You know that old saying that “What you see is what you get.” Well, this couldn’t hold truer for publisher Midway and developer Creat Studios tie-in game based on the popular Adult Swim show, Aqua Teen Hunger Force. As the back of the box declares, “KILL! GOLF! RACE!” ATHF Zombie Ninja Pro-Am wears its intentions on its sleeve.
If you aren’t already a fan of the show, then this game is going to make very little sense. Heck, I am a fan of the show and this game still doesn’t make very much sense. For those of you out there unfamiliar with the whole shtick, Aqua Teen Hunger Force is an animated show about carton of French fries, a milkshake, and a wad of meat who live in Jersey next to Carl, their neighbor who also happens to be a deadbeat pervert. Each show features the trio and something happening to them, usually with hilarious results. There was the time when Carl found out that his house was built on an Indian burial ground, tried to sell it, and about gave up until rocker Danzig came along. The humor is irreverent and silly, the animation kind of poor, and the schlocky feel of things completely intentional. It’s really one of those “the joke’s on you!” kind of shows. You either get it or you don’t.
So with that in mind you might be able to guess what I was expecting, or rather not expecting, when I started this up for the first time. The game starts with a cinematic of the three friends at their house, right after the mail has come. Frylock, the carton of fries, has applied to an upscale golf course on the South Jersey shore and has received a letter telling him he got accepted. In typical fashion Master Shake, the milkshake, is jealous and wants in too. After some arguing Frylock agrees to take Shake along with him after getting some practice in the backyard.
This is where the first stage, the tutorial, starts and sets the tone for the rest of the game. Taking control of Shake, Frylock instructs you on the basic golf mechanics the game employs, which consists of walking up to the ball with club in hand, activating a swing meter, and timing the next button press just right to launch the ball into Carl’s window. After hitting the ball close to the hole, or in this case Carl’s swimming pool, you switch to your putter and repeat the process again. It’s about as simple as a golf game can get, really. Frylock says it best during a moment of random dialogue, “Simple, isn’t it? Well, get used to it because the whole game’s like this.” After stealing Carl’s car the gang makes their way to the golf course, where more zaniness ensues.
Apparently South Jersey is so polluted that monsters spawn out of the ground between golf swings. All of them have been featured on the show at some point, from Carl’s crabs to evil talking trees to a floating omniscient cube. During these portions you control either Shake or Frylock, switching between the two at a button press, and dispatch the enemies on your way to wherever you knocked the ball. Enemies attack in swarms and you can either button mash your way through as Shake, beating them with the golf club or any number of items you can find lying around the environment, or you can use Frylock’s magic powers to shoot energy orbs or bolts of lightning from a distance. You rack up points for defeating enemies which also add up with how well you did on the course, though coming in under par nets you more points it’s not necessary to move on to the next stage. At the end of each stage, barring the racing stages, after completing the hole you fight a boss. In stage two the boss is Carl, who is pissed at you for stealing his car in the tutorial stage as well as knocking out all his windows with golf balls. Other times the boss is an environmental hazard you must account for in order to make the final shot.
Eventually you will have to race a simple course in the golf cart against another party. Here the game becomes as simple and basic a kart racer as can get, with checkpoints set up around the level that you need to hit in a certain order while staying in first place. There are boost items you can drive into that give you a quick speed boost, and a rocket launcher pick up you can use once to knock the other cart off course for a moment. After a few levels at the South Jersey course the trio find themselves on the moon, where things just get weirder as they continue their game of golf.
Since the creators of the show were involved in doing all the writing for the game it certainly doesn’t disappoint on that front. Any fan looking for an interactive ATHF experience need look no further, as the game is quite funny in just about every aspect. The cinematics are done in-game, but the style of the show is still retained well enough, and the dialogue the characters spout off during can be laugh-out-loud funny at times. There are various little things to collect as well, from weapons that Shake can use against enemies to a Broodwich hidden in each level – the latter a reference to one of the shows in which the gang encountered a sandwich possessed by Satan. Collecting all the Broodwiches unlocks a special mingame you can access in the start menu.
Other extras include four episodes of the show, one of which never aired. These are nice and work as a good introduction to anyone who may have purchased the game unaware of what they were getting themselves into. The presentation has nice little touches throughout, from the way the startup menu looks to the 8-bit inspired artwork you see during loading screens; it all really manages to somehow come together to feel like a cohesive package.
Overall: 7/10Despite the gameplay not being anything special or even interesting, the writing is what makes it all come together and any hardcore Aqua Teen fan would be doing themselves a disservice to not at least check the game out on rental. The main problem here is that this is a game made for a certain subset of people, and anyone not familiar with the material is just going to end up scratching their head in confusion. As a golf game/kart racer/button masher action game each individual portion falls flat on its own, but as an extension of an already established show and universe of characters, it gets the job done nicely and then some.