When I was a kid the first halloween I can remember involved me and my brother dressing up as Batman and Robin and taking to the streets to get some candy. We hopped out of bushes ready to fight crime and got toothbrushes from dentists (in fairness she did give us candy in addition to the toothbrush). The overwhelming sense of the night was fun. Not terror but pure unrestrained childhood joy. All the skeletons, jack-o-lanterns, and ghosts were cartoony and frightening. Sure there was a tiny part of are brain that recognized that these were once symbols of fear but they were for us harmless. We pretended to be afraid only so much as to go along with the fun of the night.
When I think of that sort of mindset one a childhood fun and scariness being superseded by just pure fun I think of the video game Zombie’s Ate my Neighbors for the SNES. Its a game I first picked out at random from the wii shop when I was still in grade school and it quickly became a favorite.
The overwhelming aesthetic and atmosphere of the game try to emulate a sort of kids horror movie like say “Monster Squad”. This contrasts it with my other favorite spoopy SNES game Super Castlevania 4 which actually tries to build an gothic atmosphere. While Castelavania has aspirations of being serious Zombies Ate my Neighbors is incredibly goofy. For one its 90s as fuck with the male player character in particular looking totally tubular and hip.
It also maintains such a dorky “kidz rule” vibe to it I absolutely love. Everyone civilian you have to rescue is a cartoon cutout who are comically ineffectual against the zombie horde. All the adults are useless so its up to the kids to take on the zombies with there squirt guns and sodey pop.
The various enemy types are fun pastiches of movie monster villains and all work on their own rules leading to you having to devise different strategies of dealing with them. Zombies can easily be gunned down, while small Chucky-esque dolls move fast enough dropping soda behind you is the best option. The variety in design leads to some really creative moments of level design such as “Chainsaw Hedgemaze Mayhem” where one is placed in a maze with destructible walls but indestructible enemies you can also break down the walls. This leads to a careful balance of one using there most powerful weapon a Rocket Launcher as not an offensive weapon but as a method of enabling transportation.
What really ties the game together for me though is the music. It is spooky in the cheesiest way possible pulling out every “scary” chord progression in the book but it has an incredibly fun an energetic bounce to it.
The overall feel of this game to me is one which draws upon the cheesiness of our younger Halloweens. When the holiday only represented fear to us in the most superficial sense and not in an genuinely horrific way. Its fun in video game form and every once in a while I will pop it out and place it in the SNES I have (Robin gives good birthday gifts) and have an absolute blast.
So to all who are reading I hope you all have a fun night whether you be out collecting candy like my younger sister, sitting inside shitposting like my younger brother, sitting in a basement doing homework like a rube, going to a party like my older sister, or sitting outside handing out candy like my parents.