‘Lollipop Chainsaw’ Review
Proving that high school cheerleaders can kill zombies better than anyone, Lollipop Chainsaw is a real treat.
When famed game developer Suda51 (No More Heroes, Killer 7, Shadows of the Damned) decided that his next game would be one that smashes up a cutesy Japanese visual style with hardcore zombie violence and good ol' American rock'n roll, he brought along James Gunn for the ride. The director of ‘Super’ and ‘Slither’ (as well scriptwriter of ‘Dawn of the Dead’ and ‘Tromeo and Juliet’) seemed like the perfect fit for the game, and he was. While Suda51’s titles have all been incredibly weird they’ve also been incredibly Japanese, and by getting someone known for his dark sense of humor on this side of the world they give this game a completely new flavor. American humor with Japanese visuals make for a truly funny and flat-out weird game that’s unlike anything else.
The game stars Juliet Starling, a perky blonde high school cheerleader who’s heading to her school (San Romero High- ahem) on her 18th birthday only to find out that zombies have overtaken it. Fortunately for her it turns out that the the Starlings are actually a family of zombie hunters and she’s been training since she was little to kill them the best she can. It’s probably the reason she just so happened to pack a gigantic chainsaw with her lunch.
She heads towards school dodging out-of-control school buses and chopping off zombie heads, only to find out that her boyfriend’s been bitten. To save him she does the only obvious thing - she cuts his head off and saves his life with magic, attaching his head to her belt like the world’s weirdest fashion accessory. Together they head off to figure out who’s behind this attack, combining gratuitous violence with her sexy style and saving students as she goes. Her family members appear as well, helping you out and giving Juliet presents for her birthday that are suited towards killing.
A hack and slash action title at heart, the game offers some really fun - if occasionally imprecise - zombie destroying combat. You’ve got pom-pom attacks (she is a cheerleader, after all) that stun zombies for either low or high chainsaw attacks that will lop off the appropriate appendages. Zombies don’t just die in spurts of blood - they also emit sparkles and rainbows along with the splatter. It’s different, to say the least.
Kill multiple zombies with one attack and you’ll trigger a ‘Sparkle Hunting’ bonus that makes them drop tons of coins that can be spent at a store for new combos and bonuses to your stats. Rarer platinum coins are used to unlock songs from the soundtrack, concept art, and, of course, different outfits for Juliet- nearly all of them skimpy.
The combos develop the game nicely and give you a good range of attacks, almost all of them allowing Juliet to accidentally show off her panties. This may be the first game in history where there’s an achievement for trying to look up the protagonist's skirt.
Killing zombies stage after stage would get boring, but there are plenty of sections that change up the gameplay in appropriately ridiculous ways. For instance, you’ll fight zombies in games of baseball and basketball, as well as battle through an entire stage set in an arcade, where each level replicates a classic game, from Pac-Man to Elevator Action.
The boss battles are incredible, as well, since each level in the game features a “Rock and roll” boss leading the pack. Little Jimmy Urine of Mindless Self Indulgence not only did the music for all of the battles (some of which really feel like unreleased MSI tracks!) but stars as the game's first boss, an undead zombie punk rocker called Zed. Later bosses include a Viking Metal God on a ship, a trippy Psychedelic rock battle featuring a sitar-wielding hippie chick, and even a Funk boss who fights you in an UFO.
Besides a sound team led by famed musician Akira Yamaoka (Silent Hill) they've licensed a diverse group of songs for the soundtrack, everything from Sleigh Bells to Arch Enemy to Skrillex to Atari Teenage Riot to the Chordettes, whose ‘Lollipop’ plays during the shop menu. The music is all perfectly timed to the game- when you fill up a kill meter and hit the right trigger to initiate a killing mode Toni Basil’s ‘Mickey’ (“Oh Mickey you’re so fine”) kicks in, giving the already madcap game an even more hysterical feel.
Little Jimmy Urine isn’t the only famous person in the game, either, as the game features characters voiced by Michael Rooker, Linda Cardellini and Sean Gunn, James’ brother. Michael Rosenbaum (Lex from Smallville) plays Nick, Juliet’s boyfriend, and Tara Strong (Harley Quinn from Batman: Arkham City) plays Juliet herself.
The zombies usually steal the show, though. Turn on the subtitles for the game so you won’t miss any of their lines as they attack you. A ton of immature, random, and hilarious non-sequiturs await you. ‘Return of the Living Dead’ has nothing on this... it’s here that you can really feel Gunn’s influence.
It would all be peaches and cream if it weren’t for a couple of sections of the game that will stop you in your tracks. For instance, there’s an early section in the first level that has you trying to stop flaming zombies from setting off a huge pile of bombs. This isn’t so hard later on in the game when you’ve leveled up and have new combos to quickly kill the undead but at that point you barely have anything in your repertoire, and it will take you many times to continue. The imprecise controls contribute to a few other frustrating parts in the game as well.
The game is relatively short, too - a handful of stages and a final boss and you’re done. There’s a ranking mode that allows you to replay each stage going for a high score and harder difficulty levels but it’s debatable how much replay value that will add besides perhaps one more playthrough. You will want to play it again right away though, since you won’t have fully leveled up your character and it’s just so much fun when you start to unlock the better combos.
Sexist and offensive in all the right ways, it’s a very fun and ridiculous ride unlike any other zombie game ever made.
Lollipop Chainsaw was developed by Grasshopper Manufacture and was published by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. This review was taken from eight hours with the Xbox 360 version with a copy provided by the publisher.