Zombies Ate My Neighbors still stands as one of the greatest co-op games of all time. It also was a glorious tribute to the campy horror films of the 50s. It came out during the time when LucasArts wasn't afraid to create some kooky games without the Star Wars or Indiana Jones licenses like Full Throttle and Grim Fandango. Everyone from the era still loves Zombies Ate My Neighbors. However, few people are aware that it actually had a sequel. Ghoul Patrol can be just as entertaining as its predecessor if you can check your expectations, but don't people have to do that for sequels anyway?
Once again players take control of Zeke and Julie. Here they are battling an undead army spawned from a horror exhibit coming to life. The plot is barebones, and I forgot about it almost instantly. That wouldn't be such a big deal since the plot of Zombies Ate My Neighbors was extremely weak, too. However, unlike the prior game which openly embraced the 50s horror camp giving it a distinct flavor, Ghoul Patrol dramatically dialed back the campiness. It's still there but not as overtly as the first game. This made Ghoul Patrol feel less like a sequel to Zombies Ate My Neighbors and more like any other co-op shooter of the era.
Fortunately, the game does play better that the first game. I always had a problem with how weak the weapons felt in the first game; they felt like they lacked any real punch. I also got annoyed with how difficult it was to find the survivors that needed to be rescued to finish a level. Both of those issues were fixed in the sequel. The default weapons are more powerful, and the power-ups are more plentiful. Good thing, too, since there is a wider variety of enemies in the sequel. The survivors are also easier to find since speech bubbles pop in to provide basic directions without making it too easy. While these fixes make the game play better, they also make the game play a little too quickly. Ghoul Patrol can be finished in about half the time it takes to complete Zombies Ate My Neighbors despite having close to the same number of stages.
Aesthetics provide a double-edged sword. The visuals are more detailed with improved effects, and the soundtrack is more elaborate and more befitting of a horror movie. However, these enhancements come at the cost of the campy vibe that made the original so memorable. It truly feels like another case of "less is more".
Ghoul Patrol is a game that provides a real conundrum. On the one hand, it looks and plays better than Zombies Ate My Neighbors. On the other, it lost most of the personality of its predecessor. It is still an enjoyable game to pull out for Halloween, but it also proves that some things can be taken too seriously.