Lollipop Chainsaw: A Review

Lollipop Chainsaw
is the strange, quirky, vulgar story of Juliet Starling, her zombie hunting family, and her attempt to introduce her boyfriend Nick to them. The game itself is made by Suda51 (Goichi Suda) and Hollywood director James Gunn; this is already an interesting combination because Suda51 has worked on anything from Fatal Frame IV, Clock Tower, and Killer 7 to wrestling games and James Gunn has worked on things as opposite as Slither to the live-action Scooby-Doo movies of the decade past, so these are CLEARLY talented men from a WIDE range of experience in games differing as blatantly as an episode of Barney compared to a Saw movie, we didn’t know what to expect here people, not at all, all we saw originally was a hot girl with a guy’s head strapped to her waist cutting zombies to pieces with a sparkly pink chainsaw. Some of us went to the dark place of Onechanbara: Bikini Zombie Slayers, thank God that is not what we were given, not at all; instead we were given a huge heaping pile of AWESOME!

Our Heroes of Lollipop Chainsaw: Juliet Starling (Tara Strong) and Nick Carlyle (Michael Rosenbaum).

At first glance it seems like your typical hack and slash game, and some other reviewers may have preached this to you, but believe me, this is not the case, you CANNOT get through this game simply by mashing the attack buttons, there are combos, specials, power-ups, hostages, weak points, etc., so trust me this isn’t just another “clear enemies, move on” game, there’s some really cool extra stuff in there to mix it up. The combat system is very well done, Juliet rotates between high slashes, low slashes, physical attacks via her pom-poms and cheerleading moves, and jumps and dodges, all allowing her to dance around the battlefield and around her enemies, beating the crap out of them and looking cool and flashy doing it, of course. What’s better, is that you can MIX all of these basic attacks together giving the combos a really neat feel, greatly allowing you to make them your own with just a little practice, especially the physical attacks, they seem to be able to be tacked on before or after ANY attack, it’s really cool, and gives you a great feeling about the combos. I can’t compare it to Batman in the Arkham games, but it has the potential to eventually get there if it’s given some love and some polishing up for a sequel.

Besides your basic attacks and combos you can purchase new combos in the shops placed throughout the game, the currency is, ironically called Zombie Medals, but I’ll get back to those. Once you purchase these combos, you are told how to do them and command for each is stored in a separate menu in the pause screen, very handy, some lengthen combos like the Final Chainsaw Power Attack and some are power moves on their own that just look really freaking cool like the Chainsaw Drill, either of these combo types do massive damage and are always cool to look at with bright, flashy colors and animation and plenty of blood and guts everywhere. Along with combos Juliet can also use her boyfriend Nick’s head as a weapon, as odd as that sounds, this ranges from anything from using his head as a yo-yo to using it as bullets in a cannon, crazy, I know, but true, these attacks either cause massive damage or immediately stun any zombies around, so can prove to be very useful, but they cost a “Nick Ticket” to use which must be bought at the store or are very rarely found lying around for your use. Juliet is also given separate upgrades throughout the game by her Sensei and family members as presents (since it is her birthday) which can upgrade her chainsaw or give her new Nick attacks. This bothered me a little bit because half of the upgrades are Nick attacks, now this wouldn’t bother me except I’d much rather see new upgrades to Juliet’s chainsaw than get new Nick attacks, it just seems more logical to buy those to me since you don’t use them that often, they are powerful and sometimes a life-saver, but they aren’t used often enough to be considered major attacks. Altogether though, that is a small gripe compared to all of the positives associated with combat and upgrades bought from the store, and speaking of the store…

Juliet loves to shop, I mean LOVES to shop, so much so that she won’t shut-up about it while you’re trying to weigh which combo would be better for you in the upcoming challenges, but it is forgivable, if slightly annoying. The shops, called ChopnShop.zoms are scattered throughout each level, you can use the Zombie Medals you attain from either killing zombies or just gathering up throughout the level and in breakable objects to purchase items, combos, etc. The shop itself sells lollipops (which restore health (Deadman Wonderland anyone?)) Nick Tickets, health upgrades, strength upgrades, accuracy upgrades (for her Chainsaw Blaster upgrade) and an interesting item I have never seen in any other game: an item that when bought increases how quickly Juliet gets up after being knocked down, as being down leaves her prone to attacks, of course, it’s a very interesting idea, and not a bad one. The shop also sells combos, as I’ve mentioned, as well as new soundtracks and concept art; realizing how annoying it is to go through a game JUST to get one piece of art, the designers have given us the music and art for a VERY cheap price, we’re talking under ten for every music piece and concept art I’ve seen so far, I hope it stays that because I LOVE concept art, hell, I used to be a fine arts major, but what I DO NOT love is paying 1,000,000 in whatever currency the game has for ONE  piece of concept art (looking at you Marvel vs. Capcom 2!), so that is much appreciated—we get to enjoy the art and not have to grind till our fingers fall off for it, lovely.

From left to right: Cordelia, Juliet, and Rosalind, the Starling sisters from oldest to youngest.

Moving on to something I’m sure everyone is wondering about, how is the story in a [email protected]$$ game like this, well, it’s really not bad, is it sparkly and amazing, no, but it’s cute, and it doesn’t necessarily over-extend itself, though I don’t know if I can say that for all of the characters, but I’ll get back to that. The story mainly centers around Juliet and Nick’s relationship, which is probably why it works so well, it’s simple, fun, and hilariously vulgar about everything. You get little tidbits of their relationship placed throughout cutscenes and in-game dialogue which is always funny or cute, and sometimes both. It isn’t a complicated story, like I said, but it does its job, sometimes incorporating Juliet’s other family members to help her along or provide additional interaction, they just sort of jump in and out so for the most part you don’t get a good feel for them unfortunately: Cordelia fulfills the [email protected]$$ older sibling role to whom Juliet idolizes a bit, Rosalind fulfills the crazy, irritating younger sister who does dumb, and often, dangerous stuff, Gideon fulfills the overprotective, but loving father who is totally cool and hardcore, and Elizabeth fulfills the loving, but worrisome mom worried about, but accepting of her crazy family. Out of all of these characters other than Juliet and Nick we get to know Gideon the best and that’s because he’s the ONLY one to have two full-on conversations with Juliet and Nick, her sisters kind of just pop in to either help or cause trouble, they’re cool and they add to the levels sometimes, but never add to the story to make that much of a significant impact, unfortunately, which makes them slightly forgivable, I had to just look up their names after all and I just played the game through, that should tell you something. Gideon does add to the story as he seems very close to his daughters and particularly worried about Juliet, since she has started dating and all, and expressions his concern but supports her, as well as showing off his awesomeness on multiple occasions, you do find yourself feeling emotion towards him, but that’s about it, the rest of Juliet’s family are sadly pretty forgotten in the mix. There is a main big baddie, Swan, but he doesn’t come into the story very much, really only on two different occasions, sadly, but the bosses he musters up for you to fight are pretty impressive, each personifying a different style of music ranging from Psychadelic to Viking Metal to Disco, it’s an interesting mix. But again, they all suffer from the same problem as Juliet’s family, they’re mostly forgotten, they don’t really follow you or make their presence known throughout a level much, sometimes stepping in to touch things up a little bit or make a small threat or goad you into continuing, but they don’t really get a chance to let their personalities shine, you get a tidbit of it when you fight them, but that’s it, then they’re destroyed and you move on, it’s sad because most of them are pretty promising characters.

So, how about collectibles? There are a lot, and I mean, a lot, the game is relatively short, but the replay value is massive, there is so much to collect you cannot possibly get it all on one play through, probably not even two between all of the items, power-ups, and combos in the store and all of the collectibles. Along with all of the store items, you encouraged to collect lollipop wrappers, wrong messages, named zombies, and of course, achievements, most of which aren’t that bad, they actually incorporate into the game and don’t involve “beat these many players online so you have to play our crappy online multiplayer,” (*glares at Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City*) and honestly, there are some hard ones, but most are very accomplishable, which is also refreshing because if you’re a perfectionist like me, achievements like “beat every boss battle without taking a single hit” will drive you mad and make not want to even attempt their nuts idea of what they call “achievements.”  It’ll take you awhile, and honestly, I think you’ll enjoy yourself doing it because it’s an all-around fun game and doesn’t feel like a chore to play, I played it all day and didn’t get bored or exasperated once, except on the God forsaken last boss, but that’s supposed to happen, at least a little bit, it is the last boss after all.

Last, but not least, where does this game shine, and where does it need work? It shines the most actually in the cutscenes and voice acting, this game is FULL of humor, vulgarity, hilarious references, shout-outs, pot shots, and name drops, it’s great, they’re not afraid to cross any line. The “Stars and Stripes” flavor lollipop says Made in China, one of the zombies mourns his death because a Katy Perry song is stuck in his head “What a horrible way to die,” he laments as you cut his head off, I even caught straight up references to Looney Tunes and Monty Python, it was great, I about died laughing at these parts and I loved it, and these aren’t just a scant few moments either, they are peppered generously ALL throughout the game, and you never expect them, that’s the greatest part, they can be in cutscenes, they can be in-game, they can even be foundin the phone messages. Along with that, the music is SPECTACULAR, the main menu opens with Joan Jett’s “Cherry Bomb” and you KNOW it’s going to be a good game with other familiar music peppered in like “Spin Me Round (Like A Record)” from Dead or Alive (yes, that’s the band’s name) and “Hey Mickey” from Toni Basil, there’s also plenty of original music in the game with hilarious names like “Ragnarok Comes and I Hunger For Flesh” and “Violent Student Poetry.” On the contrary, at certain points Nick can get a little Navi-esque and won’t shut-up just repeating the same lines over and over again, but that isn’t often, typically only during mini-games or the occasional boss battle, so it’s mostly forgivable, and even that is typically evened out by actual banter from our two heroes that isn’t repeated, so like with many other mistakes in this game, it’s forgivable. The one thing this game could improve on, as I mentioned before is the character development, yes, I know, it’s not a long movie, but I expect more, and it’s not a long game, either, I finished it in one day, so that doesn’t help. I want to know more about Gideon’s previous zombie exploits, or Juliet and her sister’s training, you see Sensei for a bit, then he disappears for most of the game, how did they become a zombie hunting family in the first place, how did Swan’s “Dark Purveyors” get to be “Dark Purveyors,” they’re really cool, but where did they come from, I know there’s a world of Rot, but did they just materialize there, COME ON, WHAT HAPPENED?! All of this drives me nuts because there is SO MUCH development possibly for these characters, Hell give me a Doofensmirtz-esque backstory in the form of a five minute flashback if you have to, just give me something, damn, this might just be the Literature major in me talking, but still, I feel like so much story-telling possibility and prowess was unfortunately, needlessly wasted here, it’s sad.

Overall, this is a fun game, and I’m sure it’s meant to be that because it knows it’s vulgar and it loves it and, in fact, EXEMPLIFIES it whenever possible, beautifully if I might say so myself. There’s plenty of humor to go around in the fighting, cutscenes, and conversations of the characters, and you will ABSOLUTELY love the references, they’re great, and they make this game a good step above from the rest of the usual games that incorporate humor into them. The combat is pretty fluid and fun, there are no real problems with it, the camera’s fine, the controls might take some getting used to, but once you have them down you’ll be fine. The character development could use some work, but the simple story is fine and accomplishes the rather small task it set out to do and does it just fine with some great moments and great lines along the way to make it THAT MUCH BETTER, there is a strong replay value definitely there. The graphics are good and I love the art style that sometimes shows up the comic strips that enter the story-telling from time to time as well as the occasional artistic loading screen which is very creative and classy, not to mention much appreciated from the typical bland or hidden loading screens. In a sentence, I’d say this game is retro with a touch of modern and just fun as hell—it’s what games used to be and what games should be, a game meant specifically for fun, not for competitive crazy high scores on all things or who can get the highest combo, just fun, a game you and your friends can sit around and watch or play and have blast between the game’s vulgar and funny-edgy sense of humor, appealing visuals, and crazy over-the-top action, story, and feel, it just leaves with a good nostalgic feeling. It’s definitely worth a buy, even at full price I think because it’s so much fun that can be enjoyed together or alone over and over again, it never stops being funny, no matter how many times you hear it, like a good Monty Python movie. I hope you enjoy this game as much as I did, and as always, happy gaming.

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