Lollipop Chainsaw: The sexist chainsaw massacre?
25th Mar 2012 | 11:30
Lollipop Chainsaw, let us count the ways you'll ruffle feathers later this year: there's the opening cutscene that hops between Juliet seductively stretching on her bed and enjoying a steamy shower; there's the boss fight in which she battles giant walls of expletive text; there's the uber-violent, agonisingly slow crotch-to-crown chainsaw kill (not to mention dozens of regular head-lopping attacks); there are about a bajillion gusset shots that are impossible to miss during the fighting; and there's the bit where Juliet (Snip: we can't even write that - Ed). Phew, we're getting sweaty just thinking about it.
Never mind that the game begins on Juliet's 18th birthday and that it's being created with tongue firmly in cheek; some people are going to be rather put off by the eyebrow-arching content. And those game-hating headline writers who work for the papers? Boy are they going to enjoy dusting off the 'Sexist Chainsaw Massacre' headlines for launch week.
It's dicey material at times, and 'Controversy' could well have been Lollipop Chainsaw's middle name had the word 'Awesome' not beat it to the punch. Because from what we've played so far, Juliet's zombie-hunting hours in San Romero High have left us with a smile so wide the grin's practically been carved out of our face with a chainsaw.
Our hands-on session takes place in Chapter 2, and begins with Juliet surveying the damage outside the forsaken school. Crashed cars and crumpled school buses create a linear path through the courtyard and we're forced to navigate the corridors at speed by slamming our chainsaw into the ground and using the spinning teeth to boost us forward (Juliet's clearly been skipping her physics classes...).
As strange as it sounds, the section reminds us of the zippiest sections from Sonic Heroes - something we feel again later on in the demo when we're forced to sprint between buildings, chopping zombies as we go. We can't remember Sonic ever being this violent, though.
It's not long before zombies stop us in our tracks and we're given a chance to get to grips with the fighting system. Our first foes are some regular grunts: average types who are chopped apart with just a few chainsaw swipes. Juliet's packing both high and low chainsaw swings, along with regular gymnastic pom-pom strikes on that confuse as much as they damage. B is reserved for leaping, meanwhile, and sees our prom queen flip and leapfrog over enemies to tackle them from a better vantage point. Take it from us: it's best to lock-on to the faster zombies with Left Bumper to stop them flanking you unawares.
Building up combos is simple stuff. Doubly so when we attack the flashing blue barrels surrounding the mini-arena. Blowing up these unleashes a zombie-dizzying tonic that sends all nearby biters to la-la land, making Juliet the instant and uncontested Baroness of Hacksville.
At first Juliet starts with just the basic moves, but a little exploration and a lot of killing soon sees her purse filling up with zombie medals. These can then be spent at one of the school's tuck shops for new combo moves as well as other abilities and benefits.
A quick peek of the additional goodies we can buy covers everything from Power Dumbbells (to increase Juliet's power), Aromatherapy Oil (for quicker Downed recoveries), Nick Tickets (for something called 'Nick Roulette' - your guess is as good as ours on that one, though bear in mind that Nick is, of course, our Jules' boyfriend and the head strapped to her waist), Strawberry Lollipops (for health recovery, duh!), concept artwork, and MP3s to make custom playlists on Juliet's music player. But enough of that. We're here to chop, not shop, and there are dozens of zombies still to cut through...
When the regular grunts are little more than quivering mounds of spaghetti and meat logs we're thrown up against tougher opposition: the football team. They're bigger and stronger than the average Joes, and they charge and pounce with frightening speed. A leg-dismembering low swipe brings them down to size in an instant, but introduces a new problem: they're now harder to hit.
Rather than having three charging zombies we're now fighting off three crawling ankle-biters, and Juliet isn't nearly as adept at fighting floor-based adversaries. Luckily a little experimentation on our part results in a leaping downward thrust move with b and a that skewers and purees our foes every time. It works a treat with the football players, but when we de-feet some zombie cheerleaders later on we discover that their handstand skills are just too fast for us to get away with the same trick. In fact, the upside-down cheerleaders are even harder to hit than they were before.
As we push forward, more zombie types show their slack-jawed faces. Baseball players have enough motor skills left to smash balls in our direction, so Juliet needs to close the range pronto to eliminate their distance game. With no long-range attacks of her own she's completely vulnerable at anything beyond arm's length.
Fireman zombies lurk deep in the school and favour slow axe-swipes over bites. The best way to battle these dudes is to evade and strike from behind. No fewer than six zombie types rear their head through the demo, and every species needs to be dispatched in a different way.
And did we mention the unique Zomboid pals? Throughout her trip Juliet will tick these off like a baseball card collector whenever she meets and slays someone she used to know. One thing's for sure: Lollipop Chainsaw will have no problem dishing out variety.
Wrap your head around all that? Then we've undersold the crazy. Let's foxtrot right ahead and introduce you to zombie basketball. It's basketball with zombie heads instead of balls, and to start with the heads are all attached to very angry bodies. High chainsaw swipes de-crown the enemies and send their noggins looping into the net for sweet points - usually two, but retreating and attacking from behind the three-point line sees us scoring regular three-pointers.
Simple, right? Not so, as one extraordinarily powerful defender alternates between knocking us ass-ward and blocking every head headed into the basket. There are two solutions to this little problem. One involves dropkicking zombie grunts into the defender using Juliet's acrobatics, sending the brute sprawling and temporarily freeing up the path to the basket. The other comes when Juliet's rainbow meter is maxed out.
Squeezing Left Trigger and Right Trigger unleashes an all-powerful killing mode, with rainbows splashed all over the screen and Toni Basil's stupidly catchy "Mickey" blaring out of the speakers. Juliet's resulting attacks cut through the defence like she was facing off against Blackburn Rovers, meaning the route to scoring the target 101 points and beating the zombie team (thus avoiding insta-death) is clear.
And the craziness continues. We're talking vaulting horse QTEs with Juliet earning medals for stylistic jumps. We're talking manual slicing action that sees us carving holes in walls by matching on-screen cutting guidelines with right stick movements. We're talking placing our boyfriend Nick's head onto headless zombies to burst through impenetrable doors. And we're talking crazed rock zombie bosses voiced by celebrity talent such as Jimmy Urine. See, crazy!
So if we're going to count the ways Lollipop Chainsaw will get itself in hot water come release, it would be remiss of us not to also count the different ways it's already got us clawing at Warner Bros. office doors like an undead mob, eager for more. So we tried, and we tried hard. But truth be told, we lost count of that spiralling figure not even half way through our demo...