Suda51 isn’t known for subtlety, but Lollipop Chainsaw seems excessive even by his own standards. The game stars Juliet Starling, an 18-year-old cheerleader and queen bee at San Romero High. When the school is attacked by zombies, she grabs her trusty chainsaw and fights back to save her classmates. Her boyfriend Nick accompanies her, or at least he kind of does. He’s a severed head who just happens to still be alive.
In the Gamescom demo, Juliet starts out battling a group of zombies in a classroom. Her cheerleading skills are on display with every acrobatic jump, kick, and flip that she incorporates into her melee attacks. She accentuates those dazzling moves with her saw, which generates some grisly kills. It can be used in special finishing kills, which zoom in on the action to give players a nice look at what happens when a zombie is split vertically from crotch to skull, for instance.
The gruesome content is tempered by a happy, upbeat tone. Juliet wants to save the school, darn it, and she’s going to try her hardest. That optimism translates to the game visually in the way freshly killed zombies disappear in a sparkly flash, or how particularly awesome kills are rewarded with a rainbow and gold star.
Juliet fights her way through the halls and classrooms of the school, rescuing the occasional student. When she waits too long and a helpless classmate is overtaken by zombies, he’s transformed into an especially nasty specimen. Fighting a super zombie is definitely an incentive to try to save as many people as possible.
Eventually she comes upon the mid-level boss, math teacher Mr. Fitzgibbons. After yelling that there’s a math test today, the zombified teacher opens the classroom door to let a swarm of the undead join the fight. After the crowd is torn apart, Fitzgibbons dives out of the window. He resurfaces a few minutes later, wielding a desk as a shield. His methodical bashing and swings are no match for Juliet’s agile fighting style, and he’s laid flat in no time.
Next, we saw a boss battle against a punk zombie named Zed. He’s everything you’d expect to see in a stereotypical punk: red Mohawk, leather jacket, plaid pants. Judging from the spiked microphone he bears, he’s also an aspiring musician. Zed and Juliet meet up in a junkyard, where Zed says he loves dead cheerleaders.
The fight goes on in several stages, with Juliet slicing him in half at the end of each phase. Zed simply pushes his two halves back together and brags about how it doesn’t hurt him. One of Zed’s attacks is bound to ruffle a few feathers. He yells things into his microphone like “f---ing b----“ or “stupid c----,” and the letters of those words radiate away from him. Juliet has to bash them away or take damage. Eventually, Zed is killed in a spectacularly graphic fashion, and the demo is over.
Lollipop Chainsaw would seem like another game that’s only out to shock people if not for the silly tone. It’s like Peter Jackson’s Dead Alive in that regard. Juliette is a likeable heroine, and it’s nice to see that she’s more interesting than just another hot chick in a skimpy outfit. I only saw a little bit of the game, but she seems sassy and confident without falling into the easy “tough girl” trap. She kind of reminds me of Buffy.
There’s still a lot to learn about the game, including what Nick’s role is. On one screen we saw references to a “Nick Roulette,” but the devs wouldn’t elaborate on what exactly that entails. Considering that he’s just a head, I’m intrigued to learn how he can help in battle. Maybe he’s a biter?
Look for the game on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 in 2012.