At little more than 2 1/2 hours, Zero Lives Remaining is a fun, punchy listen chock full of B-movie horror thrills.
Adam Cesare’s latest plays with the haunted house trope, placing a group of teenagers in an arcade where a ghost haunts the video game cabinets and everyone’s lives are in danger. The ghost in the machine runs rampant along the arcade’s electrical wiring, snaring its victims in ectoplasmic tendrils and dispatching the trapped teens one by one. Given its short run-time, the focus here is on the action with the characters only subtly shaded in but not deeply enough to get too attached to. There’s the teenage gaming queen, the schoolyard bully who isn’t quite sure how to express his affection for her, the arcade’s maintenance man who suffered a stroke that ended his gaming hobby but whose work allows him to still feel connected, and a handful of others that serve largely as bloody fodder.
There’s a fun superficiality to the nostalgia-driven proceedings (Centipede and Ms. Pac-Man get plenty of shout-outs), but I never felt terribly connected to the cast even as many of them met their gruesome fates in varied and interesting ways. The creators of Mortal Kombat may want to get Cesare on the line for “fatality” suggestions, as he presents some strong finishing moves against his beleaguered teens. I may never look at a claw arcade game quite the same way again.
Joe Hempel’s narration is solid, and he gives his character voices are distinct enough to help separate dialogue during all the calamity. He has a straight-forward, somewhat airy, presentation style that brings a sense of fun and whimsy to the listening experience, and the production quality is perfect.
Ultimately, Zero Lives Remaining is an enjoyable way to kill a couple hours if you’re in the mood for bloody mayhem set against the intriguing background of a video game arcade palace.
(Note: Audiobook was provided for review by the narrator.)