Lollipop Chainsaw review
Wow, talk about being slow, this has been out for over a month and I still didn’t get my review out >_> But here it is, my review for Lollipop Chainsaw… Now to finish my review for Gravity Rush which came out at the same time… Damn I’m slow.
It’s a zombie game! And yet I was pretty excited for it before it came out, despite zombies being probably the third most overdone thing this generation. A lot of it had to do with the advertising and overall crazyness of everything I saw about this game, but what really made me want it is that Dave played it at PAX East and told me the gameplay was really good.
So… how is it? Read on and see!
Developer: Grasshopper Manufacture
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Date of Release: June 12th 2012
Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360
Genre: Beat ‘em Up
This is where the game shows its brilliance. The presentation is inspired.
Graphically, it seems like a pretty mid-level current-gen game if you look at the technicals. If you see anything from a good distance it looks fine, but getting in close-ups does show jaggies and overall the focus wasn’t on making the characters completely realistic, as everyone has a little bit of cartoonish-ness to them. Character design is pretty standard stuff, though clearly a lot of work was put into each important character (the Starlings, that creepy old japanese guy, Nick, Swan and the Dark Purveyors). As for environments, they all look very nice and some effort was put in not making everything boring grey-brown like every other modern game out there. It can’t be stopped in certain places (like the zombie-invaded farm), but it does look a heck of a lot more colorful than a lot of the crap that comes out nowadays.
But the biggest mark for the presentation is just HOW everything is presented. I guess I can only say that it’s standard Suda 51 craziness. Lots of rainbows, 80s style pop-ups, completely random music (from rock to Mickey to metal to Lollipop), the tons of colors appearing everywhere on the screen, the pink blood zombies spew when they die, the random stuff zombies say (sometimes it’s just dumb, other times it’s laugh-out-loud funny), the completely wacked-out script and characters… It’s really something to look at. It’s like the design team figured “you know, maybe we should make this video game look like a video game”… and voilà, there it is. There’s always random/weird/crazy/creative stuff going on, it never gets boring to look at.
Everything else? Well, the story is basically “there are zombies, kill them”. It does have interesting characters, an actual antagonist with super dumb motivation for being as evil as he is (who summons 5 Dark Purveyors to destroy the world… Dark Purveyors basically being super zombies with super powers), some good character development (in regards to Nick, at least), fun dialogue, great one-liners… But it ends up being pretty much standard, even considering the giant Elvis zombie at the end. On the audio side of things… the sound effects are fine and work, the music is generally fitting (or outright random), you can customize your soundtrack within the game as well with unlockable songs and I think the voice acting as a whole was really well done, with each character displaying a range of emotions and sounding pretty believable overall.
Well who cares about how a game looks and sounds if the gameplay isn’t good? Well, you’ll be happy to hear that it is pretty solid here.
You shouldn’t really be expecting a Bayonetta/Devil May Cry style action game here, but rather a classic-style beat ‘em up set in a 3D world. The basic gameplay flow is pretty simple: Kill zombies, go to the next area with zombies, and kill more zombies. You get a boss fight at the end of every level, and mini-games at certain points in most levels. 7 levels in all (tutorial level, then a level for each Dark Perveyor, and a final level for the final boss) so it’s a pretty fast game to finish, but there is replay value in the number of unlockables, 2 endings, and the plain fact that it’s fun to play.
The basic combat is pretty simple. You have Pom Pom attacks that mildly damage, but, more importantly, render zombies dizzy after enough hits. You have chainsaw attacks that hack off limbs and otherwise cause pretty good damage, low chainsaw attacks which do much of the same but on either downed enemies, or their legs and you can jump (jumping towards a zombie when really close makes you leapfrog over it) but only a very limited height. The basic idea is to knock zombies around with the Pom Poms, and, when they’re dizzy, cutting their head off, OR just hitting them with your chainsaw enough until they die. But that’s not really all there is to it. The game features a combo system where, as you buy new moves (and even from the start), different combinations of attacks do different things completely, sometimes being just really cool to look at.
And the zombies aren’t completely inoffensive either. If you just button mash through them, you’re pretty sure to get hit more often than not, so strategizing when to attack and when to dodge is very important, and knowing which types of attacks are more effective against which zombies is also not a bad thing. There are different types of zombies, as mentioned before. Some that attack more fiercely, others that have special armor or extra resistance to attack… so it’s more interesting than the general “all zombies are the same” you usually see.
Nick, as a a living head, can be used as a weapon as well. You can shake him for money, swing him around to damage and dizzy zombies, or shoot him to dizzy zombies. This requires an item called a nick ticket, most of which will be bought in the store.
Speaking of the store, there are quite a few things you can buy here. Lollipops for healing, food/drinks/equipment for stat upgrades, new moves, music and costumes can all be found here. I will note some upgrades aren’t available in the shop, but rather given to you during cutscenes, and can only be used from that level forward. You get money through killing zombies and platinum coins through killing special zombies and Sparkle Hunting. Sparkle Hunting is a fun little feature where, if you kill multiple zombies simultaneously, you get a bonus in coins, and platinum coins as well. That bonus is elevated if you kill more zombies at once. So one of the things you may want to do in combat here is actually try to group zombies together, dizzy them all, and kill the all at once. Sparkle Hunting can get a bit annoying if you do it a lot, since it does pause gameplay for a few seconds, but it can also be pretty satisfying, and the presentation goes full crazy every time you do it.
In every level, you get ranked for your performance. This counts time to complete the level, damage, item use, deaths and sparkle hunting, so there’s replay value in trying to get higher and higher scores.
Every level is accentuated by a boss fight, and they definitely went all out on these. While, in normal difficulty, they’re all pretty easy, they’re also all really fun to fight, each using different techniques to fight you. The viking zombie in a flying boat shoots lightning at you and separates his torso from his legs to attack you with them independently. The hippy zombie at the farm causes illusions and hits you with a variety of weird attacks. The punk zombies attacks you by swearing at you… And more that I won’t spoil. It’s all very fun, each of the bosses have patterns to learn and a variety of attacks and forms, so they generally become harder as the battle progresses.
Every level also includes a mini-game or 2. Some of them are pretty fun (the arcade level has a multiple minigames and they’re all pretty interesting), and some of them are pretty bad (the one in the farm level is just annoying). I think it’s a nice distraction from the main game as long as it’s not too boring… and sometimes it is. But overall it’s a cool idea to break up the action from time to time.
Just a mention, once again, that QTEs are the worst thing a developer can put in a game, and there are some here. They’re not AS badly implemented as other games, as the button prompts have SOME meaning (if Juliet needs to jump out of the way, you’re gonna have to press the jump button, for example), but it’s annoying to get a lower rank just because you pressed the wrong button in a QTE that shouldn’t be there in the first place.
Lollipop Chainsaw is a really good game. The combat is solid, it’s not too short and not too long, there are multiple endings and rankings at each stage, it’s fun to look at, it’s fun to play… It’s just really solid. There is replay value in the fact that there is a good amount of content, sure, but the biggest thing that boost that replay value is that the game is fun to play. No more no less, and the fact that it’s short (7 levels that range between 30-60 minutes each) is actually a GOOD thing, since it makes it a lot more replayable.
Overall… I’ll say it’s not exactly as fun as I was expecting, but it’s still pretty awesome. One of the really fun games this year, it’s one of those fun and quirky games that doesn’t come out often.
And what other game can you say that you’re playing as a chainsaw-wielding cheerleader killing zombies by swinging her boyfriend’s dismembered (but still alive) head around with “Mickey” playing in the background with rainbows popping up everywhere while one of the zombies talks about his distaste of Carrot Top as he’s dying? Yeah.
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