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Lollipop Chainsaw In-Depth GamesCom 2011 Preview

Suda51’s company Grasshopper Manufacture has had a busy year so far with the release of No More Heroes: Heroes Paradise and the suitably demented Shadows of the Damned. When Lollipop Chainsaw was first announced, everything was there to suggest another eccentric, crazy and outrageous experience. After seeing the game in action at GamesCom, we can happily confirm that Suda51’s latest title is every bit as insane as we had hoped.

Lollipop Chainsaw

Lollipop Chainsaw follows Juliet Starling as she battles hordes of zombies that have taken over her high school. The game is littered with references with the name of her school being San Romero High, an obvious nod to famed horror film director, George A. Romero. Very little of the plot has been revealed although during the demonstration, she had a severed head attached to her skirt, which talked to her. It brought to mind the banter between Garcia and Johnson from Suda51’ Shadows of the Damned. We were promised that more would be revealed about this character soon enough, although preliminary loading screens seem to refer to him as “Nick Ticket”.

The preview that we saw found Juliet trapped in a school classroom surrounded by her undead classmates. Lollipop Chainsaw’s main gameplay is a hack and slash game featuring so-called “dynamic action”. This seems to largely consist of third-person melee combat with a robust combo system and challenging enemies. Immediately obvious was the challenge that would be posed by your enemies and the importance of using Juliet’s skills to their maximum extent.

Lollipop Chainsaw

Being a popular cheerleader, Juliet has a variety of highly acrobatic moves at her disposal and these are a key ingredient in the action. Using her speed and agility, it is possible to manoeuvre zombies into small groups where they can be dispatched together by more powerful chainsaw attacks. This tactical clustering adds depth to the gameplay as well as a degree of challenge and brings to mind the best aspects of the frantic combat of No More Heroes. Juliet then has the options of heavy/light and high/low attacks to butcher the undead which leads to some pretty gruesome results.

Depending on the angle and height of attacks the zombies are dismembered in different ways, which is extremely violent. Slicing off the knees of a zombie will have it crawling along the floor, making it easier to get into a good finishing position. Equally, attacking the arms will sever them which appeared to make them somewhat less threatening and inflict less damage. However, the game’s visuals sit at odds with this brutal carnage, with bright, candy colours filling the screen alongside rainbow trails that are attached to each chainsaw swipe. It’s instantly recognisable as a Suda51 title and carries the same style of quirky humour.

Lollipop Chainsaw

Moving out of the classroom, after defeating a set enemy count, Juliet carried on battling through ever-increasing numbers of reanimated corpses. It wasn’t long before she encountered a still-living classmate who was being attacked by zombies. Juliet reacted quickly and carefully, dispatching the undead with a few swift slices of the chainsaw followed by some grisly execution moves. One finisher involved bisecting the zombie entirely and another had Juliet impaling him with the rotating blade before raising it vertically out of its torso. It’s certainly not a game for children, despite the pretty, almost cartoony art style.

Saving students is important and benefits Juliet in two main ways. Often her classmates will reward her with items for her extra trouble, such as health packs that restore her vitality which are represented by a line of lollipops along the top of the screen. The other advantage is that failing to save them will result in them being transformed into a more powerful type of zombie, which will require more effort to kill.

Lollipop Chainsaw

Littered throughout each stage will be a variety of “named zombies”, who act as sub-bosses and require significant effort to dispatch. In the demonstration we saw, this was the ex-maths teacher who initially set a horde of the undead on Juliet before eventually facing her himself. He wielded a desk as a shield, requiring Juliet to use her acrobatic moves in order to slip behind him where her chainsaw could do maximum damage. Each of these named zombies will have a unique manner of attack with Grasshopper Manufacture aiming to deliver as much variety to the combat as possible.

Alongside this, levels will have optional paths and routes which change with each playthrough. For example, in the preview there was a choice of two classrooms to enter, each of which would contain different events. Juliet chose one which had a student trapped inside being pinned to a desk, about to be disembowelled by the undead. However, if she had chosen to pick the other one it would have contained a different scenario. It’s an interesting prospect, although whether it may prove frustrating over the course of the story remains to be unseen. For example if the split was between a good and a bad result, such as a choice between a beneficial item and a pack of ravenous zombies.

Lollipop Chainsaw

As Juliet fought zombies throughout the demonstration she slowly filled a meter earned through combat. Once activated towards the end of the opening stage it activated a powerful damage boost that dispatched zombies in a single chainsaw hit. This was so powerful that it even finished off the named zombies in a particularly violent fashion. There were also hints by the developers that there would be an element of random chance that could unlock combat bonuses, similar to the slot machine mechanic from No More Heroes. However, the developers seemed keen to keep this under wraps, although we managed to get them to explain it was tied in some way to the severed head suspended from Juliet’s skirt.

The final segment of the preview showcased one of the boss battles, which was a particularly demented and large-scale affair. Juliet faced off against “Zed” a punk-rock inspired psychotic zombie, which resulted in a truly awesome, funny and bloody confrontation. His attacks involved sound and using large amplifiers bellowed insults at Juliet. These insults formed into huge, tall words comprised of individual letter that then threw themselves at the protagonist. Seeing a teenage cheerleader carrying a chainsaw trying to dodge an enormous, bright red “COCKSUCKER!” certainly raised a few eyebrows, but had the kind of insane bravado that Suda51 is renowned for.

Lollipop Chainsaw

The rest of the battle was equally crazy with Juliet having to slice through gigantic amplifier stacks and destroy speakers to prevent certain attack patterns. It looked like a very challenging and difficult fight, even though it had been modified to be easy to play through for demonstration purposes. It seems that the bosses will be tough and require a multitude of different tactics to beat. Hopefully the difficult curve won’t be as punishing as Shadows of the Damned could be towards the end and that it will remain accessible.

As the fight ended, Juliet sadistically brutalised Zed with the chainsaw, slicing his hands off in close-up before dispatching him with the rotating blade to the face. However, before we could get too disgusted the camera moved to show Zed’s hand, with its middle finger still raised defiantly. No one makes a game like Suda51: that much is still clear.

Lollipop Chainsaw

GameGrin were also lucky enough to speak to Akira Yamaoka who is behind the soundtrack to Lollipop Chainsaw. With a famed history on the Silent Hill series and, more recently, Shadows of the Damned he has an excellent background and the early music was both distinctive and very fitting. He stressed that much of his work was still in progress but that hopefully his soundtrack would fit each boss and area. With the undead controlled by various rock-themed zombies there is certainly a lot of scope for the sound design and with Akira Yamaoka on board we are very excited.

Lollipop Chainsaw is the kind of game that only Grasshopper Manufacture could make. It’s bizarre, violent and unpredictable and we certainly wouldn’t have it any other way. There are still a lot of unanswered questions about the story and we’re very intrigued about the mysterious severed head dangling from Juliet’s waist. However the gameplay looks satisfying, challenging and varied and knowing Suda51 there will no doubt be many surprises left in store. Lollipop Chainsaw was the most unique game at GamesCom and is shaping up to be the cult game of 2012.

Lollipop Chainsaw

evilgiraffeman | 22nd August, 2011
Angelfromabove's picture
That looks insane! But in a good kind of way.
Great preview Giraffe, I think this has now entered my list of games I want!
Wedgeh's picture
Umm, this is rather mental, though if the gameplay is smooth and visceral then it'll be a winner. If not at least it'll pull the teens in by just having a cheerleader as the protagonist.
Rasher's picture
This would have normally slipped under my radar
But after reading GameOns.. sorry GameGrin's () review of No More Heroes: Heroes Paradise and Shadows of the Damned, how could i not want this

Beanz's picture
Originally Posted by Rasher View Post
how could i not want this
The presence of a cheerleader with a chainsaw had nothing to do with your decision making, did it?
marky_mark's picture
nah rasher likes the zombies

was there mention of her shaking her pom pom's

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