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Lollipop Chainsaw Review

Brad Gallaway's picture

Rusted Sour

Lollipop Chainsaw Screenshot

HIGH The soundtrack.

LOW Almost everything else.

WTF Ditto.

So, Lollipop Chainsaw.

On paper, blending zombies, Stihl-driven bloodshed, a rainbow-powered heroine and a thick dollop of sardonic humor seems like the recipe for a brilliant, can't-miss hit. If you ask me, it's got "cult classic" written all over it. However, in the latest release from Grasshopper Manufacture, game creator Suda51 and co-writer James Gunn give a master class on just how wrong such a thing can go.

This "no-brainer?" It's literally a no-brainer.

Lollipop Chainsaw stars barely-legal cheerleader Juliet Starling in a third-person, high scoring romp through the fictional town of San Romero as she wields her whirring weapon against hordes of undead. Someone's opened a rift to an evil dimension, so it's up to our heroine and her disembodied-head-for-a-boyfriend Nick (don't ask!) to save the day.

This setup would be fine enough for something that's as cleverly wink-wink as this game thinks it is, but shoddy mechanics, unpolished design, a script full of offensive material and constantly-whiffing jokes ensure this title will be in the running for "biggest misfire of 2012."

Lollipop Chainsaw's structure is quite simple, and will be instantly familiar to many. Each level is made up of areas that require a certain number of undead to be defeated before Juliet can move on. Decapiate X zombies, the door to the next zone opens, and Juliet totters ahead. Nothing fancy. Killing several at once awards bigger score bonuses and more money to be used for upgrades and unlockables. This old-school formula feels a bit tired but it might have turned out all right if not for the cumbersome combat that's in dire need of polish and refinement.

Lollipop Chainsaw Screenshot

What's wrong with it? The controls feel laggy, pauses leave Juliet open for cheap hits at the end of combos, the auto-aim points anywhere except in the right direction, collision is unpredictable, and enemies often interrupt the player's attacks. With this kind of combat engine, no case can be made for the game on a pure performance level. It's a joke to think that players are supposed to replay for high scores when it's such an untuned mess.

Also problematic is the ineffectual camera that needs constant babysitting, the annoying mini-games that the player must suffer through to progress, and the incredibly frequent pauses for loading when transitioning between areas. At no point is the game able to let the player immerse themselves in cathartic slice-and-dice—the "action" stutters along in fits and starts, never kicking into high gear.

Intellectually, Lollipop Chainsaw is just as shoddy.

To be fair, hints of certain themes such as "fear of women" (via Nick the head) are whispered every now and again, but the script, dialogue and tone are all too erratic and unfocused, guaranteeing that none of the (assumed) attempts at subversiveness or commentary hit their mark. Further obscuring the writing is an almost pathological overabundance of profanity, sexual comments and filthy non-sequiturs.

To be clear, I have no problem with profanity when it's used smartly and appropriately, but that's just not the case here. There is nothing clever about a character telling Juliet he's going to put his "middle up her ass" or being called a slut, a whore, a bitch, or a thousand other epithets on a near-constant basis. Even worse, Juliet herself comes off as an insipid idiot, and is quite difficult to identify or sympathize with. While some people may want to project some imagined deep meaning into this scribbled mess, I found it closer to a full-tilt merry-go-round of tasteless elements and mentally stunted japes.

After sitting through the entire experience, I found Lollipop Chainsaw to be a failure on every level thanks to the rough, unsatisfying play and a script and characters that are the worst of what video games can be. I'm all for edgy, challenging pieces that push boundaries, but this thing isn't hip, sassy, smart or sarcastic—it's just a lot of absurd, awful nonsense with pedo-bait breasts slapped on top. Rating: 2.5 out of 10.

Disclosures: This game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the Xbox 360. Approximately 7 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game contains blood and gore, drug references, intense violence, partial nudity, sexual themes, and strong language. No explanation is needed here—under no circumstances should kids be let near this. This game is everything parents don't want their children exposed to, all in one neat little package.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing: Basic subtitles are available for all dialogue and sound isn't a factor during gameplay. I found it to be fully accessible.

Category Tags
Platform(s): Xbox 360   PS3  
Developer(s): Grasshopper Manufacture  
Key Creator(s): Goichi Suda   Suda51   James Gunn  
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive  
Genre(s): Arcade   Horror  
ESRB Rating: Mature (17+)  
Articles: Game Reviews  

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Well, this was quite a short

Well, this was quite a short review, but I could still see where you're coming from. I won't comment on the style or writing as that's certainly up to taste, but I'll say I have heard very differing opinions about the combat, so I'm curious to see which side I'll belong to once I get to play it... because I will.

Still didn't quite see what you considered to be offensive about this game, though. Is it just the unappropriate profanity and name-calling? I have to wonder, because my perception of what's offensive would be something different entirely.

Yeah, you're gonna get that...

My well-honed gamer antennae told me I wasn't the target market for this game. Your review reinforces my faith that yes I am not a teenage boy and thus, this game just isn't for me.

Subversive would be putting a fully-fleshed out female character who exists beyond T&A. A cheerleader with a chainsaw, not so much. How about a non-sexualized fifth grade English teacher defeating wave after wave of infected students, PTA and school personnel while trying to keep testing scores high- now that's something I haven't seen yet.

A pretentious comment on combat mechanics

I differ from Brad's opinion of this game, though I do respect it. However, I feel he has missed something with his comments on the combat, along with many other critics.
Most DMC/God of War type games reward combos, getting consecutive hits without getting interupted by an enemy attack. Lollipop Chainsaw rewards killing multiple enemies at once, specifically 3 or more in one chainsaw swing. This requires a different approach, softening multiple enemies, evading attacks, all the while herding zombies together for the final blow. Getting this "sparkle hunting" attack together, in my opinion, can be very satisfying (especially with five zombies). One's opinion on the value of this approach can be different, but I feel it is important to note how the combat differs from other games of this type.

Disagree with review

I think Brad pretty much didn't understand any aspect of this game at all. It's my favorite game of 2012 so far, eclipsing overrated mediocrity like Xenoblade Chronicles (which is an every day, run of the mill Japanese rpg that critics are raving about like it's the savior of the genre). Getting high scores is easy and the combat system is up to the task for any player who actually knows what he's doing. Setting up Sparkle Hunt kills for high scores is pretty simple by using Star Power mode for instant one hit kills in crowds of zombies, or using Nick tickets to make zombies dizzy, which also sets them up for one hit kills. You can also get Sparkle Hunts with the gun if you're a good shot. Also, as you progress through the game Juliette gets access to combo attacks with good damage and wide range that can mow down crowds and frequently get Sparkle Hunt kills.

Zombies don't interrupt your attacks if you start a combo away from the crowd and then move towards it once the more powerful hits come out. Anyone who is actually GOOD at beat 'em up games already knows this. There is no lag in Juliette's attacks. They are quick and responsive. There are even certain moves that instantly set up more powerful enemies for quick kills. The game gives you every tool you need to succeed. Granted you don't have access to all of them right from the start, but upgrading Juliette is part of the incentive for playing through the game. There's a reason why they let you replay already completed levels. As for auto-aim for the gun, it makes some sections easier, and if you don't like it you can turn it off and switch to manual at any time during the game. I find that there are advantages to both the manual aim and the auto-aim depending on the situation. The camera does not need constant babysitting. It is only occasionally a problem. Camera problems are one of those things that professional reviewers typically exaggerate.

As someone who has gotten every trophy/achievement in the game (I've actually played both versions of the game), I would know. I've also finished every level on normal difficulty with an A+ rank (the highest rank in the game). I see so many games get poor reviews these days simply because the reviewers are just poor players.

Also, the story is quite clever. It does a wonderful job of using gender role reversal by having Juliette as a very masculine character (the hero who saves the world), while Nick is the damsel in distress in the first level. He then becomes quite literally objectiifed as a decapitated head, a nice commentary on how women are objectified in video games. Juliette literally uses him as a tool throughout the game, and shows him off to her friends like he's a commodity rather than a person. It's the type of stuff you typically see with female characters in games, just done differently and done with a male character.

I could mention lots of other clever things the story does as well like the fourth wall breakage, poking fun at the absurdities and tropes of video games in general, as well as the rather strong feminist themes like when Juliette brutally and painfully kills the first boss who sounds like a misogynist woman hater with all of the sexually derogatory insults he throws at her throughout the boss fight. Or the fact that the perverted old man (representing that section of the audience who will only buy this game because it has a barely legal girl in a cheerleader outfit) is quickly killed off soon after his introduction and remains the only major character in the game to die. Destructoid has some nice articles covering some of the hidden depth in the game's story, including one with comments from script writer James Gunn himself.

I also find it rather ironic that Brad complains about Juliette being an idiot in a story that is so light hearted. Most of the game's cast come off as idiots in some way. It's called comedy. Most comedy shows like South Park or Futurama only work when most of the cast is stupid in some way.

Sad to see a review make no mention of the game's excellent soundtrack (a great mix of well composed video game music and smartly chosen licensed tracks) or unique visual style. I actually love how the violence is covered up with rainbows coming out of zombies and little hearts everywhere. There are so many ways to interpret that. You could say the game is poking fun at people who complain about games being too violent, or poking fun at the very players who indulge so much in the blood and gore that characterizes so many modern games. Lollipop Chainsaw is a game that is smarter than it looks.

I would also like to point out the way the game is clearly influenced by old fashioned, arcade beat 'em ups. This gives it a nice nostalgic quality and is a nice breath of fresh air from all of the Devil May Cry or God of War clones on the market. The game feels very much like a Dreamcast era arcade beat 'em up game that would have been nicely ported to that system. The game is a breath of fresh air in a market full of games that take themsevles too seriously, are too violent, or are too pretentious.

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