If there’s one thing which Lollipop Chainsaw proves in abundance, it’s that games can still dazzle and charm with the most midas of touches. That’s not to say this is a game about subtlety and nuances – there’s no way in hell that’d be the case; the central protagonist flings euphemisms, jiggles her assets and drags around an over-sized weapon like a sexy, cheerleading Pyramid Head for the entirety of the 6 hour experience. What it does do, however, is establish a universe in which wonderfully written characters can parody generic conventions in a variety of creative ways – and whilst this definitely won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, it’s a bold and inspired move that makes for one hilarious and visceral experience.
From the wacky mind of Suda51 (No More Heroes, Killer7) and James Gunn (Super, Slither), Lollipop Chainsaw unashamedly twists the fabric of traditional zombie titles, using its own distinctive stylistic approach to take it in such a wacky direction that it ultimately becomes a bizarre, unrecognisable game-type of its very own. The game’s protagonist is the titillating blonde air-head Juliet Starling, a stereotypical Californian High-School cheerleader and a not-so-stereotypical zombie hunter who must prevent a rock-band of unruly zombies from taking over her beloved planet Earth. With the help of her wisecracking decapitated head of a boyfriend Nick (trust me, it’s as weird as it sounds), Juliet uses her pom-pom’s, upgradable chainsaw and athletic abilities to slice “zombie dicks” from balls to brains – all the time making erotic, sweet and naïve comments much to Nick’s frustrated dismay.
The game is a little on the short side (clocking in at roughly 6 or so hours) and with no multiplayer, horde or additional modes offered I immediately got the impression that Lollipop Chainsaw seemed more of a high-end DLC title than a full retail release. Thankfully though, a full retail release is exactly what this game needed – and while other titles may fade to obscurity on the lonely shelves of “Downloadable Content Only” (Warner Bros other recent title, Gotham City Imposters, being testament to that), this games’ enticing art style and little-to-the-imagination protagonist mean that a drastically larger audience will more than likely take the plunge and unknowingly let themselves in for one of the most entertaining rides they’ve had with a videogame in recent years.
The combat is your usual acrobatic hack n’ slash fair, but thanks to some fantastic pacing the game is broken up at well-paced intervals by cohesive quick-time events and amusing mini-games. Whilst combat is relatively restrictive and therefore can get repetitive as the levels reach their climaxes, there were a few other issues I had with the game that, for the most part, were down to the game’s overall lack of clarity. Quite often, things feel very unintuitive in the way they work out – for example you’re told look out for phone calls from your family when a particular icon appears, but you’re not told that you can’t actually listen to them in real time (they’re only accessible by pausing the game and accessing a specific tab in the “Juliet’s Stuff” menu. ) Cutscene’s are fantastic, well-voiced and well-written, but they’re loaded so sporadically or as soon as you’ve killed the last zombie in an area that the game constantly feels erratic and patchy – lacking in some real polish that would have set the bar (or in Juliet’s case, “pole”) just a little bit higher. Some very minor issues there, but ones which detract from the overall enjoyment I had with the game.
As soon as you concentrate on any negatives you can’t help but immediately be drawn back to the game’s multitude of positives. Looks wise, the game ticks every box you could want from a current gen arcade-like title; a psychedelic concoction of comic-book inspired iconography and rainbow colours offer players a variety of contrasting and satisfying emotions throughout the game, and partnered with a responsive control scheme (identical to that of Bayonetta) Lollipop ensures that there are no cheap deaths – a challenging, yet respectful ride. The soundtrack is also very inspired and covers everything from original grungy, heavy zombie-rock numbers to Lolly’s suitable “Hey Mickey” anthem. You’ll also probably recognise “Lollipop” by the Chordettes, and whilst it’s obviously very suitable in relation to the title of the game – the contrapuntal effect it has when being played over a sequence of you decapitating zombies is ridiculously charming, adding to the games brilliant mixture of cutesy-ness and hardcore mock-horror action.
All in all, Lollipop Chainsaw is just pure, unadulterated fun in a box. It’s not running for the Nobel Prize or anything and it’s very aware of that, what it wants to do is offer gamers a wild, colourful and hilarious experience that takes them beyond any confines they’ve come to expect from modern games. I can guarantee 100% it’ll not be to everybody’s tastes, and while its lack of polish definitely frustrates me I appreciate its excellent presentation, characters and writing too much to stay mad at it. If Rayman Origins was fun for its charming aesthetic and challenging level designs, Lollipop Chainsaw is Origins and then some. I can’t recommend it for everybody, but if you’re partial to a bit of upskirt action and a lot of blood (although definitely not together) then this is without a doubt the game for you.
Let us know how you’re finding it in the comments box below! We look forward to hearing from you.