez, a former basketball player with one arm, Zack "Half-Pipe" Boyd, a skater who wheels his torso along on a skateboard, and Finnigan "Finns" Magee, a chubster with flailing tentacles growing out of his back.
Each of the characters has specific attributes that force you to use all three to successfully transverse the levels. "Lefty" has a stretchable arm that can grab high ledges and can jump the highest of the three. "Half-Pipe" is the smallest and speediest, allowing him to fly off jumps and squeeze into small spaces, but a weak choice in a fight. "Finns" is the slowest and jumps like a five foot tall white man with his feet glued to the ground. He proves his worth by being able to climb walls and powerfully attack three enemies at once. It's usually very obvious which character is necessary for any given area, and one only needs to touch the screen to change characters. Each character also has specific power-ups that only that individual can use, such as air rifles, ATVs, and flaming vomit for each character respectively. You're never given much leeway with the powerups. You only acquire them when they're needed, and lose them as soon as you swap characters. It all feels unnervingly linear.
Health is regained by defeating brains and eating them alive, or by reassembling severed body parts with the touch screen, giving the game a dubious mechanic for the kiddie crowd. It's actually rather shocking this game got away with an E10 rating, considering the rather high levels of violence, dismemberment, and live feedings present.
Throughout the game, you'll explore graveyards, construction sites, malls, among others. Amusingly, you can walk and climb on comic book style text boxes as if they were solid platforms. The level design is fine, but nothing to write home about. The slow paced style of gameplay mixed with the ease of play doesn't lend itself to repeated plays, and you'll even struggle to make it through to the end credits before succumbing to boredom.
In addition to the four hour story mode, the game features a bunch of touch screen mini-games, the best of which is the Big Brain Challenge. This mode is similar to those you'll find in Brain Age or Big Brain Academy. These are games that test your reflexes or problem solving abilities. With only ten games to choose from though, this mode isn't very likely to hold your attention for very long either, and won't pull you away from your brain game of choice.
The graphics and audio are quite charming in a disgusting, gory sort of way. The game is lots of fun to look at and listen to. The art design puts an exclamation mark on the comic book motif, and is certainly above average for a DS game. The music is generic and annoying however.
Teenage Zombies is full of great ideas and concepts, all wrapped together in a charming and funny package. Unfortunately, the slow-paced gameplay, short length, and terribly linear design conspire to undermine the positive elements. It's a fun game for the pre-teen crowd, but a game destined to please no one else.