Double Take: Sugar and Spice
Zombie apocalypses come and go—but Grasshopper Manufacture’s Lollipop Chainsaw dips its end-of-the-world scenario in glitter, stuffs it into a frilly skirt, and ties a pink bow in its hair. The adventures of Juliette Starling, her chainsaw, and their love affair with undead genocide certainly have style—but will Lollipop Chainsaw also have substance to go along with that?
Eric L. Patterson (News Editor): So, I will admit that I can be a little overly sensitive when it comes to getting annoyed by aspects of gaming that might be considered sexist, but I just can’t help loving the premise of Lollipop Chainsaw. Blonde cheerleader chopping up zombies with a chainsaw which spew out rainbows when cut in half—it’s just so silly and fun!
Kat Bailey (Contributing Editor): Yeah, Lollipop Chainsaw has a really great look overall. It mixes comic book style print drawings with 3D cel-shaded graphics, and the overall effect is quite striking. The art style is also such that the glitter and rainbows don’t feel out of pace at all with the buckets of gore. The animation, however, might be just a little bit of a problem. Seems rather stiff, don’t you think?
Eric: It’s one of the things that leads to the overall problem of the game, which I’m sure we’ll hit on in a moment. Indeed, the animation does feel stiff—you have this fun world, a cute character, that cartoony type of style, but they don’t all come together as you’re expecting. Taking a comic book and moving it into the world of animation, how you bring those expected movements to life is key. Here, you always feel like you’re missing a piece of animation here, or a smoothing out to the end of an animation sequence there. It kind of reminds me of the older days of 2D fighting games, when you could just tell where corners had been cut in animation.
Kat: Yep, it’s definitely pretty noticeable at points. The production values aren’t exactly what I would call “top-notch.” But on the other hand, there’s a certain amount of charm to the grit. It makes Lollipop Chainsaw feel appropriately ‘B-movie,’ which is what I always like to see in my zombie games. Especially a campfest like Lollipop Chainsaw. I think the only problem is that Chainsaw is also trying to be fairly precise in the way that it chains attacks for combinations. And when the frames start dropping, it can feel the tiniest bit awkward. Not enough that I didn’t enjoy myself, but enough that I noticed.
Eric: Well, that gets to that bigger problem that I mentioned. The gameplay, the combat, it all has that rough, unpolished feel that the animation also has. Moves just don’t feel like they flow together like they should—it’s more a “do move A, and then do move B, and then…” kind of feeling to me. You play a game like Bayonetta, or one of the better Devil May Cry chapters, and there’s almost a level of “dance” to the moves. One attack smoothly transitions into another, and you not only feel like you’re in control, but that you’re doing all of this really awesome stuff. Here, gameplay feels much more choppy. I don’t like feeling at times that I’m fighting the game’s controls and combat engine just as much as I am its enemies.
Kat: I don’t know that it’s fair to compare Lollipop Chainsaw to a Bayonetta or a Devil May Cry though. It’s technical, but it’s not so much so that pulling off combos comprises the whole game. It’s there to be goofy (not to mention gory), and I think it succeeds in that regard rather admirably. I think Chainsaw‘s main aim is pretty evident in the way that it appropriates replay-ability. Where a game like Devil May Cry is all about getting an “SSS” rank, Lollipop Chainsaw is about defeating and ‘collecting’ zombies with names like “Harold.” That combat certainly adds a degree of depth, the better to keep it getting repetitive, but there’s certainly more to Lollipop than that.
Eric: Sure, but I don’t know that I can just let Lollipop off of the hook like that. It’s combat COULD be better—and I think it’d be a much better game with an extra level of polish. It oozes fun and personality, so I want its gameplay to be as enjoyable as those other elements are.
Kat: Oh yes, it could be better, but I think it’s pretty aware of how (cheerfully) trashy it is. And anyway, I had a good time killing zombies with my rainbow chainsaw. It’s the sort of game that I could play over a bottle of Whiskey at 4 in the morning. Between that and the extensive amounts of cheerleader fanservice, Japanese salarymen are going to love this game. As for me, I think it’s fun, and it doesn’t take itself too seriously. We need more games like that with all the ultra-serious military and sci-fi shooters on the market today.
Eric: And to be fair, I’m played plenty of games where I wasn’t totally happy with a certain aspect, and yet still ended up loving them. Cheerleaders, chainsaws, zombies, cuteness mixed with creepy—so many things that are right up my alley! So, hesitations or not, I’m absolutely looking forward to getting the chance to sit down with Lollipop Chainsaw and formulate a proper, final opinion of it. Just like you said, I appreciate that we can still have games like this in a world so full of seriousness and shooters.