Title: Lollipop Chainsaw
Developed By: Grasshopper Manufacture
Published By: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Console: Playstation 3 / XBox360
Genre: Hack and Slash
Classification (AU): This title has been classified as MA15+ for Strong Violence and Coarse Language
Review Conditions: PAL Region, Playstation 3
Special Thanks: A copy of this game was purchased out of my own pocket
Lollipop Chainsaw is the ‘un-deadly’ story of sweet but killer zombie-hunter Juliet Starling and her quest to uncover the root of a colossal zombie outbreak. With her wickedly awesome chainsaw in hand, Juliet slices, dices and splits her way through hordes of the undead, but soon realises the horde is only the opening act to a festival of zombie rock lords determined to kill the chainsaw-wielding cheerleader. Lollipop Chainsaw is being developed by GRASSHOPPER MANUFACTURE, led by celebrated game developer Goichi Suda (aka SUDA 51) and featuring the musical compositions of the renowned Akira Yamaoka. In addition, Hollywood director and writer James Gunn (Super, Slither, Dawn of the Dead, Tromeo and Juliet) has brought his cult humor and edgy storytelling to Lollipop Chainsaw’s script.
Storyline / Writing
Over the last few years zombie games seem to have been mass produced and included in countless games…. they invade shopping malls, recreational island resorts and even the block lands of Minecraft, to the point where a game really needs to be something special in order to capture my interests in the “zombie-hunting genre“. Without even factoring in gameplay, Grasshopper Manufacture’s recent release of Lollipop Chainsaw managed to capture my and no doubt countless other gamers attentions for a few reasons – firstly through rather interesting and proactive publicity for the game and secondly making use of the games key aspect – Juliet Starling well.While you may have seen some weird main characters for zombie games (For example Frank West who got stronger through the power of photography) and some bland – Juliet takes the cake as being that peppy cheerleader type who instead of carrying over cliche personality traits….. wields a chainsaw, the title of zombie hunter and can perform magic to save her boyfriends head…. literally.
The storyline is nothing imaginative and alone would have been drab and boring. On Juliet’s 18th Birthday she heads off to meet her boyfriend Nick at school when the entire place is overrun by zombies. From here, she, her head of a boyfriend and her family of other zombie hunters must work together to stave off the threat of the five Dark Purveyors summoned by one of her classmates. What does make the storyline stand out however is the actual writing of it. To put it simply – almost everything is over the top in terms of language, sexual innuendos and both gaming, pop culture and “High School Lingo” references throughout. It actually does get quite creepy at times when a student you just rescue simply talks about masturbating to the thought of Juliet and then disappearing or otherwise zombies calling her a whore or saying they will do stuff to her which I will leave to your imagination.
The relationship between Juliet and Nick also makes for easily some of the funnier lines I have seen in a game to date. Despite going out, their personalities in battle are the complete polar opposites – Juliet is the peppy up-and-at-em’ sort of fighter while Nick who is stuck to the belt of her skirt is sarcastic, frustrated and scared. Both the characters were well written and both provided lines that had me laughing out loud while also staying in tone with their characters personalities. While I wasn’t as big a fan of Juliet’s slightly younger sister Rosalind who could have been written better and whose “chapter” I found pretty bland – I did really like the writing done for her father and older sister and thought they were decent characters.
Overall, while it is not a game I would personally contemplate showing anyone under the advised minimum age, for mature gamers the core storyline won’t win you over – but the creative and well-planned dialogue filled with inappropriate langauge, sexual innuendos, references to pop culture, fourth-wall breaking and so forth may just be up your alley. At the very least it DOES have impact factor… and lots of it.
Many of the comments I made about the storyline could be carried over into the deisgn. While the animation quality lacks refinement and is not up to a standard I was expecting, it carries over that sugary sweet aesthetic to complement Juliets attitude – much to the horror of Nick at times. Therefore you can expect to see plenty of pink, rainbows and other bright colours appearing throughout your battles. On the other hand, in terms of graphic content it is pretty high in terms of core with very little in the way of censoring blood, decapitated limbs and the aftermath of slashing boss enemies with her chainsaw. It is a wacky sort of combination which doesn’t wow you for the quality but wows you for how it is delivered.
The character designs are solid although nothing special – Juliet is designed to deliver as much fanservice as possible while other main characters are stylized after someone of their stereotypical personality. The game world was split up into several levels, each had its own theme and when compared to the character designs, seemed to deliver a bit more in terms of quality and were filled with action instead of just leaving you to wander down bland corridors the entire time. I do however wish they provided a few more of their comic book-esque cutscenes.
Music and Voice Acting
Music and Voice Acting are easily two of this games greatest strengths. It goes to show how knowledgeable the team at Grasshopper Manufacture are with a soundtrack sporting a very youthful sounding soundtrack with song styles that I would expect teenagers of the 90-00s would listen to - but including some surprisingly appropriate western music for battling zombies with including Toni Basil’s “Hey Mickey” and over a dozen other licensed English tracks from the past.
Voice acting was an interesting experience but overall proved to be enjoyable. The English voice cast included Tara Strong as Juliet (Other video game roles include Harley Quinn in Batman: Arkham City and Rikku from Final Fantasy X) and Michael Rosenbaum as Nick (Whose only other recent video game role is as Hayden Tenno in Dark Sector ). The best voice role goes to Sean Gunn as the games antagonist Swan, while he may have been in hysterics most of the games he did a good job of doing it.
While the writing, design and music may be reasons alone to purchase the game, unfortunately I found that the gameplay failed to meet the same standard of thought and quality. The game has you controlling Juliet and she has a nice array of weapons at her disposal – her pom-poms to place zombies off balance, her chainsaw to slash them to pieces and as the game progresses a variety of different chainsaw extensions which provides a few added features (Including a shooting extension) you may use occasionally during the game. Add the ability to use special cards to turn Nick into assorted forms of basic weaponary and a dodge ability you may find yourself overusing might seem like they have all bases covered, but actually provides a slow grind with the same kinds of zombies appearing around every corner.
The game does show innovation, providing several ingenious ways on killing zombies while fitting with the themes of the game including stripper poles, vaults and a number of themed zombies. Unfortunately these ideas were limited in number and unfortunately sparingly used throughout the game – leaving you instead with row upon row of the same generic zombies. The game also limits you to the number of skills you have access to – with only a basic set of combos available at the start and a bunch of them you have to unlock through coins you obtain through defeating zombies and defeating them together through Sparkle Hunting – a tedious task that despite defeating every zombie I came across only netted me half the skills in Normal Difficulty.
While the game is short, one that you can easily complete in 10 hours or less on Normal Difficulty, the game does provide some incentive to continue playing. Each of the stages provides several different modes with online leaderboards which provide some difficulty and competitiveness. The four difficulty modes in this game also encourage you to replay at higher settings, with considerable increases in zombie numbers (and reduction in lollipop recovery items) per up in difficulty and for trophy hunters…. a requirement to find collectible items not found at the easier difficulties.
It is hard not to enjoy Lollipop Chainsaw for its interesting subject matter and writing that both entertains and shocks in a very mature way alongside some brilliant western-styled audio and design features. However what really sets this back from being a great game is the gameplay itself, which is passable however fails to offer something we haven’t seen or done in many other games – resulting in a tedious grind at some points and mindless button mashing all in the hope we would see another well thought up cutscene or punchline.
Storyline/Character Development: A-
Music/Voice Acting: A
Personal Opinion: B-
Overall Score: B-