I’ll be honest – I haven’t played a Suda 51 game since Killer7. I thought that was amazing – flawed but amazing. I skipped the No More Heroes games as they came out on the Wii, the console I hate more than Gary Barlow. But now there’s a shiny new game out by the director of Grasshopper Manufacture, is it any good?
Upon getting the game home and opening the case, I discovered that the ‘manual’ is actually a pamphlet with some health and safety instructions in it, and nothing else. I like that – it suggests a game that’s self-explanatory (and who ever has time to read the manuals anyway?)
The opening cutscene sets the tone – we’re in grindhouse sleaze territory here, folks. Juliet, cheerleader and zombie hunter is in the shower and we get glimpses of her through the steam as in parallel to this scene zombies start running amok. The writing’s pretty good, and here we can sense the hand of James Gunn.
The game pitches you into the combat pretty quickly and it’s fun. It’s not Devil May Cry/God of War – there’s an attack button and you pretty much spam it until everything is deadified. The dodge button’s important though, but crucially unlike in some other action combat games I could mention (coughDantesInfernocough) the dodge button actually works. You’ve also got a Super Power mode activated by one of the shoulder triggers, which makes Juliet’s chainsaw more powerful and allows you to kill zombies to Toni Basil’s ‘Mickey,’ natch.
I’m going to take a paragraph here to address the glaring elephant in the room with this game. Not the objectification of women (I’m not touching that with a 40ft pole) – but the fact that this game is really a fairly basic (if fun) fighting game buried under a MOUNTAIN of pop-culture references. Suda 51 was always a pop-culture magpie, and eveything in this game is a reference to something else. It’s probably not going to isolate those who don’t get the references, but I was playing 20 minutes ago and the characters started quoting ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail.’ Juliet’s a clear nod to Cassie Hack via Buffy. The zombies in highschool thing is remniscient of 80’s gore flicks like Ghoul School. The zombies are a mix of ‘Evil Dead’ Deadites and ‘Return of the Living Dead’-style talking, running, weapon using zombies. I swear there’s a reference to ‘Maniac Cop’ in there.
Anyway, the gameplay is basic but enjoyable and is gradually furnished with new moves as the player progresses. There’s also lots of unique obstacles in each area (a good thing), but most of them involve quick-time events (oh dear). But the game pushes you along at a fair old pace, so it’s hard to get bored. It’s also pretty old-fashioned (in a good way) – there’s a score system, the game’s all bright primary colours (mainly red if I’m honest) and when you kill enemies big golden coins appear for you to collect. It’s the most Blue Sky game I’ve seen in a while.
The gore’s pretty mild in the main. I was wondering for the first hour and a half why the game wasn’t a 15 certificate. Then I fought the first boss, and went “Oh, that would be why then.” Suffice to say there’s plenty of the red stuff later on.
Overall, would I recommend it? Yes I would – it’s flawed in places but ultimately it’s great fun, and if I’m honest one of my favourite games of the year so far.