Developer: Grasshopper Manufacture
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Release Date: June 12, 2012 (out now)
Platform: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
ESRB: M for Mature
This review is based on the PS3 version of the game.
No doubt about it, Lollipop Chainsaw had been getting much attention long before its release – especially with the amount of advertising Warner Bros. had been putting out for the game. A bevy of trailers, appearances of the game at conventions, and the use of cosplayer Jessica Nigri as the cover girl was only the beginning of it. It wasn’t all positive attention and feedback, though.
Despite the combination of the great minds of Goichi Suda (aka Suda51) and James Gunn, many people in the gaming community were dismissing the hack-and-slash before it even came out. Who knows why? Even now after people have been given a taste of playing it, Lollipop Chainsaw seems to either be a love or hate game (though that’s usually the case with any Grasshopper Manufacture game). I’m happy to say that I’m on the “love it” side, even with the doubts I had previously.
The premise of the game is pretty simple (doesn’t mean it isn’t good, though!). Our protagonist, Juliet Starling, is a cheerleader… and zombie hunter. It’s her birthday and she’s on her way to school, when she startlingly discovers there’s been a zombie outbreak. Armed with pompoms, a chainsaw, years of martial arts training, and her now decapitated boyfriend, Nick, Juliet must stop the demonic forces that have leaked in from Rotten World after the barrier was broken.
Although the characters and story are not created by Suda51 this time around (rather, James Gunn and NekoshowguN), they still exude Suda’s familiar style of craziness. They’re all (mostly) definitely loveable and humorous – especially Juliet and Nick. While Juliet could have had her character fleshed out a bit more, I still fell in love with her and admired her pep. Nick, surprisingly, probably became one of my most favorite characters in a Grasshopper Manufacture game. His dialogue was top-notch and he had me laughing constantly. On a similar note, the voice-acting for Lollipop Chainsaw is extremely well-done. I absolutely adore Tara Strong as Juliet.
Gameplay is something people have been wondering about and analyzing most for Lollipop Chainsaw. Being a hack-and-slash action game, it has a lot to live up to when there are great games in the genre such as the Devil May Cry series and Bayonetta. The combat is great, and it's not too much of a problem as you quickly become accustomed to it, but I really wish it was less clunky and slow. Sure, you might hear excuses like - "Juliet is wielding a super heavy chainsaw and it makes her sluggish!” - but that doesn’t make it any better, though. In any case, it’s still fun using the bevy of moves Juliet has at her disposal – especially when you can buy new moves and combos and add them to your repertoire. Slaying zombies has never been better, or cuter.
The graphics for Lollipop Chainsaw are pretty nice. It doesn’t aim for high-quality realism, but instead sticks to the same sort of graphical style that we have seen in the No More Heroes games. The game also harbors a large amount of a comic book visual style for elements such as the menus, loading screens, and cutscenes. It’s all fantastic and well-done. A grindhouse-like film filter is also used during gameplay. It definitely adds to the feel of the game, and while it may impede you a bit when you’re first starting to play, you should quickly get used to it and learn to appreciate it.
Music can greatly influence your final opinion on a game, and for Lollipop Chainsaw, the music composed and gathered is definitely one of its strongest points. The combination of licensed songs and songs made specifically for the game work together to create a tremendously well-made and awesome soundtrack (the latter of which is thanks to famed musicians Akira Yamaoka and Little Jimmy Urine from Mindless Self Indulgence). Whether it’s a good or bad thing (I personally don’t mind it), Lollipop, Cherry Bomb, and Mickey will probably be stuck in my head for weeks.
You may have heard people complaining about Lollipop Chainsaw’s low playtime by now – usually claiming it’s under 5 hours or so. While I would probably up the amount of that claim a bit to 6-7 hours (my playthrough on normal mode was around 7-8), it doesn’t really matter. The game offers a large amount of replayability and content to collect if you want 100% completion, making it more than worthwhile of a purchase.
Among the obvious achievements/trophies, there are a ton of collectibles and unlockables. This includes concept art, music, and costumes for Juliet (most of which are super cute and worth getting!). On top of that are the online leaderboards, which give purpose for going back and replaying levels to get your scores and name out there. This adds an immense amount of replayability and gives you the chance to earn much-needed medals for store purchases.
I almost wish there were more stages in the game so we could get a taste of more zombie bosses (of which there are only a couple). Like in No More Heroes, they’re all very intriguing and are great characters that you want to know more about. The boss battles themselves are also great fun and are of swell design. Among everything else I loved about Lollipop Chainsaw, this point really makes me hope for a sequel to the game. At the very least, some DLC stages would be nice (even though I’m not too fond of DLC).
I already touched upon a few niggling issues I had with some elements in Lollipop Chainsaw, such as the combat. These are also very tiny, but probably worth pointing out. The PS3 version of the game has some pretty icky loading times. I almost thought I would have to restart my system during the first one. At least the loading screens are somewhat entertaining and different each time. Camera control is also a bit wonky. It likes to get stuck in weird places and sometimes doesn’t go where you want it to. I have also experienced some small glitches at certain points, such as Juliet not being able to move for a couple of seconds (usually after cutscenes).
Lollipop Chainsaw is one of my favorite experiences of the year and probably my newest favorite Grasshopper Manufacture and Suda51 game. The gameplay, story, characters, music, and everything else work together wonderfully to create a beautiful, sparkly package of a game. Cast your doubts aside and give Lollipop Chainsaw a fair chance, because it’s totally worth playing at least once.
+ Awesome combat, story, graphics, and characters
+ A treasure trove of unlockables and collectibles for you to hunt down and earn
+ Soundtrack in particular encompasses an excellent selection of both licensed and original tracks
- While combat is great, it could be smoother and faster
- Sometimes very long loading times on PS3
Overall: 9 (out of 10)
Zombies and sparkles and gore, oh my! Fans of hack-and-slash action must make it their duty to play this gem. You’ll make Morikawa Sensei proud.
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