There comes a time that every reviewer wants to set aside their persona. To communicate something deeply personal about themselves or their beliefs with their audience. A desire for them to reach beyond the veil of separation and show the reader what they truly value and care about. That, for perhaps one fleeting moment, they might share a piece of themselves with their audience so that both they and their readers can grow from the experience.
I just want to talk about teenage girls killing zombies.
First off, let’s get something out of the way here: I really like Suda 51. Their games have a charming, if highly immature, sense of humor to them that always manages to bring a smile to my face. The fact that the games are generally really fun is a nice bonus too. But when they announced their latest title, Lollipop Chainsaw, I have to admit I was a bit nervous. I mean, there’s subtle humor, overt humor, and then there’s a chainsaw wielding cheerleader killing zombies. I was actually a bit taken aback by the blatant amount of fanservice that was readily apparent. Me. So if that sort of thing offends you, you may as well stop reading here as this game clearly isn’t for you.
All right, so with that out of the way let’s start by taking a look at the game’s story. You play as Juliet; just your regular, everyday cheerleader who loves hanging out with her friends and family almost as much as she loves hanging out with her boyfriend, Nick. She’s running late to school, which is a shame what with it being her birthday and all. To make matters even worse, her school has been infected with zombies who are trying to kill everyone! What’s a girl to do? Why, pull out her magical chainsaw that she always has with her and proceed to wipe the undead out. Long story short, this is not a game that’s going to win any awards for best screen play or most realistic performance. The whole thing is over the top and preposterous, but it’s also really fun, in a juvenile sort of way. The game never takes itself too seriously, and this gives the whole thing a great atmosphere that is really enjoyable to experience. Even if it is absolutely insane.
But what really makes me overlook how ridiculous the story can be is how well Lollipop Chainsaw does the character interactions. The best example of this is the banter between Juliet and Nick as they battle through zombies, spewing one liners back and forth and just generally being amusing. And this is in large part thanks to the game’s great voice acting, with great performances from Tara Strong and Michael Rosenbaum really playing up the characters for me. But this to be expected, as I felt that this game’s strongest aspect is easily its sound design. From the top notch voice acting to the fantastic audio tracks (seriously, check out the track list) this game is a real pleasure to listen to. The game even gives you the ability to unlock specific tracks and create your own playlist for your listening pleasure, just in case you’re in to that sort of thing.
The game is also very appealing from a visual perspective (for reasons other than the half naked teenage protagonist). The game uses bright colors to emphasize the action, with zombies exploding into clouds of glitter when they die and the protagonist decked out in colorful clothing. It provides a fun contrast with the dreary zombies you’re fighting, as you romp through the different levels purging the darkness from the area. The graphics may be nothing ground breaking or state of the art, but they’re solid for a next gen title and have enough flair to them to make up for any shortcomings in this department. Plus the character art used to introduce everyone was really well done, so I can’t complain. So now let’s dig into the meat of this game, the actual game play.
Lollipop Chainsaw is your basic hack and slash game, where progressing through the levels and killing zombies nets you money that you can use to upgrade your character with new moves, better stats, and unlockable extras. The controls are a bit clunky, with the camera being a bit difficult at times and Juliet handling somewhat awkwardly. Also the drop kick command is a pain (I mean really, who makes a technique use the two buttons across each other. I only have two thumbs.). But these gripes are admittedly minor, as overall the game handles pretty smoothly, with combat being fun and intuitive to even a newbie to the genre. Just remember to switch the Chainsaw Blaster’s aim to manual in the options and everything will be fine.
Lollipop Chainsaw also has some fantastic boss designs, as I have come to expect from a Suda 51 game ever since No More Heroes. All six of the games’ bosses are memorable and a blast to fight, with all of them having multiple stages for you to fight through. These characters and their subsequent battles were easily the most memorable part of the game for me, as figuring out their patterns and overcoming them in spectacular fashion was a blast. The music theme was also a nice touch, as each zombie boss represents a different form of music (yes even the Psychedelic Zombie). Plus they were a nice change of pace from the killing of zombie hordes and mini-games.
And this, unfortunately, leads us into the game’s flaws. Flaw number one: annoying, out of place mini-games. I’m looking at you zombie baseball (note: this is why you switch the aim to manual. This mini-game is broken otherwise)! I hate to say it, but the only time I died in the entire game was during the stupid mini-games. It wouldn’t be quite so bad if they didn’t insta-kill you when you fail or if they actually made sense contextually, but as it is they aggravate the heck out of me. The other problem I have is that the game is short. As in, beat it in a day short. Sure, you can get some more play time if you’re a completionist, but you can probably unlock everything in less than 30 hours of playtime if you tried. And honestly, unless you’re into collectables there’s no real reason to go back and play through the game again. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fun 6-8 hours of game play, but at the end of the day it left me wanting more.
As such, unless you’re a fairly avid Suda 51 fan or if the concept happens to strike your fancy, I can’t really recommend picking this game up right now. It’s definitely worth picking up once the price drops or renting it out for a weekend, but the initial cost of a new game just isn’t worth it. Rent it if you can, but otherwise wait a few months before picking this zombie slaughterfest up.