Cheerleaders, Zombies, Chainsaws!
Lollipop Chainsaw is the latest game from Suda 51, the man who brought us such cult classic hits as Killer7 and No More Heroes. Suda 51 is known for quirky characters, bizarre plots, and an obsession with action-based gameplay. Lollipop Chainsaw follows this tradition, telling the story of a cheerleader who is attempting to survive a zombie apocalypse with nothing besides her pom poms, a chainsaw sword, and the still-living severed head of her boyfriend hanging off of her skirt.
I got a chance to sit down with the game in the official Lollipop Chainsaw zombie bus this year at PAX East. On the surface, it’s a pretty straightforward action game. You have three attack buttons to choose from. One button does slow weapon attacks, another does fast weapon attacks, and a final button does physical attacks. Physical attacks are all cheerleading-style martial arts, and while they do next to no damage, they hit much faster than any of your weapon attacks. So the normal flow of the game ends up being a bit like this: Use a physical attack, combo into a weapon attack, decapitate some zombies! Normal attacks eventually stun zombies, allowing you to decapitate them in one hit from your weapon. So it’s actually far more effective to use more normal attacks than anything else.
The rest of the controls are your basic action game fare. You can jump, block, and used range weapons, though you won’t do any of these things much. You can also lock on. Killing zombies builds a meter that allows you to unleash more powerful attacks, and killing multiple zombies at once allows you to play zombie slots which increases your power and your rewards for zombie killing.
Speaking of rewards, any time you kill a zombie, the zombie will drop cash. You can then use this cash to unlock new combos and weapons. The game is very combo-centric. Certain enemies will block all of your attacks unless you use the correct combo. Unfortunately, this isn’t readily apparent when you just jump into the game. As a result, the game feels pretty button mashy. In fact, the enemies never really posed that much of a threat, and so more often than not I just swung my chainsaw around recklessly in the hopes that the hordes of undead surrounding me would fall down in bits.
The game sort of feels like a cross between Dynasty Warriors and God of War. The zombies come at you in droves and are quite fragile. Your basic goal is to kill them all in every area you enter. Sometimes you’ll have to kill zombies quickly enough to save a survivor, but other times you will be given special tools to aid in your zombie-killing spree. For example, at once point you are tasked with killing zombies on a farm. You eventually get to ride a gigantic grain thresher, mowing down gigantic crowds of zombies as you go. It’s cathartic and gruesome and has Suda 51 written all over it.
Unfortunately, that was about all that gameplay that we were able to experience. The booth rep assured us that many more extras were being developed, and that the game will expand quite a bit in the coming months. Certain things the design team is possibly looking into involve extra costumes, branching story paths (depending on which objectives you complete and which people you save), brand new weapons and cinematic events, and more. You’ll have to contend with out-of-control school busses, hippie zombies, old shadows from the main character’s past, and bad hair days.
If there’s a reason to play Lollipop Chainsaw, it’s the writing. While its basic action game controls may not appeal to everyone out there, the plot is second to none. Juliette, the main character, goes on about her zombie-killing spree as if nothing has even changed. She casually quips about how easy it is to take off their heads. In fact, at one point she performs a chainsaw pole dance and comments about how it would be easier in high heels. Nick, her decapitated boyfriend, is always ready with some sort of sarcastic line, and Juliette never seems to notice. The enemies are as colorful as the main characters. Zombie teachers will groan about how you were late to math class, while zombie farmers will mutter about how they need to water their crops. The game is just dripping with personality, and we’re pretty sure it will only get better as we get closer to its release.