Five minutes. Five minutes was all you got with Lollipop Chainsaw at PAX East by the time I got to the front of the line. Controller in hand, I silently hoped the few hours I spent with the Devil May Cry HD Collection would bolster my fightin’ skills enough to get the most out of my 300 seconds.
Given all of the wild and crazy stuff I’ve seen in the trailers, my first impression of the game was…meh. The demo placed the player out on a deserted farm, so the scenery was as brown as could be. The zombies were right there waiting for me when I booted the game up: a bunch of sickly-looking farmers who took an immediate interest in me. There wasn’t a lot of variety between them, but the fact that they were specifically farmers gives me hope there are zombie variants in other levels.
Then again, enemy design was coming second to the combat, which I flung myself into. Anyone who’s played Bayonetta or Devil May Cry will feel right at home here. You’ve got light and heavy attacks, and mixing them up provides all sorts of combo opportunities. Tapping and hesitating with certain buttons will change up what you’re doing, resulting in flashier moves that will help keep the zombie mob off your case. The little rainbow and sparkle effects during the cooler moves were a nice touch, giving me a laugh when I was concentrating a little too hard.
Juliet is pretty acrobatic during combat as well, jumping and spinning around enemies. I was worried that staying airborne as much as she did was going to get me hit, but her jumping attacks are all radial, so they keep enemies away from you. I didn’t get hit often during the demo, but when I did, it tended to be during the first swing. I didn’t notice if there was a block or dodge function, but I was in a hurry and I don’t typically use them anyway, being more of a ‘jump out of the way’ kind of guy. Ask me how Devil May Cry 3 on Dante Must Die mode is for my play style some day, if you want a laugh.
After a few scraps, I took a little look around at the HUD. It was done in a graphic novel style, something I thought looked sharp. It gave it a really cool comic book style that I liked, but I don’t know if it really fits in with the bright and colorful cheerleader vibe the game was going for. It seemed to be leaning more toward a grindhouse look, and like I said, I did like it, but it still seemed like a strange decision. Maybe it’ll make more sense in the coming months.
I came to a larger enemy after moving through a few mobs, one that went to the exact same school as every other large enemy in brawler games. The plan for him has been the same since Abobo in Double Dragon: move in, hit him a bit, move away. Maybe spice it up with attacking him after he misses an attack. Seeing an oversized zombie farmer was cool, but nothing too exciting, even when the fight ended with me taking his head off. This was followed by Juliet sticking the disembodied head of her boyfriend on his shoulders, though, which was something I wasn’t expecting.
I’d been wondering how her boyfriend’s head would come into play. It seems like she can put it on certain zombies when they’re defeated, then cheer him on as he performs some important in-game task. In this case, I had to do a quick time event where I steered the controlled zombie toward an obstacle that had been keeping me in the area, getting him to clear it out. I don’t know if there was a goofy song or anything since I couldn’t hear the music, but it was funny to see Juliet cheering him on in the background.
I only managed to progress a little bit further before I ran out of time, and that’s when I found out that the chainsaw can be used as a gun. I hit a spot where the enemies were far away, and the game prompted me to zoom in, aiming with whatever artillery Juliet had crammed into her weapon. The shooting mechanics seemed to work fine, but I was in such a rush to get to the next area that I screwed up and wasted the last seconds of my time taking some really bad shots.
To be honest, I don’t think it was the best level to put up as a demo. From what I’ve seen of the game in videos, it’s a colorful, bright, and ridiculously cheery take on the zombie genre, its main character a stark contrast to the creatures around her. There’s certain level of personality that I just wasn’t getting from the demo, which made it feel kind of dull and plain. Don’t get me wrong, the combat was excellent and the character design on Juliet was great, but the rest fell flat. The demo gave me the impression that the game was on track, but nothing else. It’s a shame, because I think this could have been a chance to show people how over-the-top a Suda 51 game could be.
Even so, this is still the game I’m most excited about this year. I trust Suda 51 and Grasshopper Manufacture to provide me with some crazy action come June. The man’s games are never boring. This is the guy behind Killer 7, No More Heroes, and Shadows of the Damned after all. I could have played Pong in there with one of the paddles wearing a bow, and I would still be confident the game was going to be great.
Lollipop Chainsaw is out June 12, 2012 in North America and May 31, 2012 for the people fanatical enough to import it from Japan.