The Average Gamer

Lollipop Chainsaw Preview

So Lollipop Chainsaw, eh? That game from Grasshopper Manufacture and Suda51 (Shadows of the Damned, No More Heroes) that unashamedly flaunts its leading lady all over the internets.

I’ve been reserving judgement on this one because there’s always a chance that the Juliet Starling in-game isn’t the vacuous airhead that’s being portrayed in all the marketing.

Nope, she absolutely is that airhead and my god is it irritating. It’s not just the squeaky voice and the inane giggling. Not just that she embodies the all the awful qualities of a fictional cheerleader trope where the biggest insult she can possibly think of is to call someone “fat-ass”.

Nope, the worst part is that the writers have made her revel in her ignorance and created a character that is completely self-absorbed. The game is filled with exchanges like the following, which took place when our heroine and her decapitated head of a boyfriend Nick (hobbies: badminton, bass guitar, masturbation) were assaulted by a group of airborne zombies.

Nick: I was just thinking I wish there were some flying zombies here.

Juliet, in all seriousness: Why would you think that?!?

Me: *facepalm*

On the flip side, she is a kick-ass zombie hunter who takes care of herself and (presumably) those she loves. I’m all for the strong female heroine and not every protagonist needs to be the perfect role model. Still, between the in-your-face wank-fodder opening of Juliet practicing the splits in her bedroom, the relentlessly awful clichés (“Does this make me look fat?”) and basically all of the marketing, it’s clear that publishers WB Games have no interest in courting people like me for our gaming money.

It’s a shame really, because the game looks quite fun. Lollipop Chainsaw is a score attack game across 5 environments familiar to anyone who watches American media: A parking lot, a high school, a sports stadium and two more. As you kill zombies, you’ll gain medals which are used to unlock new moves with your chainsaw or other weapons. You can also spend them unlocking songs and new costumes.

To fight the zombies you’ll use the face buttons to string pom-pom stuns and chainsaw attacks together with jumps. Rack up the scores with your zombie-killing combos and finish each stage as quickly as possible for a big score bonus. Juliet’s movements flow beautifully and there was little sign of awkward transitions between attacks.

The projectile weapon I saw was the “Nick Popper”, a birthday present from Juliet’s sister Rosalind. Much to my disappointment (and relief), this gun doesn’t actually shoot Nick’s head through the air. Rather, it fires bullets that you’ll find lying about the environment. Other things you’ll frequently find lying about the environment are fallen trees across your path. You’ll enjoy sawing through these with the tree-sawing QTE that definitely adds to the fun factor of every game.

Nick isn’t just there to add his name to projectiles and crack sarcastic comments. He also provides an excuse to feature Juliet’s butt in all the cutscenes a helpful service. Every once in a while you’ll come across a mini-boss like Mark, the fat zombie gardener who tends the allotments. After beating the crap out of him and his hench-zombies, Juliet will plonk Nick’s head onto the body and plunge you into a 30-ish second QTE dance scene where Nick attempts to take control of the zombie body.

These dance trials don’t give you a zombie-hunting ally, however. Nick’s contribution is to help Juliet over impassable objects by using Mark’s bloated body to beat through a wooden door or toss Juliet over a large boulder. No, don’t ask me why she can’t just chainsaw through the door or do a running flip over the boulder like she does with a bus. That’s just how it is, okay?

In sharp contrast to the last great cartoonish zombie game we’ve seen, Dead Rising 2, Lollipop Chainsaw is very linear and scripted. So scripted, in fact, that you’ll occasionally find yourself forced to stand on a wooden balcony shooting zombies in a field below when you’d much rather leap down there and chainsaw the buggers apart. Once you finally clear the field a large red B will pop up (on Xbox 360) indicating where you can vault the barrier and enter the field. There are no explosions revealing a hidden safe pathway down. You’ll have no cinematics to disguise the control that the game directors are wielding over your experience. Just feel safe in the knowledge that they wanted you to shoot these zombies but not those zombies and you’re damn well going to like it.

It’s an odd choice and personally, I resent it in a score attack game. Surely you’re supposed to be experimenting with your options for the best possible score? I’d rather be limited by difficulty – only the most skilled fighters can survive by jumping down into the field while less experienced players can remain on the balcony. But that’s not the case here and it annoys me.

One of the more pleasant surprises was the character and story development. I only saw a small segment and what I did see was balls-out trippy but it gives an interesting hook to what would otherwise be a fairly repetitive saw-em-up.

Sure, I may hate Juliet’s character but it’s conveyed very well through the scripting and cutscenes. I’ve only met Juliet’s sister Rosalind very briefly – barrelling through a farm in a school bus at full speed with no brakes and loving every minute of it – and I feel like she’s a friend already.

The trippy story comes later when Juliet cuts down a giant mushroom in a field of invincible zombie cows. She wakes up on the ground of a shadowy parking lot with her sister’s bus parked nearby. Huge hands come down from the sky and place a giant egg on the ground, which hatches into a monstrous chicken named Chat, blocking the path between Juliet and the bus. Battling the chicken allows Juliet onto the now-empty bus where she suddenly snaps back into the real world, finding herself in the drivers seat of a combine harvester mowing down zombies to Dead or Alive’s You Spin Me Round (Like A Record).

Yes, this actually happens in the game. Utter madness and exactly what you’d expect from Grasshopper Manufacture.

Lollipop Chainsaw will be out on Xbox 360 and PS3 in June and is available for pre-order now.

One Comment