Behind closed doors with Lollipop Chainsaw: Zombies, cheerleaders, gore

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Without a doubt, the most original, outlandish, and all-out fun-looking game at Gamescom 2011 was Lollipop Chainsaw. It’s the latest over-the-top offering from Grasshopper Manufacture, which brilliantly blended the shooter and survival horror genres with Shadows of the Damned. Now comes a cel-shaded, zombie-killing, cheerleader action game featuring acrobatic moves and chainsaw attacks.

Scott Warr, producer on Lollipop Chainsaw at Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, provided a behind-closed-doors sneak peak at the bloody good game at the business center. Running on Unreal Engine 3, Lollipop Chainsaw introduces Juliet Starling, a typical cheerleader at San Romero High… on the outside. But like Buffy and her vampire slaying, Starling has a thing against zombies. She secretly hunts them with her athletic moves and her beloved chainsaw. Her world comes crashing down when zombies invade her high school, and the blood-letting is unleashed.

“Juliet has her cheer attacks, where she actually attacks zombies using her cheers and pom poms,” said Warr. “She’s able to knock zombies around and manipulate them, so the player can set up combo moves and get bigger rewards at the end.”

The game rewards players for saving human classmates with zombie medals and stars. Collect enough stars to fill up Juliet’s star meter and she can pull off a candy-colored super attack. No details were revealed about the medals yet.

Goichi “Suda 51” designed this game around the chainsaw, according to Warr. There are other zombie games out there, but none that rely on a chainsaw for a primary weapon.

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“The chainsaw sets you up for your heavy attacks,” said Warr. “It’s definitely a bigger weapon, so using those lighter attacks to knock zombies around and then decapitate them is the way to go. It’s all about decapitation. The bigger and better decapitations you have, the more rewards you will get.”

Juliet also has some unique moves, like the chainsaw the crotch maneuver, as well as an assortment of acrobatic chainsaw combos. She’s also never far from her boyfriend, Nick, or at least, his head. Nick’s disembodied head hangs on Juliet’s hip and he’ll help her fight in as-yet unexplained ways.

“This game is bright, it’s pink, it’s rainbowy, it’s something I haven’t experienced before,” said Warr. “I’ve never seen hearts shoot out of a zombie’s head. That’s insane.”

The Gamescom demo consisted of two short parts. The first portion focused on a sub-boss, Mr. Fitzgibbons, who hurls insults at his former student while she takes out teenage zombies in his classroom. Juliet used to like Mr. Fitzgibbons, but she hates zombies. So once she slices through her former classmates, she takes out her former teacher.

As she progresses through the game, Juliet is on a quest to figure out who caused this zombie outbreak, and why. The second half of the demo introduces a top-level boss, Zed, who’s actually one of the zombie rock lords responsible for the game’s undead outbreak.

The punk rock zombie, complete with Mohawk and spiked microphone stand, breaks the notion that words can never hurt.

“Zed uses his words to attack, literally,” explained Warr. “They become physical forms and will be thrown at you. He also uses his microphone to bounce around and then growls at you. You have to dodge his words, dodge his attacks, and stay away from him because he will hit you hard.”

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Juliet used a combination of pom-pom attacks and chainsaw combos to eventually split him in half – only to see him pull himself back together. With profanities flying all around, Juliet continues to hack and slash through the room. After laying waste to the biggest amp, Juliet kills Zed with a chainsaw combo that splits the very screen in half.

While the demo focused on the main halls and classrooms of San Romero High, later levels are expected to explore new territory. Grasshopper has teamed up with Hollywood writer-director James Gunn to help with the storyline and characterization in the game, which should help with the Mature-rated tongue-in-cheek tone of the game.

As for Suda 51 and his development team, Warr said he’s been in zombie mode for quite some time.

“He has these insane ideas and he really has a passion for this project,” said Warr. “Every day he just wants to add something new to the game that he hasn’t seen in a zombie game before.”

So far, so good. There’s really no game you can compare Lollipop Chainsaw to, not even past Suda 51 titles. With this fresh new character, who’s completely cute and lovable on screen, and the fresh premise of undead teenagers and rock zombies; this game will hopefully be the start of a brand new franchise for Grasshopper Manufacture.

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