Suda51 creates some strange games. From a serial killer with 7 personalities to a trip through hell with your talking gun, not a single one of Suda51’s games can ever be defined as tame. Thus, many of his games can seem too far-fetched for most gamers to get in to. His latest game, Lollipop Chainsaw doesn’t kill this pattern either. Rather, it spreads it like the best zombie of outbreaks. So does it feel like a cult-classic zombie flick or does it stumble over it’s own shuffling feet?
Lollipop Chainsaw is a beat-em-up that would feel at home at an arcade. Not for it’s difficulty, but for how it plays overall. While it’s easy to go from level to level without too much effort, your score will be dismal. Those looking for a quick game can still enjoy it, but if you want the high score you’ll have to kill as many zombies at once as possible. Positioning and timing become terribly important if you want to make a dent in the leaderboards. This is less of a concern on the easier difficulties, where enemies spawn far less. Either way, dispatching zombies won’t be a problem with the amazingly responsive controls. This makes this game one of the most accessible of Suda51’s creations.
Beat-em-ups can get repetitive after you find that one combo that works. Lollipop Chainsaw tries to avoid this a few different ways. Small mini-games are scattered throughout every level. Though these are meant to be fun, they seem to draw the already long levels out longer. Most of the levels took me about 30-60 minutes to beat on normal. There’s plenty of checkpoints, but I was never informed when I reached one. Boss battles always impressed, but it’s up to you how many times you want to fight your way to them. The camera became its own boss whenever I tried to lock-on to an enemy, causing numerous graphical glitches.
Like many other beat-em-ups, Lollipop Chainsaw has a giant array of moves to use. Though they are simple button combinations, I still found myself being lost on how to do a few of them. This may have been from the amount of moves, but I feel as though it was from the lack of variation between them. Many were only a slight change from the last, so I would try to do one and end up doing another quite often. All of the attacks were amazingly flashy so no matter how I killed a zombie it felt satisfying. The zombies weren’t as weak as you’d think. Less like cannon fodder and more like henchmen with worse health insurance.
[+Tight Controls][+Flexible Difficulty][+Lots of Checkpoints][*Long Levels][*Large Repertoire of Moves to Remember][-No Visual Cue for Checkpoints][-Terrible Lock-On Camera]
When you think of what a zombie game would look like, you probably think of gore and far too much blood. Though there is plenty of gore within Lollipop Chainsaw, it’s offset by rainbows, sparkles and showers of coins. This can be a little strange when the first time you decapitate a zombie instead of seeing a geyser of blood you see a perfect little rainbow. Environments are also amazingly diverse. You start in somewhere plain like a parking lot and end up going everywhere from a psychedelic farm to an overtly 80s arcade, complete with Pac-Man knock-offs.
While you’re taking the time to enjoy the sights, the music that plays can range from Five Finger Death Punch to Toni Basil. The in-house music is no slouch either, since it was written by Akira Yamaoka (composer for Silent Hill) and Jimmy Urine. The main song you’ll come to hear is “Lollipop” by the Chordettes since it’s the shop music. Everyone I’ve talked to has said that they can’t get that song out of their fucking head because of how much the game plays it.
While an amazing amount of attention was given to the music, it’s the writing that is both the best and worst part of the game. Japanese humor never translates well to the mass-American market so Grasshopper Manufacture brought James Gunn to help write and boy did it pay off. The banter back and forth between the heroine Juliet and her body-less boyfriend Nick are some of the funniest lines I’ve heard in years. The chemistry heard during their conversations makes them almost believable as a real couple with a few twists. Most boyfriends wouldn’t speak so adamantly about how they miss having a dick. These two shine so much that they leave other characters in the dust. Even the bosses have terrible dialogue in comparison.
Each boss is quite the experience, as each one is modeled after a style of music that has “died”. Like the first boss is a punk rocker zombie whose words become actual attacks. Hearing a boss call me a fucking cunt was one thing, but it was another to see those words flying at me right after. Every boss is a puzzle, with multiple forms to contend with. Truly they were all made to be the highlight of the game.
Overall, the whole package doesn’t clash. There are slight exceptions like when you’ve made a large kill and currency covers the screen. This adds to the satisfaction of the kill. The dialogue never fights for attention with the music either. This is a great game for some short bursts of excitement, but it can get easily repetitive especially after you’ve beaten the game.
[+Well-Written Dialogue][+Diverse Soundtrack][+Varied Locations][+Memorable Boss Fights][*”Lollipop” by The Chordettes Will Get Stuck in Your Head][Makes Full Use of M rating]
Getting through Lollipop Chainsaw won’t take you too long. I think it took me about 8-12 hours altogether. The story can best be described as short and sweet, but while you’re playing there are plenty of things to unlock. The standard fare of concept art and upgrades are here alongside something I never expected: costumes. It’s sad that the normal thing nowadays is to pay for costumes, though I’m sure those will come down the line. The costumes range from the perverse to the homage with other zombie hunting franchises represented like High School of the Dead and Evil Dead. You can also unlock different music in the game to put in your own “best of” playlist so when you decide to retry a level there’s no repeating soundtrack.
Besides leaderboards this game is an entirely offline affair. It doesn’t seem like there will be much DLC besides some different costumes. Multiplayer is also non-existent so improving your high score is the name of the game. One thing I found disappointing is that the bosses don’t drop rewards once you beat them, so like a virtual virginity, you can never have the same awe and wonder as the first time. All that aside if you’re okay with rising up a scoreboard you’ll find plenty of replayability. The game grades you based on time, score, currency earned, and even style. Otherwise you may want to gloss over this one til the all powerful price drop.
[+Plenty of Unlockables][*No Multiplayer][-Short Main Story][-No Incentive to Beat Bosses Again]
Strange games are always worth a try in my book. Lollipop Chainsaw pleasantly surprised me with its witty writing and tight gameplay. I’ll happily look over the lack of multiplayer for that. It’s been a long time since I could sit down with a game and not get spammed by my friends to go online with them. Sometimes you just want to sit down and save the world. In that regard, Lollipop Chainsaw satisfied in a big way and more.
[+Tight Controls][+Flexible Difficulty][+Lots of Checkpoints][+Well-Written Dialogue][+Diverse Soundtrack][+Varied Locations][+Memorable Boss Fights][+Plenty of Unlockables][*Long Levels][*Large Repertoire of Moves to Remember][*”Lollipop” by The Chordettes Will Get Stuck in Your Head][Makes Full Use of M rating][-No Visual Cue for Checkpoints][-Terrible Lock-On Camera][-Short Main Story][-No Incentive to Beat Bosses Again]