Videogame sports simulations are curious enough as it is—but a golf sim? Ridiculous. It’s just a matter of pressing the same button twice or three times, after lining up your shot. Most games default to the preferred club, so it really is one of the simplest translations of a great game known to man. Gaming could never truly emulate the precision of a good game of golf, a sport beloved by cartoonists all over the land. It is to Aqua Teen Hunger Force: Zombie Ninja Pro-Am’s credit, then, that it doesn’t even try.
ATHFZMP (as indeed is the acronym) is equal parts golf and action game, with a dash of (stay with me here) kart racing. Yes, at select parts in the game you are forced to engage in some petrolhead antics with the Frat Aliens (one of whose fathers owns a dealership!). The action comes into play with the game’s major “innovation”—once you’ve teed off, you must manually walk your way over to the ball to make your next stroke. This would be an easy feat if not for the various nemeses of the Aqua Teens, all of which you will remember from the series—Carl’s genital crabs, the Mooninites, robot turkeys and Internet popups all assail you on your noble quest to play a round of the true gentleman’s sport.
Luckily, Master Shake and Frylock (for those are the playable characters) can utilise melee weapons (clubs, swords and chainsaws for Shake) or projectile weaponry (various forms of laser eyes for Frylock) to beat off the opposition and continue their quest to finish under par. Littered around the course are a variety of power-ups—from stronger weapons (the aforementioned swords and chainsaws) to “cheats” (a Meatwad decoy, a “mulligan” allowing you to retake a bad shot). Unfortunately, these combat sections suffer from extreme repetition and occasional game-breaking glitches (sometimes, the X button simply stops functioning, the only solution being a reboot). The combat feels floaty and there is no real sense of impact to your hits, with fairly weedy explosions and sound effects. Also, both Shake and Frylock’s movement speeds are inexcusably slow, making traversing the courses a bit of a slog.
There are quite a lot of commands for the different actions. The X button allows you to attack and set your angle/power when golfing, the circle button switches control from Shake to Frylock and back again, and the square button initiates a completely useless “shield” effect, which does nothing to repel enemies and thusly can only delay the inevitable. The power-ups are activated using the shoulder buttons, which is rather awkward—a menu would have been preferable. Additionally, there’s an annoying lag on the button presses, a distinct delay between input and reaction.
The golf engine is fairly solid, though occasionally you’ll get some bizarre angles when ricocheting off a solid object. The racing is pathetic, karts barely seeming to exceed 10 mph and laughably ineffective weapons of the most generic sort (missiles, turbo boost). You’re only racing through checkpoints ala the Power Cell hunt missions of Jak X anyway, so the course itself often becomes confusing. It’s often hard to gauge exactly how the computer decides who’s in first place, with both you and your opponent in utterly random positions.
Sound effects aren’t particularly impressive, but the music and voices are excellent, though they also suffer from repetition. All the correct voices are in place—and, crucially, it’s funny. The Cybernetic Ghost of Christmas Past provides hilarious commentary, frequently slipping into his familiar nonsensical rants. Meatwad provides amusing advice in his role as caddy, while the Mooninites continue with their impotent threats, Ignignot with his soothing tones, Err with his abusive screeches. It’s dead-on, with none of the disturbing sound-alikes that plagued, for example, Telltale’s recent Wallace & Gromit game. Even the hilarious Plutonians are present and correct.
Graphics are about as acceptable as you’d expect. Shake and Frylock render as cel-shaded 3D models rather well, but Meatwad looks rather off-model, as do some of the other supporting characters. Moreover, the framerate is all over the place. It’s extremely rare that it hits 60fps, occasionally slipping into single digits. It really is that bad.
Thankfully the game isn’t particularly hard—you can go over par with no punishment whatsoever, and you’re unlikely to lose all your lives in the combat sections unless you’re really crappy. Indeed, it’s this ease that makes the game tolerable—after all, almost every other aspect is so inept that if it were difficult, you just wouldn’t bother.
While the game will be over and done with fairly quickly if you stick with it, there are a host of interesting extras to keep you booting up. For a start, and most significantly, four episodes of Aqua Teen Hunger Force have been included—all of which are typically excellent and one of which is exclusive to the game (well, it was at time of release). Additionally, hunting around in the courses unlocks twelve more “cameo” clips from the series, featuring such popular one-time characters as the bleak, suicidal Happy Time Harry.
ATHFZNP is, without question, one of the worst games ever made. But this is Adult Swim—who’s to say this wasn’t intentional? Indeed, it’d be in the spirit of the network to make something intentionally bad to irritate fans. Viewed this way, the game becomes a lot more interesting. It’s worth a rent at least, even if you only watch the included episodes.