- Platform : Xbox 360
- Developed by : Grasshopper Manufacture/SUDA 51
Lollipop Chainsaw is a hugely enjoyable game. It’s frenetic, massive amounts of fun and, although a little short, a must for any horror gamers.
From the twisted minds of Goichi Suda (SUDA 51) and James Gunn (Troma alum who directed Slither and Super), Lollipop Chainsaw is my favourite game of 2012 so far (but that’s perhaps only because Borderlands 2 hasn’t been released yet.) It follows high school cheerleader Juliet Starling on her birthday as she is forced to return to San Romero High to fight hordes of newly infected zombies. Oh yeah, did I mention she’s also a zombie hunter with a Japanese mentor and a severed head for a boyfriend that she carries around on her belt?
Lollipop Chainsaw will undoubtedly garner comparisons to Suda’s No More Heroes in terms of gameplay and style, if nothing else. It takes place in a rainbow coloured candy commercial of a World and the characters and backgrounds are all very much larger than life. This works to the games advantage though as it doesn’t look much like anything else I’ve seen lately and stands out amidst a sea of drab war-centric games and generic hack and slash-ers.
Juliet is restricted to just one weapon, her chainsaw, (and later on, a chainsaw canon) but there are such an array of combinations and attacks that it never gets boring. She is also able to use her pom-poms (that’s not a euphemism) to stun the zombies and make them easier to kill. Killing zombies, amongst other things such as destroying vending machines, earns Juliet zombie medals which can be used in the shop within the game. In the shop she can buy new attacks, health bonuses, different outfits, music and artwork. After one play through, I still hadn’t made much of a dent on these items which adds to the games vast re-playability.
The characters are fairly well written too, and their dialogue is crudely hilarious, no surprise given that James Gunn was the man in charge of the pen. Along the way we meet Juliet’s family, who are also zombie hunters, naturally, as well as a number of brilliantly realised bosses. The boss battles are where you’re likely to have the most fun. With backing music composed by Mindless Self Indulgence’s Jimmy Urine, they’re frenetic, bonkers and the difficulty increases very smoothly, giving you enough time to learn and practise before being thrown in at the deep end. That’s not to say they’re easy though, the final battle involving a giant Elvis-a-like zombie named Killabilly took a reasonable amount of time to get through and was, at times, pretty tough.
The rest of the soundtrack is a mixed bag with some obvious choices, like Lollipop by The Chordettes and some more obscure tracks by Skrillex, Children Of Bodom and Atari Teenage Riot. One thing I will say though, is if you have a particular aversion to Toni Basil’s Oh, Mickey then you may want to limit the number of times you use one of Juliet’s special attacks otherwise that will certainly grate.
One of the highlights for me, as a horror fan first and a gamer second, was gleefully picking out the voice actors. Starring the considerable vocal talents of the prolific Tara Strong as Juliet and Michael Rosenbaum as her boyfriend Nick, there are also memorable turns from Linda Cardellini, Michael Rooker, Shawnee Smith and James’s brother Sean Gunn. Another plus point that had me grinning from ear to ear was picking up on the plethora of movie references, from the more obvious things like naming the levels after zombie movie directors (San Romero High, Fulci Fun Center, O’Bannon Farm, etc.) to some of the inspired dialogue homaging some of the greats, it was a lot of fun.
Despite the huge amount of positives there were also a couple of negatives, most notably the overly sensitive controls. In an attempt to get the player used to the rapid movements and quick-fire directional controls there is a brief prologue which serves to help you understand which buttons do what and just how fast the whole thing can move. This is fine provided that Lollipop Chainsaw is the only game you plan to play until completion. If you do what I did and mix it up with stints on something like the Gears Of War trilogy, where if anything, the controls can be a little sluggish then it can quickly become disorienting and you’ll have to spend a few minutes each time, readjusting.
If your reaction times are particularly slow, you might also become frustrated with just how fast the game does move. Especially during segments such as the occasions when Juliet places Nicks head on a decapitated zombie corpse and requires you to rapidly hit buttons to keep him moving. It wouldn’t be an issue were these sections optional but without completing them you’re unable to move forward. Other than these minor complaints though, Lollipop Chainsaw had very few drawbacks for me, although whoever made the decision to use Comic Sans for so much of the wording should be taken out back and chopped to bits, zombie or not. The storyline is, more or less, perfunctory too. It’s there to explain away the zombie outbreak and the reason for the game existing but some parts are under-written and may leave you wanting. That’s not to say that’s massively to the games detriment however, the game is so absurd and colourful, and moves at such a breakneck speed, that you might barely even notice a storyline at all.
Lollipop Chainsaw knows its limitations and works with them. The makers obviously knew that creating a game where the protagonist does nothing but hack and slash her way through hordes of the undead wearing nothing but a skimpy cheerleader outfit would soon become boring so they added enough mini games to allow you a breather from the main action and the chance to do something different. Some of the more memorable ones involve running zombies over in a combine harvester and shooting rocks before they come crashing down on a school bus that Juliet’s sister happens to have hijacked and a brilliant Pacman-inspired maze game.
The dialogue is simple but well-timed and very, very funny, our protagonist is a wonderful combination of twee teenager and ass-kicking heroine, the visuals are well realised and inventive and it’s very easy to get sucked into. It’s demented, ridiculous, over-the-top and hysterical. Ultimately there’s not a whole lot more that I can say about Lollipop Chainsaw. Calling it throwaway is unfair and does it a disservice but it’s certainly fluff and won’t require you to exercise your cerebral cortex too energetically. It does serve as an incredibly entertaining diversion though and I’m looking forward to playing it all the way through again.
Zombies? Check. Carnage? Check. Hot cheerleader? Check. Why are you still reading this and not playing Lollipop Chainsaw yet? Given the ending and the predominantly positive reception it’s received, it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that there may be a sequel in the works before too long. Here’s to hoping!