Lollipop Chainsaw – The PS3 Attitude Review
Lollipop Chainsaw is the latest game from the crazy mind of Japanese game designer Suda51 and Grasshopper Manufacture. You play as Juliet Starling, a candy-loving, chainsaw-wielding high school cheerleader who must rid her neighbourhood from an outbreak of zombies, all set to an awesome rock soundtrack. It’s got to be the best game ever made – right?
Story and characters
Juliet Starling is an ordinary American cheerleader until, on her eighteenth birthday, her high school is overrun by the undead and her secret life as a zombie hunter is exposed. In the chaos, her boyfriend Nick is bitten, so to keep the virus from spreading, Juliet decapitates him with her own trusty chainsaw and performs a magic ritual to contain Nick’s life to his head. This all happens within the first 15 minutes, and it doesn’t really get any saner than that.
Nick spends the rest of the game attached to Juliet’s hip, and acts as a sidekick of sorts. He’s definitely the most ‘normal’ character in the game, and so also frequently functions as the voice of the player. The banter between Nick and his ditsy girlfriend is often hilarious, as is the tongue-in-cheek humour seen throughout the whole of Lollipop Chainsaw, even though most of it is pretty crude.
Judging by the design of Juliet, you would think Lollipop Chainsaw to be an inherently misogynistic game. It undeniably is in some ways, but would arguably be even more so if the roles of Nick and Juliet were reversed, with the former being the macho hero and the latter being the helpless damsel in distress. Even today, hardly any games feature a female lead character, so for this, Grasshopper Manufacture should be applauded.
Yes, Juliet has clearly been designed to look attractive to a certain demographic, and the game includes many sexual references (and barely-there alternate costumes), but it gets away with it by being so utterly ridiculous in every respect. Considering Juliet’s sidekick is the decapitated head of her boyfriend, it’s difficult to take anything the game does seriously, but that’s the point; you’re not supposed to. Lollipop Chainsaw knows it’s a game, and is absolutely fine with it.
This philosophy is also seen in the gameplay. The combat starts off simply, with a single move mapped to each of the face buttons; square for light pom-pom attacks, triangle for heavy chainsaw attacks, X for low chainsaw attacks, and circle for dodging. The system feels slightly clunky at first, but slicing up zombies gets much more satisfying as you get used to it, especially when you start buying combos and upgrades from the chop2shop.zom stands scattered throughout each stage.
As its Juliet’s birthday, she receives presents from various members of her family (who are all professional zombie hunters too) throughout the game. For example, the Chainsaw Dash allows Juliet to use her chainsaw like a moped and run down zombies, and the Chainsaw Blaster can be used to shoot projectiles. Like most hack and slash games, the core combat can get a little repetitive, so additions like these are definitely appreciated.
Most of your time on Lollipop Chainsaw is spent dishing out zombie death, but along the way you’ll also play a number of minigames, such as Zombie Basketball, Zombie Baseball and, during one stage, several arcade-style games. None of these are overused or outstay their welcome, and in fact provide a refreshing change of pace (even though they tend to be over-reliant on quick time events), because you never know what you’ll be doing next.
Unfortunately, without a doubt the worst thing about Lollipop Chainsaw is its extremely short length. Our first playthrough clocked in at around five hours, and that’s if we’re being generous. Between the unlockable Ranking Mode, various difficulties, high scores to beat, online leaderboards, hundreds of collectibles to find, and PSN trophies to earn, there’s plenty of reasons to return, but you’ll ultimately just be repeating the same stages over and over, which is a shame.
Visuals and sound
The latest Grasshopper Manufacture title has a similar art style to the developer’s previous games. The visuals have a cel-shaded tint that gives it an almost cartoonish quality; considering the game’s over-the-top violence, everything fits together extremely well. This graphical style is seen throughout the entire game, which also features comicbook-inspired loading screens and menus.
The sound design is definitely one of Lollipop Chainsaw’s greatest strengths, with immediately recognisable and memorable effects. The English-language voice acting is about as good as it is in other Japanese games (i.e. not great), but seeing as the game is set in the United States, it makes sense to have the characters portrayed by American voice actors.
The game features dozens of original rock tracks from composers Akira Yamaoka and Jimmy Urine, and is complemented by licensed music from several heavy metal bands such as DragonForce, Arch Enemy and Children of Bodom. It all comes together brilliantly, creating arguably one of the best soundtracks ever heard in a videogame. We don’t say this often, but it’s almost worth experiencing Lollipop Chainsaw simply for its incredible soundtrack.
If you’re not a fan of quirky, off-the-wall Japanese videogames then you’ll likely find Lollipop Chainsaw about as much fun as being stabbed repeatedly in the face with a rusty chainsaw. However, if you like your games served with extra kitsch and a big dollop of insanity on the side, there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy Suda51’s latest creation. Its questionable longevity means we can’t recommend it wholeheartedly, but it’s certainly good fun while it lasts.