: Grasshopper Manufacture
: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
: XBOX 360, PlayStation 3
: Action, Hack and slash
: June 12, 2012
Chainsaw wielding cheerleader, Juliet Starling has finally dropped into our laps in the latest game from Suda51 and James Gunn in Lollipop Chainsaw. Like other Suda51 games before it, Lollipop Chainsaw can be described in a variety of words but I think acronyms such as WTF, LMAO, and OMG can sum up a lot of the outrageous humor this game has to offer. Itís a completely twisted game with absurdity and fun at its core. Lollipop Chainsaw also serves as a tribute to the early days of gaming, not just in gameplay, but its overall package. Way back when, video games werenít meant to be taken too seriously but instead relied on your enjoyment of playing the game from start to finish. Thatís Lollipop Chainsaw. Itís one hell of a good time in the form of one completely wild ride.
Lollipop Chainsaw follows the adventures of Juliet Starling, a sexy and flirtatious cheerleader from San Romero high school. Juliet may seem like just another face in town, but she and her family hold a secret from the general public: theyíre highly trained zombie hunters. It would seem the way of destiny that Juliet whips out her huge chainsaw, because on her eighteenth birthday, things take a turn for the worse.
A zombie outbreak has been unleashed on Julietís hometown and hundreds of innocent civilians have been infected and now walk the earth as undead. The cause of this entire calamity is a zombie overlord named Swan who looks totally goth. Swanís motive is to destroy the barrier that separates Earth from Rotten World, where all zombies and evil forces are inhabited. In the resulting ritual, Swan also unleashes a group of zombie bosses who were once classmates of Julietís at San Romero high school, each with distinct musical influences like metal, techno, and psychedelic pop.
Itís now Julietís task as a zombie hunter to track down each of the zombie bosses who inhabit her town, eliminating all until she reaches Swan to stop him for good. In her journey Juliet will also receive help from her sisters, Cordelia and Rosalind Starling, her zombie hunter sensei, her father, Gideon Starling, and of course her boyfriend, Nick Carlyle who accompanies Juliet as a severed head after she was forced to saw his head off after Nick sustained a lethal zombie bite. This is just the beginning of everything crazy in Lollipop Chainsaw.
Lollipop Chainsaw may not boast the best graphics engine in its genre, but it certainly isnít sloppy either. The game takes the approach of bringing a comic book to life and you can see this in the gameís various menus, and occasionally during gameplay too. Thereís plenty of color to be appreciated here. Just as lollipops come in all assortments of colors, so does the game. Not one part of the game looks dull on the eyes.
This is one of the gameís strongest attributes, in my opinion. I enjoyed the dynamic connections between each character. The game has some good voice actors, some I didnít recognize but I thought they did bring something good to the table. The voices that stuck out the most was Juliet Starling voiced by Tara Strong, who has provided a lot of voice work for tv shows such as X-Men, Teen Titans, Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends and games such as Ratchet & Clank, then there's Nick Carlyle, played by Michael Rosenbaum, who you may recognize as portraying Lex Luthor on Smallville. As I found him highly entertaining, I easily got into this characterís dialogue and enjoyed it the most. Believe me the dialogue of this game is great to listen to as itís completely random and nonsensical. Itís like watching a movie you know is going to flop but you watch it anyway for those moments that make no sense and theyíre matched with equally random one-liners. So I applaud the cast for providing a lot of ďlolĒ moments.
The game has a great soundtrack as well. A lot of good licensed music is in here from as many genres as the game presents. So youíll hear Pac Man Fever by Buckner & Garcia, Lollipop by The Chordettes, You Spin Me Round (Like A Record) by Dead or Alive, Heroes of Our Time by Dragonforce, and much more. In addition, the creative efforts of both Akira Yamaoka and Jimmy Urine give the game a great original score. Each stage of the game has its theme and the combination of these artists and original soundtrack make for an entertaining experience.
Jumping right into Lollipop Chainsaw was a bit different compared to other hack and slash games Iíve played in the past. For example, Juliet is grounded to the floor indefinitely and thereís not really a jump button. There is however a dodge button that, when pressed with the analog stick pushed in any direction, allows Juliet to dodge in the chosen direction. It wasnít a problem. Itís just a matter of getting acclimated with new controls.
The word chainsaw is in the gameís title so youíre putting that tool to use as a weapon. Attack buttons are confined to X, Y, and A in the XBOX 360ís case. X cues the pom pom bash in which Juliet whips out her pom poms and dazes surrounding zombies. Itís her fastest attack. Y and A are chainsaw attacks. Theyíre a bit slower but are very powerful when they make contact. When a zombie has been dazed stars appear over their head which means they can be decapitated with one swing from a chainsaw attack. The difference between the Y and A buttons is that Y is a high chainsaw swing attack and A is a lower attack that is especially useful when zombies come chasing after your heels.
Zombies will attack you in hordes and sometimes things can get out of hand. Thatís when the dodge button (B) comes in handy as it lets you move about a crowd of zombies with ease to find an opening to attack. All of these buttons can be used in multiple combinations for diverse attack patterns, though some of these moves will need to be unlocked first.
There were a couple of things that bugged me about gameplay though. One was the gameís camera. You control this camera with the right analog stick, but strangely it can be controlled with the left analog stick (the one that moves Juliet) too. If you press the left stick to make Juliet face a different direction the camera will slightly move to face that direction too. Sometimes gamers use both sticks (that is movement and camera angle) while they play and this can throw you off and cost you in the middle of a zombie fight. Iíd try to adjust the camera to keep an eye on approaching zombies, but that motion paired with my moving Juliet with the left stick would throw things out of balance and Iíd be attacked but couldnít see from what. This is something that catches you by surprise at the beginning and youíll overcome it Iím sure but it was a bit strange at first.
The second thing was fighting with zombies. They attack you in numbers. A whole crowd can come at you even, but itís difficult to understand their attack patterns because thereís no attack indicator so youíll have to go with your gut instead. So it got a little wearisome focusing on one zombie when the rest of the horde seems mindless and they suddenly spring into attack. Once youíre hit your open to more attacks. Itís a game of rock, paper, scissors in a way. You focus on one and hope another doesnít attack you while you finish one off. The easiest way to deal with this, I found, was to dodge out of the way and use combos that are great against groups to break them up for easy kills.
So some cool stuff: each level introduces a new power up, so to speak. Because the game takes place on Julietís birthday, for each new level she receives a birthday gift with something valuable. These include the chainsaw blaster, chainsaw dash, Nick popper, and more. So as you progress through the game, more and more doors for zombie killing open up and they make for an enjoyable way to mix up your gameplay.
Julietís boyfriend Nick is also quite valuable besides hanging off the side of Julietís butt. You can use Nick tickets, which are either picked up in each stage, or purchased, from the shop. Redeeming a Nick ticket triggers a roulette sequence and whichever option you choose by chance uses Nick as an offensive weapon such as firing his head like a cannonball or swinging it around like a ball and chain. Moreover, there will be certain areas in which Juliet canít move on by herself and sheíll need Nickís help. His decapitated head can be magically paired with a headless body and Juliet will provide a cheer while players temporarily take control of Nick in a series of quick time button events. More often these are done when Nick must break down a barrier that Juliet canít saw through or throw her over an impenetrable wall.
Juliet will also come across cheer platforms. She can jump off of these and if players push the on-screen buttons in the correct sequence and in the allowed time, Juliet will perform a midair cheer and land to be rewarded with a lot of zombie coins, which are important in the game. Juliet can also jump off the heads of zombies while cheering, this acts in the same manner as jumping off a cheer platform, and for each correct button press youíre rewarded with the valuable gold coins. Then there are randomly placed poles and thatís when Juliet can perform a pole dance. Yup, zombies canít help but want to get a closer look at the show and thatís their mistake because Juliet swings her chainsaw as they approach and she ends up showering in a fountain of gold coins.
A very valuable feature at your disposal is using ďSparkle HuntingĒ. A meter in the lower left corner of the screen will gradually fill as you kill zombies. Once itís completely full you can use sparkle hunting temporarily. Itís the gameís berserker mode which means you can land one hit kills with it enabled. The key is to earn as many coins as you can and killing three or more zombies at once is the key. When you decapitate three or more at the same time youíre given the special platinum coins which unlock equally special features in the shop.
I mentioned that the game is kind of a love letter to the old days of gaming. Thatís true and when you get to the arcade themed stage in the game and youíll see why. Juliet is sucked into an arcade game world ala Tron in which she must play through games to reach the end of the stage. The first sequence is like Pac Man, and thatís really cool. I wonít spoil the rest but thereís even a throwback to side-scrolling games too. Itís a treat for longtime gamers who come from those humble beginnings.
The boss battles are also an enjoyable aspect of the game because they come in parts, or phases. That means these fights get creative and youíll surely be kept on your toes to figure out how to finish off these baddies.
There are six stages within the game. I know what you must be thinking, thatís short. Well, each stage is particularly lengthy. If you were to take your time you could clear each within 45 to 55 minutes, or nearly an hour. So you could say that puts the game at about 6 or 7 hours long. Yeah, I took my time and I still think the game was over too soon for my liking. Itís too bad but I found there was some incentive to go back.
Firstly thereís unlockable content. Those gold and platinum coins you collect can be spent in the shop for new attack combos and power ups. Trust me; you wonít get them all in your first play through of the game. Honestly, there are dozens and dozens of combos and power ups to be collected, so you havenít seen just how powerful Juliet can really be. The extra special platinum coins can unlock alternate outfits, music, and concept art for the game. I was surprised to see just how many alternate costumes there are available, so itís definitely worth going after those.
A cool feature of the game is that you can customize your very own music playlist. Music unlocked in the shop and the music youíre awarded with for clearing the stage are stored in whatís called ďJulietís StashĒ, or a collection of everything youíve obtained. You can choose up to five tracks that will play on a loop, one after the other. With a lot of music in the game, there are hundreds of different music combinations.
Thereís a Ranking Mode in the game that is associated with online leaderboards. You play through each stage attempting to get the highest score and the fastest time possible. The leaderboards contain information from gamers worldwide.
Not many games have really fun achievements that need hunting, but Lollipop Chainsaw does. Thereís a great amount of achievements that require some impressive feats of dexterity and some that are just random but fun to get, such as unlocking an achievement for ďaccidentallyĒ moving the camera below Julietís skirt. Others involve the boss fights, which are really fun to get, saving your classmates from becoming zombies, and others involve unlocking every goody in the game. Thereís even an alternate ending that needs unlocking too.
Lollipop Chainsaw is a whole bunch of things in one little package. The gameís length, unpredictable AI, and wonky camera can bog the experience down a bit. However, the gameís true merit is its ability to entertain gamers in its presentation, ridiculous dialogue and storyline, and a certain homage to the early days of gaming. Additionally, thereís more to see when youíve finished the game, dozens and dozens of power ups, attack combos, alternate costumes, music, and art. Itís true that the honeymoon is over in a matter of hours, but you can certainly have a good time with the game. I see it as what I imagined it would be, like a cheesy movie but in video game form that has me laughing from start to finish. Youíll feel right at home if youíre a fan of Suda51ís work as well. Lollipop Chainsaw is a sexy, revolting, and hilarious zombie romp thatís worth looking into.