Just because a game seemingly aims to be bad on purpose doesn't make it any less of a bad game.
- Some amusing gags here and there
- Great voice acting from the show's cast
- A bunch of episodes and clips available on the game disc.
- The golfing is bad
- The racing is worse
- The combat is abysmal
- Crummy-looking graphics
- Extremely (and also mercifully) short.
Aqua Teen Hunger Force Zombie Ninja Pro-Am is a bad game, and it knows it. Much the way that the Adult Swim TV series and recent film starring the kinda sorta not really crime fighting foodstuffs has leaned heavily on apathy toward comedy in place of actual comedy, Zombie Ninja Pro-Am digs so deeply into a hole of apathy toward its chosen form of entertainment that it could practically build an apathy bunker and survive an effort apocalypse. This feels like less a game and more like some kind of snarky in-joke; one that screams, "Look at how bad this game is, isn't that hilarious?" It's also a snarky in-joke that costs $30 to experience. If you actually pay for this dreck, the joke is officially on you.
As the story goes, Frylock gets accepted to a local golf course, Master Shake is pissed off about it for some reason, local neighbor and car-customization enthusiast Carl gets beaten repeatedly with a golf club, other wacky antics ensue, and so on and so forth. The setup for the game has about as much thought and coherency as any recent episode of the show, though the problem is that whereas the show is usually about 11 minutes, this is stretched out over a few hours. This may not be much time in gameplay terms, but it's an eternity for anyone forced to suffer through all the recycled gags from previous episodes of the show, the insane amount of line repetition, and some of the newer gags that are stretched paper-thin. Still, there are moments where the writing shines through. A few of the classic character cameos are amusing, especially the color commentary from the Cybernetic Ghost of Christmas Past, who is accompanied by ESPN's Scott Van Pelt in a rather bizarre and kind of awesome cameo. The banter between these two is probably the best thing in the entire game, though maybe that isn't saying an awful lot.
Zombie Ninja Pro-Am's game design feels like three completely awful pieces of totally disparate games fell off the back of a gameplay garbage truck, and some psychotic video game junk artist welded them together. Firstly, there's the golf game. Each level is set up on some fashion of a golf course, and your goal is to play a round of golf, albeit an insane one. This is New Jersey, after all, so expect to see a lot of garbage, human waste, genetically mutated crabs, alien spaceship debris, and walking/talking trees everywhere. The actual golfing is pathetically simple and not really much fun. You get a few club choices, including two irons, a wood, a wedge, and a putter. Sometimes obstacles get in your way, causing you to have to work around them or even use them to your advantage. For instance, in one recycled gag from the show, you'll encounter the inept Plutonians and their crashed ship, which has tossed several "fargates" around the level. You have to hit the ball into these fargates to get to the green. This isn't a terrible idea, but the game does a really bad job of setting up what these mechanics even do. At least the basic swinging mechanics work OK, with multiple button presses to set power and accuracy on a simple looking meter, though the ball does have a tendency to bounce in a severely unpredictable fashion, making any sort of shot planning beyond "Hit the ball far!" an exercise in futility.
Would you believe the golf portion of the game is the least offensive? You will when you experience the combat. In between each shot, you have to run down the course toward wherever your ball landed, then slews of enemies will start spawning and run straight at you. You can fight as either Master Shake or Frylock, but neither is a good option. Master Shake simply swings one of his clubs at anything nearby, while Frylock fires eye-lasers in a rather haphazard fashion. The most pathetic thing about the combat is that you can hardly ever tell if you're actually hitting something. You're supposed to be able to charge up your attacks to do more damage, but when you can't actually get proper feedback on whether your attacks are registering, you're usually just better off hammering on the attack button and hoping for the best. The best, in this case, is that you die quickly and can simply quit the game. If you are unlucky and continue to survive, you can pick up a few power-up weapons, though these are just as awkward to use as the normal attacks. Eventually, the game starts simultaneously tossing so many living trees, crabs, brownie monsters, wrench-shaped aliens, mooninites, and whatever else at you that you'll probably just give up and accept the cold embrace of death. Trust us, it's sweeter than the alternative.
Lastly, the game tosses in a few race missions against the frat aliens. This isn't a bad character cameo, but the races themselves are achingly boring. Predictably, you race in golf carts, and the races are so chock full of sluggishly paced racing action that you're liable to doze off in the middle of the proceedings. You get a couple of different power-ups as you go, but they rarely make much difference considering that the frat aliens can apparently catch up to you at will. No race ever ends without a close finish, but usually, the frat aliens get just the exact weapon they need to screw you over right before the end. Not fun.
Presentation doesn't do much to impress either. The game does at least deserve credit for getting all the actors from the show onboard and turning in good performances from all of them, but the less-than-exceptional writing in a number of spots, as well as the game's penchant for having characters scream out the same one or two lines on constant basis, kills some of the quality of the voice work. There's barely a soundtrack save for a few licensed songs that pop up at random spots, and all the sound effects are bargain-basement quality stuff. The real puzzler here is the graphics, which are seriously ugly. It's not even so much that the developers took the 2D show 3D, but the way they did it gives all the characters and animations this really strange, stiff, off-kilter look. Environments are pretty hideous as well, and the camera isn't good for much except for hiding enemies that are attacking you from behind.
If Zombie Ninja Pro-Am has any one particularly compelling feature, it's its extras list, which includes multiple episodes and clips of the show, including one exclusive episode. It also includes an interview with the creators of the show, which really hammers home exactly how little of a crap they seemed to have given about the making of this game. While the sort of metahumor of making a game as bad as possible isn't entirely lost on us, it doesn't excuse Zombie Ninja Pro-Am's inherent lousiness one bit. Just recently, The Simpsons Game did something similar, riffing on hackneyed gameplay conventions while playing out those same exact conventions throughout the course of the game. The difference there was that the core gameplay in The Simpsons Game was at least decent, if unspectacular. Zombie Ninja Pro-Am is aggressive in its awfulness, practically daring you to suffer through it if you want to get the joke. Too bad the joke isn't that funny.