Lollipop Chainsaw Review
Lollipop Chainsaw: Over-Stylized Zombie Killing Shenanigans
Having heard so much about the development styling of Grasshopper and Goichi Suda (A.K.A. Suda51), it is strange that I’ve never played their games. Being a fan of over-the-top action, violence and comedy; games such as Shadows of the Damned and No More Heroes should already be part of my collection. Regardless, I am here to talk about my first encounter with Grasshopper Manufacture, Inc., in the form of Lollipop Chainsaw.
Lollipop Chainsaw: Our Hero and Her Trusty Sidekick
Lollipop Chainsaw is an ingeniously stupid game. The dialogue and characters are so stereotypically inaccurate that it takes them so far away from the realm of real life that they are almost unbelievable. The zombie hunting protagonist, Juliet Starling; with her little outfits, comes off as a complete ditz who seemingly has the mental capacity of a child, but the body of a goddess. She is a zombie killing machine, with a love for shopping and her boyfriend Nick. Nick is a lucky guy; he has a beautiful girlfriend whose parents he will soon be meeting, but zombification soon gets in the way. Cue chainsaw rev. He then finds himself physically removed from his zombified corpse, still among the living, but not among the mobile. Nick is now a head, strapped to Juliet’s hip, where he acts as the loudmouth sidekick/attack peripheral to his girlfriend Juliet.
Lollipop Chainsaw: A Story with Emotion
The story behind Lollipop Chainsaw is one that has seen some use, yet not quite in this fashion. Juliet and her family are trained zombie hunters who long for the thrill of the hunt; indicated by their excitement after a fresh re-killing of the undead. Juliet’s Father is the eldest and most seasoned zombie hunter in the Starling clan. Behind him are his three daughters; the eldest daughter, Cordelia who is trained in sniper rifles; the youngest, Rosalind who is a rambunctious teenager who’s ramblings are incomprehensible in the midst of battle. The middle daughter is, of course, Juliet. Their mother is unlike the rest, constantly calling Juliet’s Chainsaw phone, talking about shopping, cooking, and matriarch woes, yet you never see her face. Now comes the good part.
The object of Lollipop Chainsaw is to hack and slash your way through wave after wave of Juliet’s zombified classmates. The visuals are amazing; taking a sullen world filled with evil and death and slapping a fresh coat of rainbows and glitter on it. The characters are well rendered, to the point that it becomes a guilty pleasure to slay the undead in the form of a scantily clad young woman. Lollipop Chainsaw spans 7 chapters; including a prologue and an epilogue. Each of these chapters ends with an off-the-wall boss battle and you’re presented with your score for that level. The levels are spread out over the massive campus around Juliet’s High School, San Romero High (Obviously a reference to zombie film director, George Romero).
The combat is somewhat similar to games like Bayonetta and Devil May Cry but lack the illustrious combos and fluidity found in both. As the game begins the combat is somewhat stale and lacking; though, as you progress through Lollipop Chainsaw you will find that, through purchasing combos and stat-building power-ups, you can increase the depth of the combat to a surprising point, not far from that of its more renowned predecessors. Nick also finds his way onto the battlefield with the help of Nick Tickets. These tickets are used to call up “Nick Roulette” a slot machine that decides how Nick will be utilized on the battlefield; whether he is being shot or rolled at the hordes of undead. In Lollipop Chainsaw, there are 3 types of attacks, plus a special mode when your star bar gets full. Special mode mixed with Multi-kills will bring a smile to anyone’s face; with their dramatic presentation and flashy lights and colors. I’ve found that very little effort is required to beat most enemies, and at times the combat can seem a bit slow and clunky making the combat seem a bit unexciting. Although, adding new moves, costumes, and increased stats should keep things fresh and interesting for a while. The addition of mini-games and quick time events add bit more variety to the linearity of the gameplay.
The enemies you encounter range from your average every day zombie to dynamite strapped suicide zombies. There are also special zombies, equipped with health bars and often times weapons, which require a bit more time to kill. Some of these zombies are collectable, meaning that killing them will add them to your collection. The bizarre bosses are members of a group called the Dark Purveyors; each has their own associated musical style. The Dark Purveyors are summoned by a tortured soul who calls evil upon the world he despises. Music makes up a large portion of the game. Not only are the bosses fashioned with their own genre in mind, the same goes for the soundtrack for their specific level. Lollipop Chainsaw covers each genre with original scores as well as licensed, popular music. Musicians such as Five Finger Death Punch, Skrillex, and D.R.U.G.S. (to name a few) add tracks into the BGM, as well as many others. The background music is customizable, allowing the player to change the playlist to tracks of their choosing.
Sweet, Sweet Unlockables and Collectables
As you make your way through each realm you will find collectable lollipop wrappers to add to your collection, also giving you a onetime health boost in dire moments. You will also receive currency from your foes. Gold medals are dispersed via zombie kills, saved classmates, and they are also found in destructible objects; platinum medals are given for more exotic means of killing, like multi-kills and downed special enemies. With these medals you can enter shops located throughout each level; where you can buy: new music, costumes, power-ups, and gallery art. The game touts 20 costumes that are free with the purchase of the game, no DLC required. I saw quite a bit of chatter on the internet about how the Japan release would receive more costumes; yet the only examples of those were costumes found in the American version. With these costumes many Otaku will find their thirst for anime quenched. Some costumes give Juliet the ability to Cosplay as characters from popular anime series such as High School of the Dead and Is That A Zombie?. The presence of non-DLC unlockables gives me hope for gaming, and makes this game stand out.
The majority of the game is spent listening to the banter between Juliet and Nick (mostly Nick, because there isn’t much else for a head to do, is there?). Otherwise, they are joined by Juliet’s family, and enemies they encounter. The dialogue is filled with a plethora of pop-culture references and product placement; well suited to the high school environment the protagonist finds herself in. Despite the rainbows and sparkles ever-present in the game, the malicious dialogue of the enemies jumps out of the screen (in more ways than one), and distorts the innocence and beauty of Juliet’s existence. In this way it makes it more satisfying to silence her undead foes. Yet, the detachment of Juliet from the words of others endures, even while her classmates throw raunchy banter her way. This may be a problem to some; if you find yourself easily offended by a scantily clad teen, called a bitch by her enemies, and sexually advanced upon by her male peers; then Lollipop Chainsaw may not be for you. Regardless, the racy dialogue is somewhat easy to move beyond and does not take away from the enjoyment to be had in the game, but it is ever present.
Not to share the path of a similar game, Onechanbara: Bikini Zombie Slayer; Lollipop Chainsaw is a Grasshopper/Suda51 love-child from hell, who is here to kick ass and partake in sugary hard candies, and there is no shortage on those. The combat is a bit rough, but doesn’t lack in satisfaction. The characters can be funny, but also forgettable. The visuals and music are colorful and fun, the over-the-top sexiness is definitely over the top (making Bayonetta look like a nun), and the outrageous and lewd banter are hit and miss. This game is short and super-sweet, taking around 4 hours to complete the story on Normal, but there are 3 other difficulty modes to conquer and plenty of collectables to gather (wrappers, costumes, voicemails, and more!). I would say Lollipop Chainsaw is perfect, but I would be lying; this game is not without its fair share of flaws, but they are somewhat forgivable given the ingeniously stupid nature of this hack and slash game. Lollipop Chainsaw is definitely unique, and it shows (in more ways than one). I have deemed it worth adding to my collection, but full retail price seems a bit steep for this title. The game could have been a bit longer, but there is still an enjoyable adventure to be had.