Romero And Juliet
You want to scribble another tick mark on the scorecard of “games as art?” Well, you might want to pass Lollipop Chainsaw by. However, if you want to turn off your brain and mindlessly slaughter zombies with a chainsaw while punk rock blares in the background, boy have I got a game for you.
Lollipop Chainsaw is the newest title by Suda51, the man you can blame for No More Heroes and Shadows of the Damned. It follows in a similar tradition to those titles, with a quirky, always overstated sense of humor. Suda tends to push his creations so far over the top that they become ridiculous, then keeps on pushing them even further. Lollipop is no exception; it’s completely absurd.
The game tells the story of Juliet Starling, a cheerleader who happens to be the middle sister in a family of zombie slayers. Juliet’s weapon of choice is a chainsaw, of course, which she uses to dismember any undead unfortunate enough to shamble across her cute little path. She also wields a lollipop, because apparently it makes her sexy or something. Or else she just likes the taste…
It’s Juliet’s eighteenth birthday, and her high school, San Romero High, is being overrun by zombies. To make matters worse, her boyfriend was bitten, and the only way to save him was to remove his entire body. Now she wears his still-living, still-talking severed head around like he’s the latest fashion accessory. Kind of a crappy birthday, no?
The combat in Lollipop Chainsaw begins deceptively simple. In fact, when you first begin the game, you’ll most likely just mash buttons and pray for the best. And this works for a while. But soon you start to learn the intricacies of the combat system—one button for low chainsaw attack, one for high chainsaw attack, and one for a pom pom attack. Obviously the chainsaw attacks are far more powerful than pom pom attacks, but pom pom attacks are much quicker and able to make zombies “groggy,” which is basically a stun. Whenever a zombie is groggy, Juliet can use a chainsaw attack for a brutal insta-kill. Yes, this even works on the named zombies who are essentially mini-bosses.
Eventually you’ll find a rhythm to the whole thing, and that’s when you realize just how much fun Lollipop Chainsaw’s combat is. Of course, you can also purchase combos with the zombie tokens you collect, further increasing Juliet’s deadliness on the battlefield. (And yes, any cheerleader worth her salt is going to find an excuse to go shopping during the middle of a zombie plague.) Oh, and because it’s her birthday, Juliet keeps getting presents from her family to upgrade her chainsaw.
Each stage has you slaughtering zombies to your heart’s content, though most of them are broken up by minigames. Generally, these are just quick time events (the penalties for failing these can be downright brutal in some instances), but there are a few incredibly bizarre minigames thrown into the mix. Zombie Baseball in particular completely redefines the phrase “frustrating escort mission.”
Now, this wouldn’t be a Suda game without insane boss fights, and this is definitely a Suda game. The first boss, for example, is a punk rock zombie named Zed who plays electric guitar and hurls gigantic letters at you. Yes, letters. Don’t ask. If there were any underlying sense of logic behind all this, Suda fans would be asking for a refund. You see, this is a world filled with magical flying Viking ships, zombie chickens, and mind-altering mushrooms. None of it has to make any sense.
All of this craziness comes with a cel-shaded visual appeal that wouldn’t be anything special if it weren’t for the fact that everything is so damn stylized. Lollipop Chainsaw has this comic book vibe that carries over into its UI, menus, and even loading screens. It all works in conjunction to make a game that’s not pushing the boundaries of what your console can do but is just plain fun to look at. And we can’t really complain about that, now can we?
To compliment the game’s insanity is the soundtrack, a brilliantly schizophrenic mix of punk rock and 50’s rock ‘n’ roll (among other things). Not only does it work extremely well in the context, but it’s super fun to listen to.
And the voice acting isn’t too shabby either, thanks to Tara Strong (who you might remember as the voice of Harley Quinn in Arkham City) and Michael Rosenbaum. Of course, the acting is campy, but it’s intentionally campy, giving a great overall B-movie vibe to the whole thing. Let’s just say it’s more Rocky Horror Picture Show than Shawshank Redemption . And I’m perfectly okay with that.
If the M rating wasn’t already an indication, this is not a game you should play with your kids. Or your grandparents. The violence is extreme, everything is over-sexualized, and there’s no shortage of F-bombs. In fact, this last feature is to the game’s detriment. A few bad words here and there are fine, but Lollipop Chainsaw uses them so excessively that they lose their impact before the end of the first chapter. There are even a couple places where I heard an expletive and was confused as to why the writers even put it there.
And as long as I’ve wandered into the complaint section of this review, let’s talk about the downside of the controls: the wonky camera. You will be wrestling with it quite frequently, which is something I’m pretty sure game developers should have down pat by now. Sure, you have control over it, but getting into corners or against walls will often send the camera way off in a direction you didn’t intend. Of course, there isn’t really any super precise platforming or anything in the game, so the bad cameras won’t affect you as much as they would in some other games. Still, there are times where it’s just plain annoying.
At the end of the day, though, Lollipop Chainsaw is a game about mindlessly hacking things to bits with a chainsaw while staring at Juliet’s cute fanny (hey, she just turned eighteen; she’s legal). It’s not perfect, but it’s insane amounts of incredibly stylized, so-moronic-it’s-almost-genius fun. And really, we’d expect no less from the man who brought us No More Heroes.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.0 Graphics
Cel-shaded visuals with highly stylized, comic book-style menus. 3.8 Control
Simple yet precise, though the camera can be pretty wonky. 4.8 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Amazing soundtrack, with great B-movie vocal performances from Tara Strong and Michael Rosenbaum. 4.0 Play Value
The campaign will last about eight hours, but the levels can be replayed to unlock tons of extra goodies. 4.2 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid
|2.5 – 2.9 = Average
|3.5 – 3.9 = Good
|4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor
|3.0 – 3.4 = Fair
|4.0 – 4.4 = Great
|5.0 = The Best