Lollipop Chainsaw arrives at time when many video game publications are in post E3 recovery mode. After pounding the carpet on the show floor for days I am still trying to get back to 100%. So needless to say, some mindless zombie slaying fun with a chainsaw toting hottie is exactly what the doctor ordered. Lollipop Chainsaw is exactly as advertised as it is a ‘hack and slash’ game for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 video game consoles. I was lucky enough to get my hands on an early Xbox 360 copy of the game. While there is no doubt Juliet, the games main hero, has sex appeal, the question remains: Will Lollipop Chainsaw appeal to the masses and deliver a strong game at a time when we are about to head into the summer gamming lull? Well I am not so certain, as after some extended playtime with the game I am left with some mixed feelings.
The star of the show is Juliet, an 18-year old cheerleader wearing nothing but a tiny mini skirt, tight tank top and of course she has a full sized chainsaw at her side everywhere she goes. The game is set in and around Juliet’s high school of San Romero where there has been zombie outbreak. Juliet loves lollipops, but even more than lollipops she loves her boyfriend Nick. It is not too long into the game when Nick is the victim of a zombie attack. As the he comes to the realization of his fate, Juliet decides to take matters into her own hands and hacks Nicks’ head off with her chainsaw. It is a “magical decapitation” of sorts as his head is preserved and Nick is able to communicate with Juliet. With the zombie invasion growing larger, and a group of rock and roll zombie lords causing chaos, Juliet clips Nicks head to her hip and fires up her chainsaw as she does everything she can to stop the evil forces at work.
In a nutshell, Lollipop Chainsaw’s storyline is decent. Hollywood director and writer James Gunn, who is known for his work on Super, Slither, Dawn of the Dead, and Tromeo & Juliet, wrote the storyline for this crazy game. Much like other zombie based games the level of depth in terms of the plotline is not there, but this is to be expected as the game never really takes itself too seriously. The sexual innuendo is amped- up throughout and the dialogue is rich in humour and over the top sarcasm. For instance, throughout the game Juliet will call you a pervert if she catches you looking up her skirt. There is even an animation where Juliet will stop in her tracks, put her chainsaw at her side and then covers hear rear with her free hand. The banter between Juliet and Nick is also entertaining. I often found myself chuckling as Nick would come to terms with his body-less reality. The dialogue can seem absolutely ridiculous at times but somehow it all works and much of that credit can go to Mr. Gunn for his clever writing.
Despite all the sex, violence, crazy dialogue and colourful characters, Lollipop Chainsaw remains a hack and slash game. Mix in some sequential button pressing sequences, mini games, collectible items, a store upgrade system and that is about all you get in Lollipop Chainsaw. There is no multiplayer or cooperative play so I am warning you Lollipop Chainsaw is a certainly a little thin on features in my view. Much of the gameplay consists of going from one area to the next hacking and slashing zombies, chainsawing past a barrier, then rinse and repeat. When you encounter the games crazy characters, such as zombie football players, zombie fireman, and zombie cheerleaders, you can pull off a multitude of combos, many of which need to be unlocked in the Lollipop Chainsaw store. These stores are scattered throughout the game. As you progresses through the game you collect coins and stars which are essentially the games currency. You can then trade them in to upgrade your skills and health or unlock more outfits, music, etc. It is all basic stuff here and there really is nothing about Lollipop Chainsaw that is incredibly innovative or original. Sure on the surface it is unique but at the end of the day many of us have all played similar games before.
As I mowed down the games many zombies, I did encounter several annoyances. For starters, every time you get knocked down in the game, and this will happen a lot, you must rapidly press the ‘B’ button to get back up. Frankly, I found this flat-out annoying. During the mini-game basketball sequences where you score points for the number of zombies you slay in a predetermined amount of time, having to mash the B button can become incredibly aggravating. Far too often I was focused on pulling off various combos and staying clear from a zombie attack only for Juliet to fall flat on her face resulting in me having to rapidly press the B button while the time is running out.
Another issue I frequently encountered was with the games uncooperative camera. Far too often it seemed to have a mind of its own. There are instances where I found it difficult to contro,l and in tight spaces look out! The camera inevitably will do some very wonky things and personally I just found this took away from the overall experience. I also found the mini-cut scenes that appear every time you pull off a combo frustrating as well. For instance, during the blastball mini-game I would pull off a combo shot killing 3 zombies in quick succession. The cut-scene would then interrupt the game for a few seconds and then throw me right back into the game while Nick is getting attacked by zombies. It is when the cut scene ends that I found myself disoriented for a second or two, and these seconds ended up costing me. Nick would inevitably get hammered by the zombies and ultimately I would fail the mini-game having to start over. Oh, did I mention that the aiming and shooting mechanics in the mini-game are downright horrendous? Well they are. I found myself constantly wrestling with the controls as I struggled to aim on the zombie I wanted to blast. It felt broken to say the least.
Despite the many negatives with the game I did encounter a few positives. For starters, it is absolutely rewarding mowing down enemies with your chainsaw. I felt a sense of satisfaction when I was able to acrobatically take down hordes of zombies with a variety of moves and chainsaw combos. The boss encounters are also incredibly challenging. While they do tend to drag on once you eventually take them down and blood is squirting all over the screen you will get a feeling of satisfaction from your effort. Another positive element in the game is Juliet’s super attacks. Killing zombies and saving classmates that are being attacked both increase Juliet’s star meter. Once the meter is full you can trigger her super attack where she becomes invincible and can then take down the more challenging zombies with ease. Another interesting element is the many ways in which Juliet uses Nick’s head in the game. In one instance you can place Nick’s head on the body of decapitated zombie and then control it. Many of these instances unfortunately involve quick time button pressing events which many of you may already know I am not a fan of. Regardless, being able to do different things with Nick`s head is not morbid but enjoyable.
As far as the visuals are concerned, Lollipop Chainsaw is solid. The cell shaded artistic look of the game is top notch and captures of the essence of Lollipop Chainsaw. It has a unique art style of its own and I was indeed impressed with the games character animations. The games environments on the other hand lacked some detail and appeared somewhat bland. I guess I just expected a little more. That being said, some of the levels really pop out of the screen and come to life but far too many others just acted as filler lacking any real detail or design. The games cut scenes are well done and are a strong point in terms of the visual experience.
Complementing the game’s visuals, the sound is equally as solid. The hard rock tunes which play in the background as you hack and slash your night away are pretty good. Many of them are original tunes but you will also hear classics like `Hey Mickey`. All in all, I had no real concerns with the games music. The voice acting is equally as good and humorous while the sound effects are also bang-on. At the end of the day I had no issues with the games audio department.
I cannot help but think Lollipop Chainsaw would have been better served as an Xbox Live Arcade game or maybe a budget title. While the games visuals, witty dialogue and chainsaw welding combat is certainly entertaining, the game is just a tad too thin on features in order for me to recommend it, especially with the lack of any cooperative play. On top of it all, the wonky camera issues, and other combat related issues I experienced pull the entire experience down a few notches for me. In the end, Lollipop Chainsaw comes across as merely an average game, but sometimes average is ok, and you may just end up enjoying this game.