Developer: Grasshopper Interactive
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive
A chainsaw-wielding cheerleader, carrying the severed head of her boyfriend, has found herself in the middle of a zombie outbreak. This is Lollipop Chainsaw. Suda51 brings this silly yet engaging premise to the market for your enjoyment. Can Lollipop Chainsaw live up to the reputation of other Suda51 titles, or is this a weak link in the human pyramid? Oil up your favorite chainsaw, it’s time for the review.
I have a favorite chainsaw?
Lollipop Chainsaw is about a San Romero High School cheerleader named Juliet Starling, who finds herself in the middle of a zombie outbreak on her 18th birthday (so yes, technically it would be legal to fantasize about her, but that doesn’t make it any less creepy). She’s on her way to check on her boyfriend Nick, and when she finds him, he is bitten by a zombie. Juliet saves him from the virus by decapitating him and performing a ritual which keeps him alive. From there, with help from her boyfriend and family, she goes on to save the town.
Behold, the elusive Sparkle, in it’s natural habitat
Lollipop Chainsaw takes the look of a comic book, mixes in a grindhouse movie-type atmosphere and presents it as an old-school arcade game. There are even old-school arcade games to play in one of the levels. As with the story, the look is very over-the-top and silly. Glitter, rainbows, hearts and stars fly around during combat, really playing up the arcade feel. While the graphics aren’t going to blow anyone away, Lollipop Chainsaw is presented in such a way that the player could easily look past the subpar graphics in lieu of a fun gameplay setup. There is also a fair amount of exploration which tasks the player with finding random collectibles to earn rewards.
A zombie with a gun…How is that fair?
Alhough the game’s controls are simple to learn, they are mapped out slightly differently from most other games. But once the player gets the hang of them, a rhythm is developed and the oddness of the layout is diminished. The vast majority of the combat is melee-based, with pom pom attacks as the light, quick attacks, and the chainsaw as the heavy, slower attacks. Targeting enemies helps on occasion but isn’t always recommended, and defense relies on simply leapfrogging over enemies to move behind them. This leapfrogging also works as an offensive maneuver used to start a finishing move or as way to take down enemies a little quicker.
For the most part, the gameplay works very well. The controls are responsive and, with the exception of a button or two, simple to learn. The only problem is hacking and slashing zombies becomes repetitive after a while. There are a few changes of pace, such as zombie basketball or placing Nick’s head on a previously decapitated zombie, but those moments are only designed to clear paths rather than distract the player from the monotonous gameplay.
Features in the game include collecting and using lollipops to restore health, and a special meter that puts Juliet in a powered up mode. During this mode, Juliet can finish off zombies with a one-hit finisher move. Finishing off three or more at the same time initiates Sparkle Hunting, which allows the player to collect more coins to be exchanged at the Chop 2 Shop stores located at several points in the game. Players collect gold and platinum coins to purchase in-game items such as heavier attacks, more health, power, etc. While this is a great idea in concept, the execution is lackluster, as the upgrades do not always feel like they help the player in any meaningful way. The system just feels empty rather than something that makes the coins worth collecting. However, platinum coins can be exchanged for items that have more substance, such as alternate costumes, music, and concept art.
How am I talking… Without a ****ing thorax?
Where Lollipop Chainsaw truly shines is in its sound direction. The soundtrack is a varied mix of licensed music including Joan Jett, Skrillex, Five Finger Death Punch, and even Toni Basil. There is also some specially composed music for the game, including the boss fight battle music by Jimmy Urine of Mindless Self Indulgence. Lollipop Chainsaw‘s soundtrack can also be arranged to suit your taste should you find a few songs you prefer over others.
As well as a good soundtrack, Lollipop Chainsaw has a star-studded voice cast behind it, while James Gunn does a great job of writing all the characters, especially Nick. Juliet comes across as a ditzy high school cheerleader who just so happens to like fighting zombies, and there really isn’t much substance to her, despite her being a fun heroine to play as. However, Nick comes across as a guy who is trying to deal with the fact that he’s just a head now, and this provides an interesting contrast to Juliet’s mindless nature. Still, the dialog between Juliet and Nick is entertaining and helps tie the game together.
Warren G. Harding was my favorite president
As you may notice, Lollipop Chainsaw isn’t without its faults. Even with great writing, the characters take too long to develop to a point where you care what happens to them, and the plot suffers for that. Speaking of the story, the game is only about 6-8 hours long. Unfortunately, the story is the main draw for this game as there is little else to enjoy outside of it. There are a few multiplayer modes including Score Attack, Time Attack, and Medal Attack, and all of these have the same basic premise where you must do your best to get the highest score, shortest time, or most platinum medals in a certain level. The game then calculates your score and posts it on an online leader board. It doesn’t add much, but if you’re interested in bragging to your friends or even the world about your ranking then it may provide some extra gameplay.
Another drawback of Lollipop Chainsaw happens to be the boss fights, as the bosses are characters who don’t necessarily have character. The story fails to explain why you’re fighting them or even how the bosses came to be. The boss battles themselves also lack the “battle” element. Often it feels like Juliet is looking for a weak point to exploit rather than fighting off a major threat. It is mainly a pattern recognition exercise rather than a fight to the death, which seems like a lost opportunity to make the game better.
All things considered, Lollipop Chainsaw isn’t a bad game – it’s over-the-top, gory, mindless fun. The game doesn’t take itself or the genre too seriously, nor does it try to “reinvent the wheel”. What Lollipop Chainsaw does is what any decent video game should do, and that’s entertain.
Sure, the game has its faults, but that still doesn’t take away from just how much fun Lollipop Chainsaw delivers to the player. There’s room for improvement, but what has been presented all comes together well enough to have some fun without encountering any game-breaking faults. We strongly recommend renting the game since it is so short and isn’t the type of game worth putting a ton of hours into. This is the type of game where you decapitate, disembowel and dismember zombies just for the fun of it.
Final Verdict: Lollipop Chainsaw gets 7 chainsaw-wielding cheerleaders out of 10.
[xrr rating=7/10, max_stars=10]
This review is based off a retail copy of the Playstation 3 version of Lollipop Chainsaw by WB Games