"Never Thought Candy and Power Tools Went Together So Well"
Lollipop Chainsaw is one of the strangest mainstream games to come out in the West this gen. The hack 'n' slasher, a collaboration between Grasshopper Manufacture and Warner Bros. with a story written by James Gun, has high production values and talent behind it, but is undeniably quirky. Luckily, the title's gameplay holds up well enough that most will be able to see the ending if they make the effort.
Players take on the role of Juliette Starling, a world class zombie hunter and high school cheerleader, as she rids her high school of a zombie invasion that is occurring during her birthday. Along the way, Juliette saves classmates, gets help from her boyfriend's decapitated head, pick up birthday presents from family, and face strange enemies. Much of Lollipop Chainsaw's appeal comes from its setting and characters, which carries over to its aesthetics. Rainbows and stars are littered throughout the game in addition to blood, and despite how down things may seem, Juliette is always happy and cheery as she faces zombie pirates, hippies, and punks.
Juliette's primary tool for zombie hunting is a Chainsaw, which starts out as only a melee weapon, but along the way gets used as a skating device and even a gun. The chainsaw can be used initially to swing high or low, and in addition, she can use her pom-poms to make enemies groggy (dizzy), and dodge enemy attacks with the press of a buttons. Moves can be combined to create various combos that have to be bought from an online shop within levels, giving a sense of progression as the game is played.
In addition to her chainsaw being pretty helpful, much of the game's banter and a few of its mechanics come from Juliette's boyfriend Nick's decapitated head. Being fully able to function without having a body, Nick is able to control headless zombies to help out Juliette. He is also used to activate room clearing attacks and can even resurrect Juliette through the use of Nick tickets, an item collect throughout levels.
Generally, the gameplay of Lollipop Chainsaw works, with the title's personality coming out in spades and taking all kinds of twists and turns. Hearing a zombie fireman complain about having a Katy Perry song being stuck in his head will make just about any player want to continue through a long level just to see what's next. As you go, new mechanics are introduced, and attacks are made available for purchase at a steady pace.
The game is generally very enjoyable. Where Lollipop Chainsaw falls is its constant mini-games, which aren't bad, but certain ones could have used some fine-tuning to turn them into enjoyable diversions instead of progress preventers. Playing on Normal difficultly, I never died because of my health being depleted, but instead from one-hit-kill enemies and failing at certain mini-games. The game may also feel shorter than other titles, with only about 6 levels; however, it is meant to be replayed many times over to earn items such as the aforementioned combos, artwork, MP3s, and a huge amount of costumes (18!).
The graphics look great, somewhat similar to No More Heroes. Lollipop Chainsaw runs on Unreal Engine 3, but it doesn't have the bulky character look that many titles have using the engine. The soundtrack also has licensed songs that fit the game well and don't feel forced.
Having followed Lollipop Chainsaw for quite some time, the game is just about what I expected it to be: an "Americanized" version of Onechanbara: Bikini Samurai Squad. However, Lollipop Chainsaw's gameplay is stronger; its universe is infinitely more interesting, and all of your friends will more than likely watch you play it. Warner Bros. and Grasshopper have created one of the best US-Japanese collaborations in quite some time.
GameDynamo's Score for Lollipop Chainsaw (PS3)
Akil is a big fan of video games and music, specifically fighting games and R&B. Other interests include game design, and comedy. His background in game design combined with his unique worldview and sense of humor makes him someone to follow.
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