If there’s one thing developers Grasshopper Manufacture are good at, it’s excellent character design. No More Heroes gave us Travis Touchdown, a fearless assassin that most gamers could still relate to despite being something of an anti-hero. Shadows of The Damned then gave us Garcia ‘Fucking’ Hotspur and his slightly-camp floating skeletal pal Johnson. Garcia is little more than a foul-mouthed demon hunter yet still willing to go to the darkest places in the universe to save his girlfriend.
Now we can add Juliet to list of characters we’ll always remember fondly. She’s an America cheerleader who’s not too bright but always puts her friends and family first. She’s a very well observed character â€“ on more than a couple of occasions she complains that her bum is too big, even though it really isn’t. We’re sure that’s something that’ll ring a bell with most.
On Juliet’s birthday, of all days, a zombie outbreak occurs at her high school. What then ensues is five levels of zombie hack and slashing set in areas in and around Juliet’s school, each ending with a boss battle against a zombie overlord. These battles are simple yet pleasing due to the outlandish character design. Juilet is also joined by her love interest Nick, in the form of a decapitated talking head. Nick will point out bosses’ weak points and other general pieces of knowledge.
Chatter between the two is near constant, with both Nick and Juliet having more than a few witty one-liners. Some jokes are a little on the perverse side â€“ after rescuing one schoolmate, they proudly proclaim that they’re going to masturbate over Juliet once they get home â€“ but this is a Suda51 game lest we forget. It’s not quite a gory as we imaged though, because instead of fountains of blood most enemies explode into a shower of coins and rainbows.
Combat is well thought-out although not particularly involving. Pom-pom bashes make the zombies temporarily dazed while dropkicks can be used to push back large hordes. Zombies that crawl along the floor have to be taken out with sweeping attacks and if you manage to decapitate three or more zombies with one attack the screen cascades with glitter and extra â€˜zombie medals’ are earned. Most cut-scenes involve Juliet running into one of her family members, who more often than not give her a new weapon to play around with.
The aforementioned medals can be used to purchase combos, health bar extensions, new outfits and extra music tracks. It’s the soundtrack that surprised us the most: the selection of licensed music tracks is rather excellent, ranging from Dead or Alive â€“ You Spin Me Round to Toni Basil â€“ Hey Mickey. It’s the latter that’s played when giving Juliet a temporary dose of extra strength.
Mini-games are used to break up the hacking and slashing. These start off quite simple with zombified variants of basketball and baseball and end with games inspired by arcade classics such as Pac-Man and Elevator Action. A couple of these are a little more frustrating than they need to be, but there’s nothing here as aggravating as Shadow of the Damned’s notorious cannon firing mini-game.
It’s the game’s length that’s our biggest gripe â€“ an afternoon with Juliet is all it takes to see the ending credits. There are two different endings but to see the best ending doesn’t take a great deal of time or effort – you just need to rescue all of Juliet’s schoolmates. On easy mode they have huge health bars, and you’d have to do something drastically wrong to lose one of them. The achievements provide the biggest incentive to return as they don’t come easily, such as the one for killing 3,000 zombies.
No More Heroes remains our favourite slice of Suda51 ludicrousness, but what has been achieved here is way more than anything the developers of the similarly perverse zombie slasher OneChanbara could ever dream of. We hope Grasshopper Manufacture are able to continue making games as fun and as inventive as this for a long, long, time to come.