Suda-51 is making a zombie game--a perverse, hypercharged, glam-rock zombie game--together with chief creative officer Akira Yamaoka (Silent Hill) and the rest of the team at Grasshopper Manufacture (Shadows of the Damned). This third-person action game has no shortage of shock and awe. And to help give it that extra spark, writer/director James Gunn (Slither) is lending his creative talents to the game's story and characterization.
At this year's Gamescom convention in Cologne, Germany, producer Scott Warr from Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment gave us our first, hands-off look at the game in motion. As the chainsaw-wielding cheerleader Juliet Starling, it was his task to survive in a school overrun with the undead.
The insanity of Lollipop Chainsaw was apparent from the first loading screen, which featured a detailed chart of Juliet's attacks. These included commands for cheerleading and crotch attacks. As it turns out, crotch attacks are a great way to ruin a zombie's junk, while cheerleading attacks were our character's quick-hitting, light attacks.
Performing a light attack magically transforms Juliet's chainsaw into a pair of yellow pom-poms--complete with a spark of glitter. The moves themselves were weaponized cheerleading techniques, including spins, flip kicks, and midair splits. Each attack also produced a cheerful jingle sound in comical juxtaposition to the zombies' groans and grunts.
Comedic value aside, these light attacks set the zombies up for gruesome finishers. The more light attacks you land before finishing a zombie, Warr explained, the higher your reward will be. After cheering the zombies into a corner, Juliet automatically switched back to her chainsaw by using a heavy attack. Any zombies not instantly annihilated by this at least walked away missing a limb. Some even lost two or three and had to drag themselves along the floor on bloody stumps.
All this dismemberment was broken up into different encounters. Juliet would skip into a room, fight a set number of zombies as indicated by a kill counter, and then move to the next area. In between certain encounters there were opportunities to rescue terrified students. Failure to do so could cause them to turn into deadlier super zombies. One of these super zombies, a middle-aged teacher, served as a sub-boss early in the demonstration.
Complete with its own extended health bar, this enemy would have posed a greater threat had Juliet not cashed in her Star Mode meter--a special meter that slowly fills as she collects kills. Upon entering Star Mode, Juliet glowed with all the colors of the rainbow and blasted the wisecracking teacher with a single blow. Warr was quick to assure us it won't be quite this easy in the final release.
Of course, it wouldn't be a Suda game without a few full-fledged, over-the-top boss encounters, and we got to see the game's first. This battle pitted Juliet against the undead punk rocker Zed, presumably one of the many Zombie Rock Lords sent to destroy her. With his massive red Mohawk and thick British accent, Zed was a challenge split into three parts. The first was a straight fight against the nimble rocker who slashed at our character with a microphone stand. After taking a beating, Zed summoned numerous pillars of electric amplifiers to the stage. He then hopped from one to the other while firing projectiles, and verbal obscenities, down at our character.
By destroying the amps, Juliet forced Zed into his third and final stage, which combined elements from the previous two. He was faster and more aggressive, and his projectile attack could lock onto our character. While this seemed annoying at first, we learned that Juliet could use this attack against Zed by standing near him and dodging at the last second so that the attack would hit him instead.
Sadly, legendary composer Akira Yamaoka's music was not yet implemented into the game. However, it will be interesting to see how he makes the switch from the mellow, and sometimes disturbing, melodies of his previous games to this high-energy, high school affair. The madness of Lollipop Chainsaw will be unleashed next year on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.