Review: Lollipop Chainsaw [2/3]
Chainsaws, Cheerleaders, and Suda51.
If I had to describe the game in one word, that word would have to be loud. It’s loud in a literal sense, to be sure. Enemies and bosses are always yelling at you about something (especially the game’s first boss, Zed, whose screams become physical attacks) but it’s also loud aesthetically, narratively, and emotionally. I can just picture Suda sitting down and writing a design document, and he has the caps lock key taped down…
THIS GAME IS GOING TO BE ABOUT THIS BLOND CHICK THAT HAS A CHAINSAW WHO IS ALSO A ZOMBIE HUNTER. ALL HER FRIENDS FROM SCHOOL ARE DEAD, BUT SHE DOESN’T CARE. HER BOYFRIEND GETS BITTEN BY A ZOMBIE AND SO SHE HAS TO CUT OFF HIS HEAD (WHICH SHE DOES WITHOUT A SECOND THOUGHT.) RAINBOWS AND SPARKLES.
It’s not unlike Suda’s previous few games that seek to smack the player in the face with their outrageousness. It’s a very violent and graphic game that’s framed in a semi-cartoonish fashion. It’s everything that juvenile males have come to expect from zombie killing games but it’s all dressed up in girlish stereotypes held by the same juvenile males. While playing the game, your reaction most likely will be “what?” or “Japan.” but Suda has once again woven a tapestry of madness and vulgarity. It feels like the same zany Suda song and dance which is, for myself, getting a bit tired. It is what it is though and sometimes it’s hilarious and other times it is tedious.
What about the game though? There is a solid set of combat mechanics in Lollipop Chainsaw. Juliet, the game’s protagonist, can use several basic actions. She can carve high and low with her chainsaw, she can bash with her cheerleader pom poms, and she can jump or dodge around zombies. The chainsaw feels more like a sword; it is used for cutting through zombies rather than grabbing them and tearing them to shreds. It also takes a fair number of cuts to bring enemies down unless you first make them “groggy” allowing you to decapitate them in one strike.
At the heart of the game is this system: in addition to surviving zombie hordes, you need to destroy them strategically in order to maximize your score. It is by no means a survival horror game. The player is empowered and encouraged to round up enemies and eviscerate them. To aid in this task, Juliet also has a super attack meter, which when filled and used allows her to decapitate zombies without having to make them groggy or sufficiently bring down their health. You can also enlist the aid of your sidekick, Nick (a decapitated head who still lives), which can used as a projectile, a bludgeon, a goodie-dispenser, among other things.
The primary issue I see with this game system though is that while it is about racking up high scores by managing groups of zombies, it takes at least one play-through to unlock what you need to be able to do this effectively. Having a limited move-set also makes the process of learning how to do what’s necessary to get a high score becomes frustrating and tedious. It’s games like this that need cheat codes (man, I miss cheat codes) to get the most out of it.
There are Interesting bits of storytelling scattered about in a sea of stupidity which is the game. Juliet is depicted as an airhead, but as the game progresses you get the sense that she might actually just be a sociopath. She never stops to reflect on what’s actually happened except when it directly is affecting her. At one point, she fights her entire cheerleading squad, kills them, and remarks that what happened was awful, but entirely awesome. She’s a bit creepy and it culminates in her treatment of her boyfriend, Nick.
All in all, Lollipop Chainsaw is a good game that takes some digging to get into. Its presentation and sense of humor has the capacity to be great at times, and dreadful at others. Even being as short as it is, I’m glad it didn’t last any longer. Going back and replaying earlier levels can be rewarding once you have unlocked the appropriate skills. If you’ve enjoyed Suda’s previous games then chances are Chainsaw will be right up your alley, that is unless Suda hasn’t already worn out his welcome with you.