I wasn’t entirely thrilled at the thought of reviewing Lollipop Chainsaw (LC). Previews and screenshots led me to believe that I would be sitting through hours of overtly sexual gameplay and ‘money shots’ of cleavage and panties – not exactly a thrilling assignment for a female gamer/critic. While Lollipop Chainsaw is absolutely all that it seems to be in screenshots and trailers, it’s surprisingly much, much more. With actual gameplay and mechanics being some of the worse parts about this game, LC manages to make up for much of it in character, humor, options, and psychotic theme combinations.
Fans of grindhouse-style media, be prepared to fall in love. LC ticks all the classic boxes, featuring a nonsense story, awesome music, and lots of pointless vulgarity. In a sense, LC fits into the same boat as WET, and those fans can easily find harbor in Chainsaw‘s action and style. There is a story, though it isn’t really the reason that keeps you playing. In a nutshell, a goth-y outcast from San Romero High decides to summon demons and zombies to our world as revenge for years of personal torment. It just so happens our heroine, Juliet, comes from a family of zombie hunters – and she’s the best in the biz. Unfortunately for her, she’s not the brightest bulb on the SRH cheerleading squad, but her arsenal of weapons and high-kicks give her the edge when fighting the undead. With her quirky family and boyfriend on her side, she takes on the challenge of saving the world, one severed limb at a time.
LC‘s style is completely unique, mixing explicit sexuality, profanity, and excessive violence with sugary sweet aspects found in most Japanese-style games. The game is completely self-aware, poking fun at itself and magically bringing all of these wildly different themes together in a rainbow explosion of insanity and humor. Zombie-kill combos earn Juliet point bonuses that are presented with sparkles and rainbows. Health objects are in the form of lollipops. Coins are awarded for kills, and can be spent at sporadically placed stores marked by a cute, anime baby chick. Did I mention there were rainbows? Everywhere?? The utter hilarity in combining blood and gore with these candy-coated features allows the player to forgive all the f-bombs, misogyny, and panty peep-shots.
Juliet isn’t the best character I’ve ever seen; she’s obviously a vessel for teenage hormones to drive sales. She’s written as a ditzy bimbo, but she has a surprising element of real heart to her. She never backs down from a fight and is willing to go out of her way to fight for those she loves. To balance Juliet’s occasionally flat character, the developers gave her a fantastic sidekick, Nick. Nick is Juliet’s jock boyfriend who is attacked by zombies during the opening scene. The only way Juliet could save him from becoming a zombie was to perform a little magic and cut off his head. That’s right, Nick is a living, breathing, decapitated head. Juliet keeps him on her belt, conveniently hanging next to the edge of her micro-skirt. Nick is one of the best characters in the game, though he provides little more than hilarious commentary, narration, and occasionally being used as a weapon to kill zombies (shooting out of a mini cannon, swinging on the end of a rope, etc). Every time Nick spoke, I couldn’t help but laugh out loud.
Chainsaw‘s musical track is a thing to behold. There’s a slew of licensed music as well as original content by Akira Yamaoka and Johnny Urine. The music unlocks both as you progress through the game and by purchasing them with special coins in the shop. LC lets you create your own personal set-list of the music you’ve accumulated that will cycle during your gameplay. Some of the featured artists include Sleigh Bells, Skrillex, Joan Jett, Children of Bodom, Five Finger Death Punch, and Human League. Having these artists sprinkled in between original tracks like Viking Zombies Sail on Lightning Seas and Bowel Purge just puts this element over the top into the realm of awesome.
Now we have to discuss some of Lollipop Chainsaw‘s downsides. As mentioned before, these mostly pertain to the mechanics and actual gameplay. LC is a linear action game that suffers from occasionally wonky controls and camera angles, as well as being a little less than inspiring in the combo department. When you start your game, Juliet has only a few, basic moves that can be used to decimate her undead attackers. The only way to unlock more interesting combos is to buy them through the shop. You can also purchase upgrades for her health, power, and recovery meters. These options don’t really make you feel as though you’re customizing your character, just that you’re doing what you can with what little coins you have. The combos and upgrades get exponentially more expensive as you buy them, making the most powerful moves something you probably won’t collect on your first play through. Regardless, by then end of LC, you will have a sufficient number of moves and power under your belt to feel confident against the final boss.
Zombies are little more than cannon fodder and coin bags for your character: some enemies have more health than others, some have names, some fly and some run. Realistically though, none of them are terribly difficult on their own. Even the bosses are fairly stereotypical, requiring three or so stages to complete before they finally die. The challenge comes into the game due to the sheer volume of zombies that are thrown at you at any given time. Other critics consider Chainsaw to be nothing more than a button-masher, but they obviously weren’t trying to play the game the way it was intended. By all means, you can mash to your heart’s content, but you will earn fewer points, coins, and your grade for the stage will be lowered due to those factors. It also takes much longer to kill the zombies by mashing. It is important to use your combos and figure out which ones work the best on each baddie.
There are a multitude of mini-games thrown in throughout the game. Some are interesting and totally different from the rest of the game, like being transported into a Pack Man-style level or having a basketball shootout with the heads of zombies as they fly off their shoulders. Others are simple quick-time button minigames that service you with a little break-up from the action. Either way, they are a welcomed change of pace. LC is constantly throwing you curve balls during the game, which I love. It’s not a monotonous barrage of enemies for five hours. LC has enough cutscenes, minigames, outrageous moments to keep you hooked.
Another let down is that there is not much going on with multiplayer. After defeating each stage, you unlock the ability to compete against the online leader boards. If that isn’t boring, I don’t know what is. I was hoping for hoard-style multiplayer arenas. Why wasn’t that or something like it accomplished? Who knows.
Lollipop Chainsaw is one of those games you will never forget. Regardless of what some critics may say, it really is very fun thanks to incredible writing, lots of options and combos, a decent replay value, and its wacky style. It didn’t go out of its way to reinvent the action genre, but it is by no means broken. I say, if you aren’t going to focus on changing a tried and true format, than make it interesting and special – and that’s just what they did. The overall style of the game is what will win you over and keep you enthralled for hours.
I give Lollipop Chainsaw 3.5 “Crazy Senseis” out of 5.
by Rachael Hite