Juliet Starling is a dangerous high school girl in trouble. She's the star of Lollipop Chainsaw, the rainbow-bright zombie game and maybe the first to employ foul language as a physical weapon.
Grasshopper Manufacture, the people who make weird but beloved games like No More Heroes and Shadows of the Damned, are responsible for 2012's Lollipop Chainsaw, a game that pits a peppy, lollipop-loving cheerleader against teenage zombies.
Publisher Warner Bros brought Grasshopper's Lollipop Chainsaw to Gamescom, giving us our first look at the bloody, beautiful action game in action.
Here's the set up: you'll play as blonde, blue-eyed high school student Juliet Starling, a cheerleader for the San Romero Knights. On her 18th birthday, her school is overrun by zombies that infect students and teachers alike. Only Juliet, armed with pompoms, limber thighs and a powerful chainsaw, can put an end to this undead infestation.
Lollipop Chainsaw's Gamescom demo played out in two parts. The first opened in a San Romero High classroom filled with the walking dead. A teacher-turned-zombie, Mr. Fitzgibbons, hurled insults at our heroine while she laid waste to low level zombie hordes with a combination of light attacks (pompoms and split kicks) and heavy attacks (limb-lopping swipes of her chainsaw). The lithe Juliet can leapfrog over zombies and push them around for crowd control purposes, lining up a handful of undead for group kills.
While the action is gory, full of blood and beheadings, Lollipop Chainsaw's style of zombie slaying is overly bright and cheery, thanks to its chipper protagonist, cel-shaded comic book look and undead that explode into glitter and streams of rainbow coloured light. (The language, however, is very harsh. More on that later.)
Juliet has a few allies at San Romero. Her boyfriend, Nick, is always by her side. He's the disembodied head that Juliet hangs on her hip. He's capable of helping Juliet in still unexplained ways. The game's loading screen teased an action called "Nick's Roulette," which requires a "Nick Ticket" to employ apparently, but reps for the developer didn't go into detail on Nick's role in the game.
Lollipop Chainsaw's heroine can also choose to save her fellow classmates—the ones that haven't been turned into zombies yet -- for various rewards. Save a student from a zombie attack and they may shower her with coins and stars. The former collectible was not detailed during our demo, but the game's stars are used to fill up Juliet's Star Meter, which powers a devastating, candy coloured super attack.
After dispatching a few dozen undead, Juliet had a confrontation with the previously mentioned Mr Fitzgibbons. He's one of Lollipop Chainsaw's zombie sub-bosses, a powerful enemy who uses a teacher's desk as both shield and weapon. Unlike the rest of the chainsaw fodder, Fitzgibbons required a little more strategy -- but not too much, as Juliet simply needed to leapfrog behind him to attack him from the back.
One of Lollipop Chainsaw top-level bosses, one of the "Zombie Rock Lords" responsible for the game's zombie outbreak, was far more demanding. He was the second half of Warner Bros's Gamescom demonstration.
We were introduced to Zed, a punk rock zombie with an affection for the music of Black Flag and the torture of small animals. Sporting a bright mohawk and spiked microphone stand as a weapon, Zed verbally abused Juliet. "Words hurt," our demonstrator said, just before Zed shouted "Stupid cooze!" at Julia. His words took physical form, his glimmering insult hurled at Juliet. She shattered it with a pompom attack, hacking away at Zed until she eventually split him in half from noggin to navel.
But Zed was resilient, pushing his two halves back together, mocking Juliet ("You think that hurts me? I just came a little!"). The punk rock zombie returned stronger, sprinting around our heroine in a colourful blur, dropping massive stacks of amplifiers down upon the stage on which they fought. "Fuckin' bitch!" he shouted from atop a stack. Again, those words took physical form, deadly letters flying at Juliet.
After she sliced through the biggest amp with her rainbow chainsaw, Zed shouted in a last ditch effort, a scream-as-letters filling the screen in a spread. One more slice with the chainsaw, a cut that split the very screen in half, finished of Zed, his body slices slowly slipping apart.
And with that, Zed's dead.
Our first look at Lollipop Chainsaw was short, but sickeningly sweet, full of the same hyper-violent, quirky action for which Grasshopper Manufacture is well-known and highly regarded. We'll see more of the game next year, when Lollipop Chainsaw is expected to hit the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.