Review by DarkSymbiote

"One of Grasshopper's best"

There is something about Suda51 led Grasshopper Manufacture's games: They are always divergent from other games on the current market. They're usually wacky and don't generally appeal to most mainstream gamers. Announced in 2011, Lollipop Chainsaw is an unapologetic over-the-top game featuring a scantily clad cheerleader who ploughs through hundreds of zombies with a chainsaw while maintaining her relationship with her boyfriend (or what's left of him) and her family. It hasn't exactly garnered much attention though. Although that isn't surprising considering the box art and less-than-stellar gameplay videos released.

At face value, the game looks little more than trash but Suda games do usually tend to surprise us. Collaborating with and partly written by filmmaker James Gunn does Lollipop Chainsaw cut through the horde as a platinum game or should Grasshopper cease Manufacturing games?

Story

Unfortunately, once they've become zombies, there is no turning back.

You take the role of Juliet Starling, an average school cheerleader with a passion for lollipops who spends time daydreaming about her boyfriend Nick. Typical, except for the fact that she and her family are a clan of monster hunters. On her 18th birthday most of her schoolmates are turned into some of the most intelligent zombies out there. What's worse is Nick has lost his body and so his head is carried around by Juliet most of the time.

Now this may immediately sound like madness, but that's because it is. The story is not meant to be taken seriously whatsoever. The writing is sharp and the cast of characters are fun and not emotionally dead like most you find nowadays. Juliet, although quirky, isn't some airhead you'll be vexed with. Throughout the story the relationship between Nick and Juliet is sweet and like other Suda games, the story does have deeper meanings.

It is also filled with an abundant magnitude of references to many things ranging from old horror films to The Looney Tunes to breakfast cereals. All of this brings together a a mildly hilarious story that is just so rare in games these days. It's silly and offbeat, but in a good way.

Design and Gameplay

We need to hit 'em and run away before they explode! Fun!

Lollipop Chainsaw involves a linear journey through San Romero High and its nearby city locales through multiple stages. Each stage has its own setting and quirk. You'll have to rescue your fellow classmates along the way and saving them all leads to a better ending. The funnily named Chop2shop.zom works as a shop for upgrading Juliet, buying costumes, music tracks and of course, new moves. Beating Dad's high score adds newer abilities to the shop. Each stage can also be played through Ranking Mode but their minor additions for replayability. A boss rush mode would have been better.

Gameplay involves high swipes with the chainsaw as well as low sweeps. Pom-pom bashes stagger enemies but sometimes take a bit too long to do so. Add to this a variety of power ups.Cutting off the undead's limbs and sometimes watching pink goo spurt out gives the game charm. At times though, the combat can feels a bit rough and slow. Better rhythmic patterns would have helped. Killing zombies grants medals which can be used at the shop for purchase. Decapitating three or more at once, called Sparkle Hunting, imparts a bonus to medals received. This game is not meant to be played as a button masher. A sundry of combos are more effective depending on the situation. The annoying bits involve the quick-time-events. There are far too many. But thankfully, a few of them enjoyable and somewhat unique.

The chainsaw is upgraded through story progression and some of the powers are amazingly smartly used. For example; the Chainsaw Dash move is used to traverse obstacles in a fashionable way, killing zombies with it is very secondary.

At times, Nick becomes temporarily playable and during these moments it's sweet to watch Juliet jollily take the role of a cheerleader.

The bosses are some of the most uniquely designed you'll see of this generation. Each one has it's theme and the fights are exhilarating. The same can be said for the mini-bosses as well as regular zombies, who seem to change pace every so often and are surprisingly varied. The final boss, however, has a very unoriginal look.

Some complaints include the extreme linearity of the levels, the tutorials not being thorough enough, the length of the story is only about 6 hours long and some of the fairly long cutscenes not being un-skippable on later playthroughs. It's a good thing then that higher difficulties lead to an increase in speed for the zombies and not just a damage boost and extra health.

Visulas

I got video! I'm gonna post this s*** on YouTube!

The game looks artistically unique. With partial cel-shading and a cool, comic filter that mildly that enhances the look the developers are trying to achieve. It's isn't troubling and you'll forget about it within minutes but it does help make it seem more comic book-like subconsciously. The visuals are not going to show off unnecessary skin pores or have each and every character horribly scarred but a clean look that assists to magnify the game's feel.

The menus are designed in a comic book manner as well. Specifically, comic books of earlier times. It's quite charming and nice to look at and navigate. Even the credits are interesting to watch.

Audio

I'll restring my guitar with your intestines!

Composed by Akira Yamaoka of Silent Hill fame, the soundtrack is fantastic. Lead singer Jimmy Urine of band Mindless Self Indulgence arranged the boss battle themes. Fitting with the original soundtrack, the licensed music is equally superb.

Unlike how almost all games like to be absolutely quiet most of the time, Lollipop Chainsaw has near constant music similar to the old days. This is a good thing as it keeps you in the mood. A few sections have some of the best music in gaming in a very long time, for example, the farm area. And it is possible that you will sing along when listening to one of the shop themes.

Tara Strong perfectly portrays Juliet and Michael Rosenbaum's Nick sounds great too. None of them sound infuriating at any point though. The entire voice over sounds amazing except perhaps Rosalind. She just sounds plain cringe-worthy

It's highly recommended to play with the subtitles on however as most of the zombies' hilarious quotes may not be comprehensible.

Pros:

- Characters and quirky story
- Boss battles
- Both licensed and unlicensed music

Cons:

- Fairly short game length
- Too linear
- Not enough post game extras

Final verdict

The zombies are getting slaughtered! Incredible game, Juliet!

Lollipop Chainsaw shouldn't be judged based on the the box art alone. It may be a bit short but it makes up for it with good replayability and unlockables. The heavy references and interesting characters mixed with adult humour doesn't warrant it to be taken seriously in anyway. But it doesn't try to make itself into a huge bimbo fest either. If you can turn off your mind slightly, you'll enjoy one of Grasshopper's best games. Don't let this be ignored this just because of poor marketing.


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 06/20/12, Updated 07/02/12

Game Release: Lollipop Chainsaw (US, 06/12/12)


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