Review: Lollipop Chainsaw
Developer: Grasshopper Manufacture - Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment - Platforms: Playstation 3, Xbox 360 - Release Date: June 12, 2012
Concept: Breathe new life into zombie slaying by giving it mini skirt and pom poms.
Graphics: Not even exploding hearts and rainbows can make me happy when everything else looks so dated.
Sound: Catchy pop classics like "Lollipop" and "Mickey" will dominate your subconscious for days. I could do without the soulless metal tracks, though.
Playability: Combat is fun when you don't think about it too much, but lacks the smooth responsiveness to stand with the action elite.
Entertainment: Lollipop's off-the-wall writing and humor are the highlight in an otherwise average experience.
Replay Value: Moderately High
Not All Rainbows And Sunshine
Gamers have been routinely slaying zombies for years now, but never before has it been under a shower of pink glitter with the chorus of "Mickey" blaring in the background. When it comes to personality, Lollipop Chainsaw has charisma to burn and if I was grading on that merit alone, it’d get a 10 out of 10. Unfortunately, being over-the-top only gets you so far. Creative vision needs to be backed by good design, a sentiment Lollipop Chainsaw doesn't seem to share.
Juliet Starling is a cheerful and well-endowed cheerleader at San Romero High, who is happily celebrating her 18th birthday. In addition to pep rallies and spirit week, Juliet is also proficient in the art of zombie hunting. Her special day is effectively spoiled by a sudden outbreak of the walking dead. Juliet's boyfriend, Nick, ends up being bitten, so she "rescues" him from infection by beheading and making him into a keychain. With Nick in tow, it's up to Juliet and her eccentric family of zombie hunters to, like totally, save the world from becoming completely zombified.
Girls like Juliet tend to annoy me in real life, so I was surprised at how much she grew on me by the end. She’s wacky and oblivious, but Juliet's determination and sense of justice, plus the love she has for her family, adds nice depth to the ditzy airhead routine. Nick serves as a great support, even if he may not always want to be. His pessimistic, levelheaded outlook on the situation counters Juliet’s happy-go-lucky demeanor beautifully and the banter between the two lovers ranges from hilarious to touching. The outrageous premise is highlighted with a sharply written story and dialogue, penned by writer James Gunn of Dawn of the Dead and Slither fame.
Too bad the graphics don’t hold up as well as the narrative. Character models are passable, but everything else looks laughably bad by today’s standards. Muddy, low resolution textures are an eyesore and most locations are devoid of any interesting detail. Cutscenes have an unpleasant graininess to them, and crude animations, such as Juliet simply clipping through objects that she’s supposed to be sawing through, look awful and amateurish.
Lollipop's gameplay is equally average. Severing undead limbs and watching rainbows and hearts erupt where blood should is hysterical, but combat lacks the tight responsiveness and fluidity of similar action titles like Ninja Gaiden or Bayonetta. Attacking feels a bit sluggish and, occasionally, unresponsive. That can make it difficult to execute the more complicated combos and transitioning between moves feels stiff. Sparkle Hunting (yes, it’s really called that) is a cool system that rewards multiple creative kills with scores of coins. Nick chips in with his own arsenal of abilities, though they’re mostly weak complimentary attacks. You'll rarely need them and I forgot they existed most of the time.
Defeated zombies drop coins, which are used to purchase new attacks and other goodies from the store. The game isn't nearly as stingy with money as, say, Devil May Cry, so the need to grind through old zones is greatly reduced (It took me a single stage to afford the most powerful attack). A group of enemies can provide a solid challenge, but boss battles are disappointingly easy. They don’t require much strategy other than charging in and hacking with reckless abandon and rely too heavily on quick-time events.
Completing levels can feel like a chore, since they mostly consists of killing a set number of the undead in an area before repeating the same in the next one. Unremarkable QTE's (notice a pattern?) are interspersed in an attempt to break up the monotony. More creative diversions, such as protecting Nick as he steals a body to run bases in zombie baseball, are fun little distractions, but lack the refinement to make them anything more than that.
What Lollipop Chainsaw lacks in technical polish, it makes up with loads of personality, big laughs, and mindless fun. If you have a weekend to kill, you could do a lot worse.
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