Juliet Starling wakes up on her 18th birthday and the day is already starting out a disaster. She's late for school, her boyfriend Nick is more then likely waiting, and her school is being overran by a zombie outbreak. Juliet whom happens to be a cheerleader, is also a zombie hunter together with her family; she equips her chainsaw and begins going to work on the living dead. -summary
Long before I knew Lollipop Chainsaw was a work by Goichi Suda aka Suda51, I was already sold on the name alone, but when I saw it was created by the same mind behind Shadows of the Damned, I knew that I was sure to be in for a bizarre ride. Lollipop Chainsaw like SotD is not something I would consider to be great, yet it's still somewhat fun to play for the most part. The game is an arcade style hack and slash, and like most gamers, I do agree it's a breath of fresh air in a market that is over saturated with first person shooters and RPG's. However, it's not something I would say is worth running out to get let alone shelling out top dollar for. There are far better action games out there worth the time and effort to complete.
Lollipop Chainsaw takes place in a third person view, as it follows Juliet dispatching hordes of zombies in her school, San Romero High School. The game is very linear, completely free from any type of side quest or mind bending puzzles. The game is arcade style to its core with action packed stages leading to the boss encounters. This is the definition of simplicity for gamers that enjoy turning off the brain and going on rampages. The game takes place across 7 stages through the high school and various parts of the city.
The story kicks off after the opening stage, when Juliet's boyfriend Nick is beheaded and she begins to carry him around on her waist after she uses a spell to keep him alive. She encounters one of her classmates named Swan, and the guy releases five powerful zombies from another world to lay waste to the human world. Juliet embarks on a mission to kill them all. During her travel, she will encounter her two sisters Rosalind and Cordelia, as well as her father.
In the beginning Juliet begins with limited moves, and her abilities have to be upgraded by purchasing items that increase health, strength, and even knockdown recovery. This is also the same in regards to combos with the chainsaw. To purchase these items and skills, the player will pick up coins as currency after either annihilating zombies or saving classmates from zombie dine out sessions. There is a rating scale after completing the missions, and new combos and items will be available in the store all depending on your performance, so it's necessary to try your best at pulling off a perfect game.
Lollipop Chainsaw for the most part is all about style. You can earn bonus coins when hacking through at least three zombies in a slow-mo cut scene. There are also short Quick Time Events (QTE's) of Juliet ripping through zombies with the chainsaw cutting them completely in half, this occurs during combat with the grunts as well as boss battles. I like the variety in the zombie hordes. Besides the running zombies that have become so popular over the years, you will battle against football player zombies that will try and hit you with a vicious tackle, along with cheerleaders whom will try to ice you with a handstand after their legs are hacked off. There's quite a bit of imagination here, along with many homages to films, anime, pop culture, and to the rock and pop genres.
The stages also use various QTE's, such as Juliet cutting her way through falling cars and leaping through whatever opening she can find. Some are very cool to watch though and some may even kill you instantly on your first go around. Thankfully the game doesn't heavily rely on these segments, and it leaves all of the slashing brutality in your hands. If you ever played Ninja Blade for the 360, then you will know how the QTE's gimmick can be so savagely abused which leads to not being much fun at all.
The stages also have mini-games, and all of the horror stories you heard about the zombie baseball mini-game are true stories. This segment is beyond annoying and completely not fun; Juliet picks up a grenade launcher, and she must protect her boyfriend Nick while he's trying to run the bases at least three times by blasting zombies with limited ammo. Fortunately, there are other segments like these that actually are a little fun to play; such as protecting a school bus from dynamite laced zombies and falling boulders.
The bosses in the game are musically influenced and they are pretty interesting in personality, you will fight against a punk rock zombie who battles you using giant cuss words, a disco zombie that battles from a vehicle, and even a banjo playing hippie zombie, whom by the way, is the coolest in the game. She battles you on a mushroom trip in a totally spaced out looking setting. The bosses are jam-packed with style, but I found the battles to be pretty unsatisfying though. I've heard some people say that they died up to 20 times in these fights on normal difficulty, and I been wondering since have we all played the same game. There's very little strategy needed, and some of them only require you to constantly fire your weapon to take them out. On the normal difficulty, I defeated every boss on my first play through; never even coming close to dying or running low on health items. Their weaknesses and patterns were easy to spot, and the final boss was a monstrous disappointment for me.
I seriously look at the bosses as a problem and as for the game play itself, I'm pretty much mixed here. It's very possible to button mash your way through about 95% of the game, which renders the combo system as nothing more than window dressing. However, the game does such a damn good job covering up this glaring flaw with the various combos and special moves, that most players won't even notice. Combos can be performed from the standing position, and finish with Juliet doing a Sonic-like spin dash chopping everything in front of her, or begin low at the legs, plus she has a pom pom combo to stun as well as a vicious throw. Some of the fun is earning enough money to by that next combo or move. There's plenty of potential here, and I feel there should have been more emphasis on engaging and deep gameplay instead of the mini-games. I also have a problem with the characters. Nick is the only one with any type of personality, and his exchanges with Juliet can be very funny. Unfortunately her family did nothing for me, and I was desperately hoping to see Rosalind mauled and torn to pieces. The comedy and jokes lean further towards teen potty jokes than adult humor, so I'm mixed here as well. There aren't any save points, so you have to make it to the various checkpoints for your game to be automatically saved.
The main campaign takes between 6 - 7 hours to complete and there's no online play, which will be a problem for some people. It doesn't bother me though, since I like to beat games and move on. There are leader boards and you can attempt to best your previous scores, plus there are higher difficulty settings. I played it nearly half way on hard and quit; I didn't stop because it was at all tougher, I just couldn't see myself bothering to replay a game that feels quite limited.
The biggest problem I've heard from most people were that the button presses are strict during combos. After playing Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance and Mortal Kombat: Deception, there are no precise button prompts I can't handle. Many of the combos begin by pressing either "X" or "square" two to three times then finishing with "triangle' or something. I didn't find anything complicated here at all. However, the functions for the analog stick could have been done much better. The stick moves Juliet, but also when clicking the stick down left, you activate another function called Nick Roulette. The problem is, a few times I accidentally triggered this, and it wouldn't be a problem at all had it been placed somewhere in the directional pad. Since it didn't happen to me often, I can't really complain about it. The right stick controls the camera and this has its ups and downs as well, but you will get used to it as you play on.
The game almost has a full like manga appearance and it looks nice. Outside of some character movements that look a little stiff, I think they move around quite well. The action is fast, intense, and I never noticed any type of slow down; this is even with up to 30 zombies on the screen all trying to rip you apart. Unfortunately, the camera itself is pretty damn wonky. During fierce combat there would be some type of issue when you're cornered, and I found myself losing Juliet at times. On other occasions it can be pretty good, especially when capturing different views of the brutal action.
The character designs are indeed a strong point which is noticed in the zombie ranks. There are male and females, sports related zombies, guitarist, fat farmers, cows, and they all look great and fit well with the style of the game. Juliet looks nice also, and you can purchase many different outfits for her that she even wears during the cut scenes. The stage settings give off the appearance of a zombie apocalypse, with crashed up flaming cars and school buses. Some of the battles take place indoors and the school hallways are demolished with the occasional school bus crashing through walls. There's also a segment paying homage to classic video games in full 3D backgrounds and they look really cool, with one seeing Juliet having to avoid giant Pac-Man like creatures. The gore is done very well enough, you will see zombies ripped apart by digging the chainsaw deep into their backs along with flying limbs; it's all camp, fun, and done right for the most part.
In terms of style the music is indeed leading the charge. The pop and rock soundtrack compliments Lollipop Chainsaw in a way that is rarely seen. We know this is suppose to be a zombie takeover and things should be quite serious, but when looking at the characters and style, the music works this weird charm that plays into the zany feel of the game. If this soundtrack was to be placed in any other game it would come off completely out of place. The BGM maintains an upbeat tempo from start to finish, and it also helps the boss battles feel as big as they should. I liked the voice acting, especially from Michael Rosenbaum(Flash from Justice League) as Nick. He delivers some of the funniest lines. As for other sound effects, I will say that chainsaw buzzing, gunshots, and explosions are all passable. I don't think anything else really stood out.
Suda51 fans and those who enjoy straightforward titles will probably get the most out of this game. I can imagine them shooting to dominate the leader boards, trying out the higher difficulty, as well as unlocking everything. Personally, I felt no real reason to replay this completely a second time. I unlocked a good deal of items on my first play through.
Lollipop Chainsaw may be unique, but unique doesn't at all mean great. This is not something I can recommend as a speedy purchase or even a rental. The game play is indeed lacking, and the secondary weapon which is the launcher is forced upon you to use, yet it really adds little to the zombie killing. And truthfully, I do not really care for button mashers; I found myself working in different combos mainly just because. There's no real strategy here and this leaves the game play with this uncooked feel. In addition, the foul language of course warrants parents to be careful with purchasing this for young kids.
Personally, I would definitely like to see a sequel though, because there's plenty of room for improvement that can push this title to classic status. Suda51 laid out the groundwork, so I really hope he doesn't let what can be special slip through his fingers.
Pros: -Entertaining soundtrack, gameplay has moments of goodness