Developer: Creat Studios
N Amer - 11/05/2007
Aqua Teen Hunger Force Zombie Ninja Pro-Am Review
Let’s get one thing clear,
right up front: I am a huge Aqua Teen fan. I own all the DVD box sets,
I’ve seen every episode plenty of times, and I quote the show constantly.
As such, I really wanted Aqua Teen Hunger Force: Zombie Ninja Pro-Am to be a
great game. Yet while it certainly crams more fan service onto a PS2 disc
than I would have thought possible, it is my sad duty to relate that, as a game,
it fails miserably.
The story could have been taken straight from some lost episode: Frylock has been accepted at Jersey Pines, “South Jersey’s most prestigious and exclusive public golf course”. Shake gets angry that he wasn’t accepted (despite not having applied, let alone having any interest in golf—he doesn’t even know how to play), and becomes determined to get accepted. As with most of Shake’s plans, this pretense is quickly abandoned as merely an excuse to cause some destruction and get on Frylock’s nerves. The game’s script was written by Dave Willis and Matt Maiellaro, the creators of the series, and the writing is on par with the series’ greatest episodes. Unfortunately, what works brilliantly as an eleven-minute cartoon doesn’t really hold up in this extended format. Don’t get me wrong—the individual jokes are still hilarious, but as the situation spirals to new heights (depths?) of absurdity, the story loses that focused, attention-deficit genius that makes the show work (it’s the same problem that ruined the Aqua Teen movie).
As the game progresses, it becomes less about Shake’s golf-based quest and more of platform in which to bring back virtually every character, object, and situation ever featured on the show. From the obvious (Carl, MC Pee Pants, and the Gorgotron are all featured as bosses, while the Mooninites and Turkatron make frequent appearances) to the obscure (your health is restored by eating Enchiladitos, and in the moon stage, you can see the crashed remains of the wooden rocket) to the just plain awesome (one entire stage is set in Meatwad’s fantasy world, complete with rainbow bridges, candy trees, and Tulip Snipers all over the place), Aqua Teen fans can rest assured that every element of this game, no matter how small, is a lovingly-delivered in-joke.
As far as I can tell, there are at least five in-jokes in this screenshot alone.
When you strip away the fan service, though, what are you left with? Answer: a poorly designed golf/action hybrid, with a side of crappy cart racer. When Shake steps up to the tee, the game resembles a shoddy Hot Shots Golf rip-off, complete with the requisite power/accuracy meter. Actually, with only four clubs to choose from (five, if you count Shake’s sword), the golf segments are even more simplified than Hot Shots. It’s exceedingly difficult to simply line up your shot, and since you have virtually no control over the camera, it’s pretty much impossible to figure out where your ball is going to land.
It’s in between strokes, as you hoof it across the green to reach your ball that the game’s combat sequences begin. The combat system is painfully simple; as each character has only one attack (melee attacks for Shake, ranged eye-lasers for Frylock), fights get old about halfway through the first level. Each level throws twenty or thirty enemies between you and the ball every time you need to hit it, so you’ve got to jam on the attack button for upwards of five minutes in between strokes. While the boss fights try to inject a little old-school, pattern-based flavor into the proceedings, they too suffer from a simple, repetitive construction.
Meanwhile, every few levels you’ll be challenged to a golf cart race by the Frat Aliens. These levels play like every cart racer you’ve ever played, only much worse. From the two simple power-ups available (a bazooka and a turbo boost) to the top-heavy golf cart physics that send your ride tumbling at the slightest provocation, the cart races (like the other two gameplay styles) suffer from poor controls, repetitive, simplistic gameplay, and faulty design.
Did I mention that it’s impossible to aim your attacks during combat?
When the show in question is the unambitious, visually simple Aqua Teen Hunger Force, it’s a sad thing to have to say that the show looks much better than the game. Low-polygon, glitchy, and unattractive are just a few of the terms I would use to describe the game’s characters, and the environments they inhabit are composed of a few blocky shapes covered in low-detail textures. While a few stages are somewhat creative graphically (the aforementioned Meatwad Fantasy level comes to mind), most are bland, desolate stretches of ugly land. At least the developers did a good job with the audio end of things, with all the show’s original actors reprising their roles here, and plenty of old-school rap from Schoolly-D. Even the audio has its problems, though; the voice clips can get repetitive, and parts of the game are strangely silent.
Outside of the game proper, players can dig into a variety of bonus materials, including video clips of the vocal recording sessions, interviews with the creators, and even full episodes of the show (one of which, “Robots Everywhere”, has never been released before). There’s also the option for multiplayer, but it consists of merely a straight round of golf, and really, why would you wish that on your friends?
Despite all its flaws, fans of the show can probably get some entertainment out of Zombie Ninja Pro-Am, if only for the cut-scenes and rampant fan service—I know I did. Anyone who’s not a fan has no reason to play this (and probably has no interest to, anyway). Unless you’re willing to sit through level after level of ugly, repetitive, poorly designed gameplay just to see Shake using the Foreigner Belt to freeze some Brownie Monsters, steer far clear of this one.
Each of the three modes of gameplay is bad in its own special way, but each sports broken controls, repetitive action, and poor design.
While there are some decent-looking elements here (the Mooninites look flawless, for obvious reasons), for the most part, you’re looking at simplistic cel-shaded characters on bland, blocky environments.
All the show’s actors are here, and none of them phoned it in. The game’s music fits the tone of the show; however, some areas are strangely silent.
The game’s not long (about 4 hours from start to finish), and outside of a few frustrating boss fights, there’s nothing all that challenging here.
The idea of a golf/action/racing game is just the sort of absurdity that Aqua Teen is known for. While the execution leaves much to be desired, in theory, it’s ridiculously brilliant (or brilliantly ridiculous, either way).
Multiplayer mode removes the very things that make the game even semi-enjoyable (the voice clips, cutscenes, and show references) in favor of a bare-bones round of golf. It’s even worse than the single player.
Fans might be able to eke some pleasure from this game despite the overwhelming flaws. Anyone else likely won’t be able to see past the repetitive, irritating gameplay, frustrating camera, and broken controls.