Midway ’07 Holiday Event: Aqua Teen Hunger Force: Zombie Ninja Pro-Am

I tip my invisible hat to Dave Willis and Matt Maiellaro, creators of Aqua Teen Hunger Force. They took the simple concept of crime-fighting fast food and turned it into a successful cartoon that helped define Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim programming. In turn, it spawned into asuccessful franchise that resulted in a feature film, a line of toys, and a hilarious late-night stoner activity. Now, Willis and Maillaro can add the world of videogames to that list, with Midway’s upcoming PlayStation 2 title, Aqua Teen Hunger Force: Zombie Ninja Pro-Am.

Imagine the pitch meeting for this one: Willis and Maiellaro suggest, in a deadpan manner, that the Aqua Teen game contain the following elements — golf, combat, and golf kart racing. Also, they’d like to call it Zombie Ninja Pro-Am, despite the lack of zombies and ninjas. Wrought with confusion, Midway execs fumble through ways to tell the two they’re bats**t crazy, but accidentally end upgreenlighting the project, which leads to a flurry of pink slips and subsequent alcohol problems.

The end result is a game that simultaneously challenges the likes of Tiger Woods, Mario Kart, and Final Fight for their respective genre crowns. Or, it’s just a silly, digital diversion for fans of the series. I guess that all depends on how much absinthe you’ve been drinking …

When Frylock (the team’s fearless leader, and saltiest member) gets accepted to South Jersey’s most prestigious golf club, Master Shake (who should steer clear of lactose intolerant women) is enraged with jealousy. One thing leads to another (who cares how this really happens?), and they end up golfing, with Meadwad as their caddy. Who is going to argue with a solid narrative like this?

The game begins with a golf tutorial, which has Master Shake smashing their overweight, porn-addicted neighbor Carl’s home windows. There’s nothing surprising here with the golf portion of the game; gameplay is typical of other golfing titles, like Hot Shots Golf or Mario Golf. Tapping “X” twice will set the power of your swing, with the third tap predicting the shot’s accuracy. Like a TV dinner, this formula is pretty hard to screw up, and Zombie Ninja Pro-Am manages to get it right enough.
The game is broken up into a number of stages or courses (there are more than two, but less than four hundred), each with its own theme and cast of characters from the television show. The game’s first course, for example, is a typical golf course with greens, sand traps, and Carl’s porno magazines strewn about. Oh, did I mention the killer crabs? Yup, between swings, I had to contend with mutant crabs, which is where the combat portion of the game comes into play.

While hopping (as Shake) or floating (as Frylock) to where the ball landed, the game switches into combat mode. Enemies can be attacked by Master Shake, who uses a variety of weapons (golf clubs, a guitar, a sword), or by Frylock , who uses his eyes to target enemies with projectiles. Much like the golfing aspect of the game, the combat is derivative and nothing to write home about. Simply mashing the buttons to attack enemies will get you from one area to the next. My time with the game’s first area ended in a battle with Carl, who shielded himself with a garbage can lid, while attacking me with a baseball bat. The combat was repetitive and a bit shallow, but as a fan, you’ll be interested in pushing on to see just what’s going to happen next.

And there’s plenty for fans to see, from kart races against the Frat Aliens to the pixelated antics of the Mooninites, this game is truly for those who love the show. If color commentary by the Cybernetic Ghost doesn’t mean anything to you, then you’ll want to pass on this one. But for fans, Midway and developerCreat Studios are packing the DVD with plenty of content beyond the game, like full ATHF shows, including one never-before-seen episode that you can’t get anywhere else. During loading screens, the game also features some of the best 8-bit drawings of the Aqua Teen cast that you’ll ever see, and this will be the only place you’ll get to hear the official 8-bit rendition of the show’s theme song.

This November, for $29.99, you shouldn’t expect a groundbreaking hardcore golf or racing simulator. If you want the crab-bashing simulator to end all crab-bashing simulators, then you need to check into the nearest clinic and get yourself some help. But if you’re looking for a silly, late-night game to play with your friends over a few, uh, cups of coffee,  then smashing rotten jack-o-lanterns or Aqua Teen Hunger Force: Zombie Ninja should do the trick.

Nick Chester