I’ve been hearing about Lollipop Chainsaw for almost a year before it finally released, and I will admit, I was excited. I’ve seen what Suda51 can do with a game, so, when I saw his peculiar style was being brought to a game that seemed to cross Buffy the Vampire Slayer with Devil May Cry and Return of the Living Dead, yes, I got a boner. Warner Bros. also saw it fit for everyone to get excited as they launched a huge publicity campaign for the game. My excitement grew, and by the time Lollipop Chainsaw released, I was worried it couldn’t live up to the hype. Fortunately, my fears were dashed as I played through this eccentric title. In short, this game is really cool.Title: Lollipop Chainsaw Platform: Xbox 360(reviewed), PlayStation 3 Developer: Grasshopper Manufacture Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, Kadokawa Games(JP) MSRP: $59.99 USD Release Date: June 12, 2012 (North America)
Lollipop Chainsaw follows San Romero High School cheerleader, Juliet Starling, as she ventures through the strangest 18th birthday a girl could ever have. Juliet goes to meet her dreamy sweetheart Nick at their school, only to find the campus overrun with the campiest sort of undead “douchebags.” This tends to be not too much of a problem for Juliet, considering she comes from a family of proud zombie hunters. Juliet even receives some (mostly)helpful assistance from her kin throughout the story. Juliet also receives aid from the recently severed, and mystically preserved, head of her very own beloved Nick, though often to his dismay. The evil overtaking the town was summoned by a mopey goth student by the name of Swan, who has brought forth five rock zombie lords, whom Juliet is determined to defeat.
Lollipop Chainsaw plays close to the hack-and-slash formula. You have the standard heavy attack with the chainsaw, which you may be tempted to rely on too much. You also have a button for quicker, weaker attacks with Juliet’s pom-poms, though these attacks are also used to stun enemies which, in turn, leaves them open to a one-hit kill. There is also a button dedicated to ground attacks, which can be useful for wide, sweeping attacks that hit all surrounding enemies, or amputating legs, setting up the zombies for easy executions. At the start of the game, there is hardly any way to chain the different kinds of attacks together. There are no smooth combos that go from light to heavy attacks, etc. It actually feels quite stiff, especially when the time it takes for animations to play out can often leave Juliet open to attack.The combat does require some skill, especially considering the scoring system in the game. You are scored based on how well you fight, obviously. But there is also something called Sparkle Hunting Mode, in which you are rewarded for killing multiple zombies with one attack by way of a pretty, slow-mo screen, as well as some bonus points and medals. I’m not much of a score hunter, so it didn’t appeal much to me, but I can easily see this being a very fun, addictive feature.
As the game goes on, Juliet receives enhancements to her chainsaw in the form of birthday presents from her teacher and family.
The most notable attachments being a long-range blaster, and the “Chainsaw Dash” ability, which allows Juliet to speed forward with her chainsaw to the ground. I rarely found the dash to be useful in battle other than closing the gap quickly. It’s mostly used for pre-set sections of certain levels that require you to jump ramps at speed.You also have the disembodied head of Nick to use for special moves in the game, which require “Nick Tickets” to use. I didn’t find myself using these attacks very often; frankly, they’re garbage. A couple of them have advantages, such as the “Nick Swing” for stunning large groups of zombies, but I found a much better use of my Nick Tickets. The “Nick Shake” move allows you to shake Nick’s head to produce gold medals(the game’s main currency) and lollipops(the game’s health item) by alternating between pressing the X and Y buttons. Each Nick Ticket costs 30 medals in the shop, and, assuming your fingers are up to the fluttering, you can easily squeeze out well over 30 medals on each go. Considering the ability to use this move replenishes at about each new area of a level, you can heavily boost your income throughout the game, and acquire more enhancements and combos.
Overall, the first half of the game leaves something to be desired in the fluidity of attacks and combos, as well as variety. The game also instructs the player pretty strictly for the first half, telling you what to do, where, and when. Other little things, like spending half of the High School level keeping flaming zombies from touching bomb zombies, get really annoying after a while. After the halfway point, however, the game opens up pretty well. You have the chance to buy more combos, which become a lot of fun to pull off. You have more freedom to choose how to fight, and you’re often rewarded for finding creative solutions.
This game is incredibly stylish. The cinematics play out with a bit of an indie movie flavor. This is where James Gunn’s influence is most apparent. The game uses its loading screens and transitions to continue the narrative, while also adding some variety to the delivery. I find this effect works pretty well, except when the sometimes aggravating load times kick in. As much as I enjoy what they did with these screens, the loading screens often staggered the game, much to my annoyance. The art style is very comic-esque, or like a graphic novel if you’re that kind of snob. Everything is vibrant and colorful, fitting with the worldview of Juliet herself.
The soundtrack to this game is amazing. Jimmy Urine of Mindless Self Indulgence handled the boss music for Lollipop, and it shows. The boss themes are exciting, and fit to the themes of the bosses quite well. Akira Yamaoka, renowned Silent Hill series composer, heads up the rest of the score. The music throughout every part of the game felt good. It is like the lifeblood that keeps the game feeling exciting. Each level has it’s own theme according to the zombie rock lord in charge, and the original tracks, as well as the licensed music, fits the theme of each level perfectly. The use of the music in the game is also done very cleverly. You can be ass deep in zombies, surrounded by the chugging sounds of the Viking Lord’s death metal, and then you pop your sparkle meter and the environment is taken over by the cheery tunes of “Mickey” by Toni Basil. At the moment, it feels like Juliet has taken over the battlefield, ready to overwhelm the undead enemy and crush them. It’s a good feeling, created entirely by the music. Overall, this is one of those game soundtracks you should consider purchasing.
The writing in this game is something to be noted. The story is engaging and humorous. There is a moment at the end of the game that even had me feeling some feels. I was not expecting that. Where the writing really shines is in the random jokes Juliet makes, banter from Nick, and the random threats of the zombies. At one point, I encountered a football zombie who said, “I’m going to fist my asshole with your head!” Yeah, there’s a lot of things like that in this game that caught me off guard, causing me to guffaw. As well, there is a torrent of references to cult horror movies and videogames alike. The keen observer will have a good time picking those out.
Leading up to the release of Lollipop Chainsaw, I was hearing lots of talk about it being an incredibly short game, specifically that the story campaign clocked in at 4 hours. These complaints always get on my nerves, as some of my favorite games would be considered short. I mean, Portal 2. Portal 2! Okay, so the campaign didn’t take me any more than 7 hours to complete, but it was a spectacular 7 hours. All of the elements of the game come together very well to create a fantastic interactive experience. Also, the already well developed story ended in a way that left me satisfied. It may be a pretty straight line, but it’s one hell of a ride.
While this game is littered with some minor issues like a difficult camera, and the occasional glitch, it is overall an incredibly fun and stylish game. However, it is admittedly short and straight forward, not offering much more replay value than possible replays through on higher difficulties. It is still something I would definitely recommend everyone play. While I think this game might be better suited for maybe a $50 price tag for the content it offers, you should definitely buy it if you have at all been excited for it. It will not let you down. Anyone else, I would say rent it, borrow it, buy it pre-owned. Do whatever you have to do to get your hands on it and experience this game at least once.