Grasshopper Manufacture has always been known for its quirky and abstract games.
Whether it's the assassin-based adventures of Killer 7 and No More Heroes or the crying baby head locks of Shadow of the Damned, the developer has always been a left-field player. Lollipop Chainsaw plays to this quirkiness and brings humour and zombies together for a game that oozes hack and slash adventure.
Juliet Starling is the heroine of the game, a high school cheerleader who has a higher calling than waving pom-poms in the air and yelling “Go San Remo Knights!”. After a zombie outbreak, Juliet gathers her family and her boyfriend, who she decapitated due to a zombie bite, to battle hordes of the undead.
The demonstration featured the 5th level, which is roughly half way through the game. Juliet starts the scene with her father, her older sister Cordelia and her younger sister Rosalind. Together they map out a plan on how to get across town. Juliet must make her way up a path to meet her family. The level concludes with a boss fight that follows a standard formula: look for a flaw or weakness and hammering away at it. The boss then changes form so a new flaw needs to be discovered.
All the control staples are to be found here. The four face buttons are mapped to a jump and three attack commands. One attack is the typical chainsaw swing, another is a low swipe, and the last is a cheerleader-like move that usually involves pom-poms and a cartwheel flip. All attacks can be used in a combo to execute special moves.
The combos are all unlockable through earning coins in the game and the coins are earned through kills. It’s left to the player to choose which combos to learn first. There are some that make sense to purchase early, due to their low cost and practical use, then there are moves such as the butt charge. Simply put, Juliet charges up her rear end and uses it to attack her undead foes.
Juliet also has a super bar that slowly fills up, and once charged can be launched with the R trigger. Once in super mode most enemies are one-hit kills and the screen fills up with a flurry of hologram rainbow patterns.
There are items aplenty in Lollipop Chainsaw. Bullets can be frequently found throughout a level as Juliet’s chainsaw has a built in gun for long distance attacks. The gun is also useful against certain enemy archetypes. In our demonstration, we came upon zombies grooving to undead DJs playing music. While in their groove Juliet’s chainsaw swipes are too slow to hit the zombies so pressing down on the L trigger, aiming and shooting proves the best method to clearing this unholy dancefloor. When multiple zombies are shot with one bullet Juliet strikes a fancy pose and the player is rewarded with bonus points for the multi-hit kill.
Health items are lollipops, which can be stored and used when needed most. At this stage of the game a single lollipop regenerates half the health bar and can be easily used with the flick of the D-pad.
Juliet encounters different undead through the level, all requiring different manoeuvres or weapon types to destroy. The typical zombie can be taken down with a few swings of the chainsaw whereas some zombies need a bit more work. For example, there are some policemen of the undead kind that hold batons that they attack with. Visibly, their batons start flashing red, which indicates it’s time to get out of dodge before coming back in for a few more attacks.
All good and well, but the true standout feature in Lollipop Chainsaw is the music, composed punk-rock tunes. Jimmy Urine, vocalist of the American band Mindless Self Indulgence, has composed the music for each boss fight. Other music will be instantly recognisable to everyone, such as the timeless classic Lollipop by The Chordettes. A remixed version of this song can be heard when buying new moves and items in the game’s store. Every now and then the infamous Hey Mickey cheerleader anthem by Toni Basil can be heard during gameplay. There’s nothing quite like these classics to bring a game some vibrancy or upbeat energy.
Lollipop Chainsaw has no competition. No other game really pits a cheerleader against hordes of the undead with punk-rock style humour. The gameplay is interesting and engaging, and the brief time spent exploring Suda 51’s latest bizarre creation only fuels a craving for more.
Lollipop Chainsaw is due out on the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 on 14th June 2012.