Lollipop Chainsaw: A 360 Review
I think you need to be a very special kind of person to like Lollipop Chainsaw. Lollipop Chainsaw is a beat-me-up with an especially violent type of bent (your main weapon is a chainsaw, after all) and to like this game, to really like this game, you’re going to need to be amenable to a certain type of story. You can probably figure out if you are going to be one of those people just by looking at the box cover: a buxom cheerleader in a skimpy outfit, a severed head attached to her hip, chainsaw in one hand and lollipop in the other. Just take a second right there. If anything about that cover offends you, turn away now; you will hate this game. Let’s say that you’re not offended, though, and lean towards the opposite direction. Does that image sound really, really cool to you? If that image is NOT really, really cool to you, you will probably want to pass on this game, because the gameplay here simply leaves quite a bit to be desired. Unless you are one of those people who really buy into the concept, you are not going to be happy paying full price for this game.
Lollipop Chainsaw places you in control of Juliet Starling, Romero High’s head cheerleader, and the universe you are stepping into is one straight out of every B-movie ever made. A Marilyn Manson-wannabe has used a dark spell book in order to open a portal to the Rotten World and now zombies have invaded the high school and things go from bad to worse at catastrophic speed. Juliet’s boyfriend is bitten by a zombie immediately and, while a magic spell allows him to keep his sanity, the only part of his body that can be saved is his severed head. Thankfully, Juliet (and her entire family) are zombie hunters and Juliet never goes anywhere without her trusty chainsaw. The game takes you across the surprisingly massive campus (boasting a full-sized baseball stadium, a farm, a sky-scraper sized arcade shaped like an arcade cabinet, all the things that my alma mater had), hunting down the zombie leaders in order to kill them and bring an end to the madness.
The game’s plot and the aesthetics here are the big draw. Every character is a ridiculous over-the-top caricature (the cool older sister with a sniper rifle, the bat-shit insane younger sister, the southern-fried rocker father) and the head zombies you’re going against all fall into very generic archetypes (punk rock zombie, disco zombie, hippy zombie). All the villains are ridiculously foul-mouthed, most of the characters are perverts to the extreme, and pretty much every line of dialogue is written with the intent to be extremely quotable. The game is extremely violent, with Juliet easily dispatching arms, legs, and heads with the mere tap of a button and there is a massive amount of blood in the game. Everything is played completely for laughs, however; blood may explode like fountains but it doesn’t affect the environment and Juliet’s own injuries, no matter how many times you die, never result in so much as a bruise. The game really is a B-movie in game form, designed to be as over-the-top as humanly possible, introducing static characters (on both sides of the playing field) and it doesn’t even presume to have anything resembling character arcs or growth of any kind. Everyone here is a one-note character, albeit very well defined one-note characters who are, for the most part, either incredibly likable or incredibly killable. Whether any of this works for you or not is going to be dependent upon you.
And this game works for me, without a doubt. I love cheesy movies, so the idea of a game where I play a chainsaw-wielding cheerleader running across campus cutting the heads off zombies wrapped in dynamite vests in order to face-off against a punk rock zombie who attacks you with curse words that literally come to life and shoot across the screen at you is practically nirvana for me. If you’ve got the right sense of humor, you’ll have a blast just sitting back and listening to the various characters strategize, bicker, and promise to kill each other. Voice clips are a near constant presence in the game and, to the game’s credit, all the voice acting is well done. Keep in mind, however, that while there is no nudity in the game, it’s pretty damn raunchy. The innuendos fly fast in this game and that may not be to your taste. I will admit, however, that hearing one student complain that the zombies were going to treat her to a bukkake made me laugh.
To really enjoy this game however, you have to buy into the above whole-heartedly. This is not a game where the story can be overlooked in favor of the gameplay because the gameplay simply isn’t that great. The creative force behind Lollipop Chainsaw is Suda 51, the man behind Killer 7 and the No More Heroes games, and like all Suda 51 games, the game may look visually stunning and have a sharp script, but the gameplay is lacking. Lollipop Chainsaw, at its core, is a button masher, and it’s not a particularly deep one. It is entirely possible to play through this game utilizing only one of the three attack buttons. Your stun attack and the low-slash definitely come in handy and proper use of them make the game easier, for sure, but if you just run around spamming the heavy attack, you’ll still kill everything. The game allows you to string attacks together with combos, but it seems like a quarter of the time you might be hitting the buttons correctly, but the combo doesn’t work. Not helping matters is that most of the enemies are interchangeable. There are a few enemies that require slightly varied modes of attack (the police zombies will wreck you if you don’t dodge their bullets and get in close quickly), but most enemies are just different skins of the same enemy. There’s no difference, in terms of what you need to do, when fighting a cheerleader versus a gamer. The game also has a habit of throwing in random mini-games that sound like a good idea conceptually (zombie baseball, building climbing, chainsaw dash courses) but simply prove to be too frustrating to enjoy consistently (any mini-game where you have to use your chainsaw as a shotgun prove to be hit or miss on whether you get a cheap death or not).
Even those issues could be overcome, however, if the game had any real length to it. The game features seven stages (a prologue, five full stages, and a short stage before the final boss) and provided you know what you are doing (i.e., spamming heavy attack), you’ll finish your first play through in about four-five hours. Now, it’s impossible to unlock everything in the game on your first go-through, as there are four different difficulties and getting all the stuff in the game requires playing through on various levels. But let’s take a look at what you would potentially be trying to get. There’s only one true collectible in the game in the form of lollipop wrappers that are lying around the stages. These do absolutely nothing at all. The rest of the unlockables are available via purchases at stores throughout the game. Killing multiple zombies at a time nets you extra money and the money can be used to purchase new music, pump up your stats, new combos, concept art, and new costumes for Juliet. The music is decent, each level having its own theme (punk, disco, rock), but all that will really do is allow you to tailor your own soundtrack for subsequent play throughs. The stat upgrades are useful, I suppose, as are the combos, but once you figure out that the spinning move is the best of the bunch, the rest are pretty useless. Concept art, I can take or leave, but your mileage may vary. That really only leaves the costumes; quite a few are references to anime and horror movies I am not familiar with, but the most expensive costumes are really just excuses to see a cheerleader fight zombies in a string bikini. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with that, but the amount of time required to earn enough medals to unlock said string bikini is simply ludicrous. You’ll be tired of this game well before your unlock everything.
I wouldn’t necessarily call this game a one-and-done, as some have said. I found the story to be fun enough and the gameplay to be okay enough for me to do two full play throughs. In those play throughs, I maxed out my Juliet, unlocked all the combos, purchased all the suitably priced costumes, and got both endings. For a game that I received for Christmas and spent around 12 or so hours on, I was happy with that. If you can find a used copy of the game or rent it, I think Lollipop Chainsaw is a fun enough diversion. Unless you are heavily invested in this sort of story (an interactive B-movie), you may want to take a pass on this one.