Full disclosure: Warner Bros. provided a free Xbox 360 copy of Lollipop Chainsaw for this article.
Early on in Lollipop Chainsaw, developer Grasshopper Manufacture's new exploitation-inspired action game for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, protagonist Juliet cuts off her boyfriend Nick's head to keep him from turning into a zombie. It's the kind of crazy puppy-love move one would expect from an 18-year-old girl in a game from Grasshopper designer Suda 51, whose previous titles, No More Heroes and Shadows of the Damned, include save and checkpoint systems (respectively) based on pooping.
It's also the start of one of the most charming love stories I've seen in a game.
Juliet uses offscreen magic to revive Nick's head, and she carries him around on her belt for the rest of the game. Like Johnson, the decapitated demon skull sidekick in Shadows of the Damned, Nick functions as an occasional tool to remove obstacles (via Juliet plopping him onto the neck socket of a decapitated zombie corpse) or even as ammo in an upgrade to Juliet's chainsaw called the "Nick Popper."
This interplay seems pretty superficial at times — and it is — but the banter between the two characters while Juliet carves a goopy swath through legions of the undead shows that they're at a point in their relationship at which the superficial is pretty much all they have. Their interaction in the first couple stages feels, appropriately enough, like two shy teenagers out on their first date.
"What is your favorite color, Nick?" Juliet asks after killing like a gajillion of her former classmates.
"Blue," Nick replies. "No, green."
"Awesome! I love learning more about you!"
"I fucked up. It's yellow."
The two heroes haven't been together long at the start of the game; Nick proclaims his "fuckin' love" for the first time just seconds before Juliet lops off his dome. I'm thinking that carrying one's boyfriend's head around like a talking purse is a pretty big step that early in the relationship, and it shows almost immediately when he complains about his condition and she attempts to mollify him by offering to sneak him into movies for free.
On the surface, Nick's helping out with wall and zombie removal is a quirky gameplay mechanic, but it also shows the two of them learning to start turning their love's challenges into strengths. The first time Juliet pops Nick onto a corpse so he can move some rubble, he shuffles and stumbles. By the end of the game, however, he dances over to his objective while Juliet encourages him with a cheerleader routine.
Their whole relationship is super fucked-up when you think about it. It's also completely adorable.
GamesBeat 2014 — VentureBeat’s sixth annual event on disruption in the video game market — is coming up on Sept 15-16 in San Francisco. Purchase your ticket now to save $200!