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Rating: Mature (Blood and Gore, Drug Reference, Intense Violence, Partial Nudity, Sexual Themes, Strong Language)
Available for: Xbox 360, PS3
Reviewed on: Xbox 360
Oh look, it's another Suda51 game! Released last week, Lollipop Chainsaw has been on my radar for a while. As always, Suda's trademark humor and art style are present from the very beginning. But how does it hold up? Actually, pretty well.
Back in August of last year, Grasshopper Manufacture released an announcement trailer teasing a new game with glitter, rainbows, and lots and lots of blood. Sugar and spice and everything nice this is not.
Lollipop Chainsaw centers around Juliet Starling, a typical all-American high school cheerleader. Typical all-American, except for one dirty little secret: she and her family are zombie hunters. Juliet's weapon of choice is her sequined chainsaw, hence the name. Today is her 18th birthday, and she's meeting her boyfriend, Nick, before school. As she approaches San Romero High, she's met by the zombie horde. So much for a romantic rendezvous. When she finds Nick, he's been bitten by a zombie. So Juliet decapitates him and seals his head with magic. She hangs Nick from her waist, and drags him along for one wild day.
Gameplay involves killing lots of zombies, fighting a boss at the end of each stage, and occasionally playing a mini-game or two. The combat controls can be rather clunky, especially for first-time players. The tutorials really don't do a good job of teaching everything about how to play Lollipop Chainsaw, and the instruction manual doesn't help much, either. There will be quite a bit of trial and error involved in learning how to play this game. Fans of Suda's earlier works will have an easier time justifying struggling through the early parts of the game moreso than the casual gamer.
Eww, zombie raep…
Not only are there regular zombies to slay, there are also "strong" zombies. These are shown with a health bar over their head, and occasionally a name to boot. These zombies take a lot of effort to shut down, and some only appear in the harder difficulties. In addition to strong zombies, there are also classmates that need to be rescued. If you can save them from the oncoming zombies, you get rewarded with extra medals, not to mention an achievement when you save all of them. Fail to save a classmate, however, and they just might turn into a strong zombie, too! Then you have to take them down, too.
At the end of each stage, there's a boss fight. Each one plays off of the stage's theme, and the bosses are as over the top as the rest of the game. In the first stage, Juliet fights off against punk rocker Zed, who is voiced by none other than Little Jimmy Urine of Mindless Self Indulgence. Zed is a high energy kind of guy, literally. One of his signature attacks involves launching words at Juliet. The most tame verbal assault he launches is "vanilla slut." All the others are unmentionable without censorship.
Zed, the punk rock zombie
Speaking of Jimmy Urine, Urine also collaborated with Akira Yamaoka to write some of the music for Lollipop Chainsaw. Urine's influence on the boss music is loud and clear, and Yamaoka compliments it with the surrounding background tracks. The synergy between the two definitely helps propel the game, and sets the mood for the stages. This has always been Yamaoka's forte, and Lollipop Chainsaw is no exception. His knack for changing musical genres picks right up here, and it's rather obvious that Yamaoka and Urine had a lot of fun working together on this soundtrack.
There's also a handful of guest songs in Lollipop Chainsaw, too. Five Finger Death Punch roars onto the stage with "Way of the Fist" in the stadium, "You Spin Me Right Round (Like A Record)" makes a humorous cameo in a section with a combine plowing up zombies, and "Cherry Bomb" by The Runaways serves as one of the title tracks. The song selection even includes "Pac-Man Fever" in the video game stage, making this game officially meta.
Learning from the lack of multiplayer in Shadows of the Damned, Lollipop Chainsaw adds ranked leaderboards to further extend this game. Ranked mode lets players compete in time attack, score attack, and medal attack. Each one shows global rankings, so players can know the best of the best of the best, and how much their scores suck. All jokes aside, the leaderboards have their own share of competition among friends. Players can see their scores against the scores of people in their friends list, brag to one another, and lay the ground work for some smack talk, too. There's also an achievement/trophy for posting a ranked score in every stage, so acheivement whores had better get started.
Saeko Busujima, one of many outfits
As players progress through Lollipop Chainsaw's seven stages, they will have to dispatch wave after wave of undead. Kill three or more with one blow, and "sparkle hunting" will activate. This gives extra zombie medals, the currency, as well as platinum medals. The platinum medals unlock special stuff, like concept art, extra character outfits, and additional background tracks. But that's just the start. There is a TON of unlockable content in Lollipop Chainsaw. If nothing else, this will keep the completionist in all of us coming back to this game.
Speaking of outfits, the number of costumes, licensed or otherwise, is staggering. Rei and Saeko from High School of the Dead, Haruna from Is This a Zombie?, Ash Williams from Evil Dead, and that's just the beginning. There's Daisy Dukes, a seashell bikini, and San Romero's away team uniforms. Juliet wears them all with style, to be sure. Some seem a bit out of place, like Saeko with no bokken. Others, like the Jimmy Urine costume, don't make much sense in the game's universe, either. Either way, however, there's an outfit for every taste. Or lack thereof.
James Gunn collaborated with Suda51 to write the script for Lollipop Chainsaw, his first time writing for a video game. While he's done great work in the past, the story for Lollipop Chainsaw seems cliched and a bit stereotypical. It's pretty easy to spot where Gunn is trying to make the game seem serious, when Juliet just wants to be tongue in cheek. There's a time and a place for everything, sure. But Lollipop Chainsaw is not meant to be a serious game.
Come to think of it, none of Suda's games should be considered serious. That'd be like calling Titanic a comedy. "Man, I laughed so hard when Leo drowned!" It doesn't work. That said, Gunn hits a lot of right notes with the banter in this game:
Juliet: "What the d**k?" (Yes, this is one of Juliet's catch phrases)
Juliet: "Ew, I just stepped in cow poop!"
Nick: "That sounds like a German porn film."
Juliet: "Wow, zombies suck d**k at driving…"
Gunn does a lot of things right with this game. He had mentioned in an interview with Game Informer how excited he was to work with Suda, and it's obvious he had fun with Suda's phallic sense of humor. Then again, only a prude wouldn't have fun with Suda's phallic sense of humor. Everyone loves d**k jokes! Right? Hello? Where did everyone go?
Overall, Lollipop Chainsaw does a lot right, even if it is lacking in several areas. It could have used another coat of polish or two, but the game as it stands is a real romp. Suda fans should definitely pick this one up. Other gamers might not find as much to enjoy, especially when they have to start grinding for medals, just to get that next unlock. But with a game as over the top as this, it's worth checking out at the very least.