“What the dick?”
Suda 51 has something of a reputation in the gaming industry creating some of the most unique games seen in the past two generations of console. Killer 7 launching this reputation with interesting gameplay complimenting the slightly unhinged characters and story. The marketing for Lollipop Chainsaw, then, was slightly worrying with a close to obsessive focus on the main character and the ‘fuck yeah’ kind of attitude that made it seem as though the game wouldn’t provide any kind of substance.
Those early worries are somewhat fixed with the story not being as un-ironic as the advertising would make it seem. You play as Juliet, a zombie hunter from a family of zombie hunters who also happens to be a cheerleader at her school, which just so happens to have been hit with a bit of a zombie problem. It’s up to Juliet to find out who’s behind it and put a stop to the undead hordes. This on its own wouldn’t be enough to make it a proper Suda 51 game so Juliet’s boyfriend just so happens to be a decapitated head that can be used as a special weapon. The game has a great personality with lots of charming touches to things like the HUD and the sparkles shooting out of decapitated zombies necks, which doesn’t offer anything beyond aesthetics, yet adds layer upon layer of personality that would otherwise be something of a flat and bland experience.
The sense of humour this game carries has the classic Suda 51 style with over the top stereotypes being manifested into some truly inspired characters with the boss characters you encounter taking centre stage, much like Suda 51’s other gem, No More Heroes. They have a good sense of identity, but also add variety without straying too far from the games main set of mechanics. In terms of our heroes of the tale, Juliet and Nick’s back and forth banter whilst walking through the stages is downright hilarious at times with the sarcastic tones of Nick creating a perfect juxtaposition of Juliet’s simple nature. There are times when the game falls flat though with some of the supporting cast being nothing more than silhouettes in the background and a shift in tone later on in the game being swept aside fairly quickly seemed really out of placed and forced. It’s definitely entertaining though with enough laughs and clever dialogue to keep you playing until the end.
The opening stage eases you into the combat of the game, but there isn’t much choice in terms of combos with most of the flashier attacks and combinations of those attacks being locked away to be purchased in the store. Even with the combos unlocked there isn’t any way to link these combos together and this makes the combat feel very restricted and doesn’t offer any room for experimentation that is present in other games of the genre. The combat can still offer some fun with a variety of enemies with different strategies to kill them and the nice presentation of the combat offers something a spectacle at least.
“You’re like a kitten, a kitten who doesn’t speak Japanese.”
The main problems appear when the developers try to break up the combat with several variations of quick-time events breaking the flow of the game and frustrate with no challenge involved, they appear purely to delay the player from progressing. The other part of the game that detracts from the entire experience are the bonus stage like sections where certain rules will apply or the gameplay will change completely in a hurried attempt to change up the basic combat gameplay. The biggest and most glaring problem being that these sections just aren’t interesting and just come across as being desperate grasping at straws to stretch out the frankly pathetic playtime. They also appear very often, sometimes being repeats making it seem like they were scraping the bottom of the barrel of ideas.
Lollipop Chainsaw almost fully redeems itself when you start a second playthrough however, with a better set of moves and abilities you can start to experiment with chaining combos and different strategies for tackling the various zombie types. The glaring problems are still there, but the game does become a bit more bearable and even starts to become fun with all the extra combat opportunities. Playing on the harder difficulties changes the layouts of all the collectibles and even adds new enemy types into the mix, which makes the second playthrough a fresh experience. Unfortunately whilst experimenting, I managed to discover a technique for the disposal of any named zombies (the more powerful of the horde) in one swift combo making any challenge gained from playing on a harder difficultly mostly redundant.
Presentation wise the game is at both its strongest and weakest, while not being the most technically impressive game it has a lot of character and charm with the overall aesthetics and spectacle of everything. But the game has a few odd choices when it comes to masking the technical limitations, with pop in having the most obtuse way of making objects dissolve in and out of view and some levels having the most random loading screens, on one occasion bursting in whilst in the middle of two sections of combat. The music is a fantastic mix covering all genres with both licensed and original soundtracks making an appearance and making the experience that much more fun and charming. The game does have an option to pick the music you want to have playing in the game, but at certain points the game will take control of this to punctuate a particular ridiculous moment with shouts of ‘Hey Mickey!’ accompanying the super mode and other overly cheerful music making for some of the most brilliant moments this game has to offer.
“I’ll restring my guitar with your intestines!”
The style and humour of the game offer weak supports under the heavy burden of technical and gameplay missteps. Go back to the quotes in this review, did they make you laugh or just simply confuse you further? Then this might be enough for you to get enjoyment out of Lollipop Chainsaw, but it ends far too quickly and any momentum the game picks up gets swiftly quashed. It’s not a complete disaster, but it is a shame the potential that is shown isn’t explored deeply enough. I had fun with the game and the fact I wanted more of it isn’t a bad sign at all, the glaring issues with the technical side of the game just hold it back from being a great game rather than just a good game.
- The boss fights.
- Genuinely funny at times.
- Nice aesthetic style.
- Interesting scenarios.
- The second playthrough of the game.
- Soundtrack choices are excellent.
- Not much depth to the combat.
- Stop and start gameplay breaks any momentum.
- Random loading times.
- Camera is plain bad.
- Lots of quick-time events.
- Slow starting, quick to end.