GAME REVIEW: Lollipop Chainsaw
We saw a trailer for the amazing ridiculousness that is Lollipop Chainsaw just a couple days ago. Now it’s time for a Major Spoilers look at the game itself.
On her 18th birthday, zombie hunter Juliet Starling’s life is interrupted by a full blown zombie apocalypse. Aided by her zombie hunting family (sisters, Cordelia and Rosalind and father, Giddeon) and her boyfriend, Nick’s, head (Nick was bit during the prologue level and Stage one opens after Juliet performed a ritual to save his head, he spends most of his time attached to the back of her hip so we get a convenient angle for fan service shots), Juliet will fight through hordes of zombies to stop disenfranchised goth kid Swan’s plan for bringing the Rotten World to Earth and watching everyone else suffer.
Swan’s plan consists of a ritual involving five Dark Purveyors each of which serves as a boss for the first five stages of the game, with an after-the-fact-obvious twist resulting in a huge boss fight for the sixth and final stage. Each of the Dark Purveyors stages has a distinct and enjoyable theme, such as sports, drugs, or video games, and they themselves represent different kinds of music, including punk rock, techno/funk, and Viking metal. The characters are varied and make for an entertaining ride. Juliet herself also has a girl power/pop music theme with songs like Mickey, Lollipop, and Cherry Bomb accompanying much of her action.
The setting itself is based out of a fictional California city, San Romero, and that’s just where the goofy references begin. While the story itself is absolutely amazingly ridiculous, there is a lot of internal consistency that speaks well for the designers going in, as Juliet regains health with lollipops, a craving she mentions in the opening cinematic, has a bad ass dirty old Japanese sushi chef as a master, and is just a very happy, perky individual throughout everything despite the circumstances.
The game is very short. I finished it in just under four hours. This was on the normal difficulty, so I imagine changing that could change the time spent and the game encourages changing the difficulty and replay through the sheer number of unlockable items and collectables in the game, some of which will only appear at certain difficulties. While I did notice it was short while playing, I did not realize how short until looking everything up.
The controls could use a bit of a tweak, at least on the 360 version which is what I played. While being mostly intuitive, the controls were not as responsive as I would have liked, making it more difficult than I felt necessary to pull off many of the combo moves, of which there are tons. They work well enough, as I only died to my own inattentiveness, but I would have liked better controls for such a combat driven hack-and-slash.
Most of the level design was fantastic; except two parts that are very, very disappointing. The first wasn’t until stage four, which has three sections based on classic video games: Pac-Man, Elevator Action, and Gondola. The first two of these are awesome as you still control Juliet normally and are still fighting things while completing other tasks related to the games themselves. Gondola, however, is horrible mess of crap. The controls are sluggish, the visuals are poor, and the difficulty is ramped to ridiculous ends as one hit kills you here. If I had been pulled away at all during my 11 attempts to beat that section, I would have never come back to finish, it was that frustrating. The latter problem part is at the very end of the game. After a huge and awesome boss fight, we get a cut scene then a four-button QTE (Quick Time Event) that leads into another cut scene to finish off the boss. After how epic (actual meaning, not over-hyped here) the final boss was, we get a very simple trip down a hallway to end everything, not pleased. My last complaint, I got the bad ending, but don’t know why or how to get the good one.
The story and setting, as I indicated with massive gushing earlier, are great. The characters are individualized and entertaining, and the main character of the story is not who you expect it to be. Visually, the game is stunning. Each stage has a very distinct feel to it and the characters look great. The visuals take into account the silliness of the game and the fact that the game itself understands that silliness as we are treated to rainbows and hearts and sparkles from many of Juliet’s blows. Even something like killing more than two zombies at once is given a goofy girly name, Sparkle Hunting. The tone of the game is very much a comedy poking fun at bad zombie movies, video games, and the zombie genre as a whole while still maintaining a solid, if goofy, zombie narrative.
On the sound end, we are treated amazingly. The sound track is this eclectic collection of classic songs and sounds, modern melodies, and unique to the game music. Each of the five Dark Purveyors is given their own boss theme, well written by Mindless Self Indulgence front man Jimmy Urine, who also voices the first of the five, punk rocker Zed. And speaking of voice acting, the cast here does a great job with Tara Strong and Michael Rosenbaum playing the Juliet and Nick, respectively. Overall, the soundtrack and voice work is top notch for most any medium.
While the game itself is short, completionists and challenge seekers will find a lot of reason to come back as the game has over 200 collectibles that you have to play multiple difficulties in order to obtain any of them. Even those not wanting to get everything will probably enjoy going back through as I can’t imagine finding every last reference with just one play through and most of the game is good enough to warrant it anyhow.
Despite the pitifully short play time, Lollipop Chainsaw stands as a great game and good edition to the zombie genre as a whole. It doesn’t have many flaws, and most of those are rather nit-picky as it were. With the main flaw being the short play time though, my current recommendation would be to either wait for the fall and holiday seasons when the price tag will drop or give it a rent as you can complete it in one sitting easily. All that said Lollipop Chainsaw still earns itself a fair 3.5 out of 5 stars.