In the humdrum world where 50% of games seem to be first or third-person cover-based shooters and another 49% are EA sports titles it can sometimes seem like innovation has left the games industry. Indeed, this years E3 was disappointing on pretty much all fronts with even the new consoles, the Vita and the Wii-U, failing to impress much. So it’s a joyous thing when a game bursts onto the scene that turns heads left, right and centre and features so much innovative design, so much fun and so much....WOW. When it does, it’s 10-1 that Suda 51 will be involved somewhere. So strap yourselves in because Lollipop Chainsaw has just hit the UK!
The game follows the story of Juliet Starling, the lead cheerleader at Romero High School in the US, who also happens to belong to a family of zombie hunters - so, when a classmate opens a door to another dimension and turns everyone into zombies she revs up her personalised chainsaw and goes to work. Like most Suda 51 games the story in terms of the basic A to B is pretty light; it’s there solely to give a reason for the player to experience the fantastic world that Suda has come up with. In a time when greys and browns dominate most games, Lollipop screams with vibrant pinks, greens and blues and it still pulls off bigger and better action thrills than any other third-person game.
It’s also the funniest game you’ll have played in ages. Practically every line of dialogue is hilarious; James Gunn’s script really pops out and feels like how you'd imagine things would be if Kevin Smith wrote an episode of Buffy. Plus, as a major bonus, there’s almost no repeat dialogue even amongst the one-liners in the midst of battle, which is really impressive. Every enemy has a brief one line explanation in the encyclopaedia, but rather than just basic tactics or some other waffle the game gleefully, like a naughty schoolboy, will tell you about how much they like looking up girls skirts instead. All the while you’re being attacked by everything from a giant zombie chicken to the floating head of a Viking.
Gameplay-wise this is a third-person hack-n-slash and it plays more or less like any other, but with a typically Suda-esque control scheme which sees you use A and Y to pull off high and low attacks rather than the traditional light and heavy. These actions are interspersed with cheerleader routines to stun enemies and brilliantly fun combos, a ranged weapon that actually works and even the odd vehicle section. The controls are somewhat confusing at first but you quickly get used to them.
The other major strength of the game is its brilliant soundtrack – from the opening menu blasting out Cherry Bomb to a whole host of light but classic rock and pop music, which really helps keep the smile on your face. In fact I was enjoying it and humming it so much it took me a couple of hours to realise there was any normal background music at all!
There are however a few minor quibbles we have to bring up – Juliet is a little slow to move which, whilst realistic, does mean that movement feels a bit heavy and can throw you off your combos. The game is very, very linear with no real alternate paths or even puzzles to get through. Even basic zombies seem to take much more damage than you’d expect and the game has a traditional Suda51 difficulty curve which more closely resembles a rollercoaster, with one section in stage one being insanely difficult to pass whist stage three is almost insultingly easy. Finally, whilst the in-game tutorial is good, the lack of any kind of manual makes even menu navigation a case of trial and error. "Check Juliet's phone regularly" says the game. Erm....how?
But to be honest, who cares when you’re having this much fun. You can take your Halo and your Last of Us and whatever else you think is popular right now - this is the single best game in years and you are going to love it! Plus, as an added bonus for fans you can unlock alternate costumes for Juliet from several anime including the brilliant Highschool of the Dead.