Every teen slasher needs a cheerleader in there somewhere – she can take on many forms, from the antagonist to the victim and even in some cases, she takes the lead role. Be it vampires making terrible jokes about sucking, serial killers with a penchant for irony or zombies in indie clothing and punk hairdos, cheerleaders are always there somewhere.
So let us introduce Juliet Starling, the heroine of Suda 51’s latest little bundle of crazy. Suda 51 is usually one for going off the beaten track – Killer 7 was a story about multiple personality disorder, No More Heroes was a story about a bum with an unhealthy obsession with death and killing, and Shadows of the Damned was in just about every way mocking the horror industry, stretching it so thin that you could see the inner workings of the genre being worn down to a nub.
So let’s state the obvious. From what we’ve seen of Lollipop Chainsaw so far, this is by far and away Suda 51 having a moment of rational sanity. Despite the tone of the game, of a teenage cheerleader defending herself in the middle of a zombie invasion at her school, Lollipop Chainsaw has all the hallmarks of a sensible commercial game. They’re polishing the combo system to get into a market that in recent years has seen little love, and with the likes of the DmC reboot, has been alienating its core fanbase. It has a blonde haired, blue-eyed doe-like teenager kicking rather large quantities of ass, because we all know it worked for Buffy don’t we? It has zombies – lots of them, because we’re in a strange situation where zombies have come back into fashion just as Twilight has killed off the love for vampires (Sorry fangirls, the truth hurts). And it features a BIG chainsaw. Because we all like chainsaws.
So, nothing about Lollipop Chainsaw on the surface seems new, innovative or edgy. Internally, it seems that it really is following an ideal of crossing Bayonetta with Dead Rising, and they are doing it very carefully. The gameplay, from what we have seen, looks like an odd mix of generic fodder and tactical chainsaw-play. Visually, it’s bright, brash and colourful – blood is dispensed in limited quantities, instead seeing fit to replace it with neon-paint and rainbows, whereas the dialogue is full of typical teenage girl quotes like “Whatever!” and “Douchebags!”.
So, it’s shaping up to be an interesting game. Suda 51 is kind of known for letting his ideas sell his games, however this is a rare situation where the game simply has to sell the idea.
Nothing about Lollipop Chainsaw is original. From her boyfriends severed head, to the idea of her being a chosen one to the punk zombie leaders with a penchant for spiky hairdos, and the combat itself is much of what we’d expect from the genre. So this game has to play brilliantly.
Of course, I’m not writing off that Suda 51 is brilliantly lampooning the very genre and tropes he is using. It’s entirely possible, of course, but that would need to run into the very core of the game itself – and in an action game of this type, cerebral activity is usually frowned upon, so it may be people take it at face value only – as a slasher game filled with overused cliches.
That may be a horrible fate for the game, but then, that is the risk you take sometimes. Anything from Suda 51 is worth a good, close look – this is a man with a deeply warped and twisted sense of humour, and for that I thank him. But I hope for his sake this is as comedic and warped as he wants us to believe it is.
Because if it isn’t, he may find accusations of selling out his whole ethos to be hard to shake off.