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Review: Lollipop Chainsaw – Wonderfully Silly (Xbox 360)

By
Posted on June 11, 2012 AT 10:39pm

**There may be light spoilers so if you want a “virgin” outlook when you go to play this game, just skip to the score at the bottom. **

Like many others, I was intrigued when this game was first announced. Here was a game with zombie killing, cheerleaders, rainbows, and sparkle power. The dichotomy between the cutesy and the grotesque made me want to play it. I demo’d it at PAX East this past April and found the controls easy to learn but so little was given away about the actual story, I wanted more. When I interviewed Scott Warr about the game he mentioned Goichi Suda came up with the idea after having a dream. All I can say is, I want to dream like he does.

Lollipop Chainsaw is surprisingly good. The story is not a deep story but it does keep the game moving along. It touches upon the ridicule teenagers suffer at the hands of other teenagers in high school, and gives an over-the-top result of that harassment. Swan is the goth kid everyone has ignored and picked on. He has decided to exact his revenge on the high school and everyone in it. He calls to Earth the Dark Purveyors and they have begun to “rot” the world. You are Juliet Starling, cheerleader and zombie hunter, and it’s your job to stop them. Your family will lend a hand and you will always have Nick, your body-less boyfriend, hanging from your waist.

Juliet Starling is your typical teenage girl. She thinks she is fat, worried about keeping her boyfriend, and loves her lollipops. She has almost mythical gymnastic ability and the coolest, rainbow-spewing chainsaw you will ever see. A cheerleader at San Romero High School (a nod to George Romero?), she has kept the secret of her zombie killing skills, and family, from everyone especially her boyfriend Nick. She doesn’t want him to think she’s weird or anything. Her 18th birthday hasn’t started off right. Everyone’s turning into zombies!

The graphics are a mix of comic book, anime, and Monty Python sketch introduction board. The action scenes are pure animation with a wonderful comic book aspect to them. They then sprinkled in a spattering of comic book panels to describe some of the backstory and the load screens are reminiscent of the art style Monty Python used between sketches. The load screens also offer little tidbits of advice or information, even a joke or two. On a couple of occasions I found the load times to be a little long. Other than that, the style of the graphics lends itself perfectly for the outrageous-ness of the game.

Controls are pretty straight forward and surprisingly smooth. One button makes you jump/kick/leapfrog, one for high chainsaw swing, one for low chainsaw swing, and one is to smash zombies with your pom-poms. Though this might seem like it would get repetitive, it doesn’t. As you kill zombies, you earn zombie medals. it’s a form of currency that you can use to upgrade yourself or to unlock new combos at the Chop2Shop.Zom store in-game. Combos range from the typical to the ridiculous, like bumping zombies with your butt to make them groggy and easier to kill. You choose which ones you want to buy so in a sense, you are customizing your Juliet’s fighting style. Plus, you really want to try to beat your dad’s score (Gideon Starling is a renowned zombie hunter) on each level so having the best combos and upgrades will assure you can do it.

There are three difficulty levels to start; Easy, Normal, and Hard. After you play through once, you unlock Very Hard. I don’t know if this only unlocks if you play on Normal or Hard or if it will also unlock if you play through on Easy. I personally played it on normal and while it was challenging, it didn’t feel impossible. I tried Hard and it was most definitely harder though, again, not impossible. I just died more or I was unable to save some of my classmates. Saving classmates is important. They will give you extra zombie medals. Boss battles are a battle. You will have to “finish” the bosses a few times before they are actually defeated. It’s not a case of hitting the boss a certain number of times and you’re done. When that ‘finish’ screen comes up and you think you’ve done it, they will pull the rug out from under you and you’ll have to continue fighting. Each boss has it’s own unique environment, personality, and fighting style so get ready to use those combos and dodge techniques.

This is an M-rated game and rightly so. Not just because of the violence in zombie killing but also because of the humor. It’s wildly inappropriate for kids and possibly some adults. The dialogue is rife with sexual innuendo, blatantly offensive insults, and crude humor. Even the individual zombie descriptions are decidedly adult in nature but it all works. It doesn’t cheapen the game in any way and just adds to the over-the-top, completely out there, style of the game. I found myself laughing out loud most of the game and I can’t remember the last game that consistently made me laugh like that. Every stereotype is made fun of and no one escapes the one liners.

Lollipop Chainsaw has a fantastic soundtrack. Not only are the original musical pieces awesome but there are licensed tracks that perfectly compliment the game. Of course “Lollipop” by the Chordettes makes an appearance. There are songs by “Dead or Alive”, “The Toy Dolls”, “MSTRKRFT”, and so many others. They even dug up “Oh, Mickey” by Ton Basil. What game with a cheerleader would be complete without this cheerleader chant styled song? Players will unlock new songs through playing and some songs can be bought from the Chop2Shop.Zom store with platinum medals. They can then customize a five song playlist to listen to.

Unlocks are numerous and it will take more than one playthrough to unlock them all. Your zombie medals will not reset after you finish the game so you can restart and collect more to purchase some of the pricier combos and boosts.  Platinum medals are awarded for extra special kills like gaining “Sparkle Power” (killing 3 or more zombies at once) or getting through a section faster than normal. The platinum medals are needed to buy outfits, concept art, and music for your collection. Then there are the lollipops. Lollipops are used to give you health when you are low but you also want to collect each individual flavor. There are also zombie information cards that are unlocked when you defeat these zombies types. Each difficulty will have a few things that are different from other difficulties. For instance, in hard, I found two zombies that I did not come across in the first playthrough on normal at the same exact point in the game. I also found a lollipop flavor that wasn’t hidden at that same point in normal mode. So multiple playthroughs are a must if you are a completionist like me.

The campaign isn’t just running through levels slaughtering zombies. There is a variety of mini-games as well. At first I was worried they would detract from the game but I found them to be a welcome respite from combos and chainsaw attacks. Some mini-games involve you putting your boyfriend’s head on a zombie body to open a blocked path. This results in having to push buttons to match what is popping up on the screen. Try to watch Juliet at the same time, she is doing a dance and cheering him on. Sometimes he’ll dance too. It’s pretty funny. Other mini-games will involve just completing a goal like killing a certain number of zombies with a combine. Simple and to the point, but a welcomed break.

Besides the obvious campaign, there is an arcade mode complete with world leaderboards. Each area in the campaign has an arcade equivalent. The arcade mode has three types of games: score attack, medal attack, and time attack. They are pretty self explanatory; time attack means get through quickly, score attack means get the highest score possible, and medal attack means get as many medals as possible. You can replay them over and over to improve your results and stay on those leaderboards.

On the downside, I found some of the instruction lacking. You have a cell phone and will receive calls and voice mails. It wasn’t clear how I was supposed to check the voice mails and they are sometimes important because they will give you a hint about how to defeat a boss. I finally found it by accident listed in my “Juliet’s Room” tab as a collectible. You can’t actually answer your phone at will so being able to listen to the voice mails is kind of important. Some voice mails are just amusing though. Then there are the Nick Tickets. These are tickets you use to play a roulette/slot machine type game. If you are lucky you can land on a cool temporary weapons/upgrade that utilizes your boyfriend’s head. You access this game by pressing down on the left thumbstick. I accidentally hit this while in a boss battle. I was moving the left stick frantically and pressed it purely by accident. And as I said before, sometimes I felt the loading screens were a bit long but at least they gave me some amusing snippets to read.

Lollipop Chainsaw breaks all the conventional ideas of what makes a great game, but it still a great game. It is wildly silly, campy and ridiculously, almost illegally, fun. Doesn’t take itself seriously at all and banks on the fact that players will have a sense of humor. If you do not have a sense of humor, don’t play this game. This is a zombie game but not a Left 4 Dead zombie game more like an Evil Dead-ish zombie game. This is like the best campy zombie movie you have ever watched. I highly recommend picking this one up. It’s just a silly romp that you will find addictive and entertaining. This is the surprise hit of the year and I couldn’t think of a better way to spend your summer than playing Lollipop Chainsaw.

Lollipop Chainsaw is available now on Xbox 360 and Playstation 3.

Summary:

The Good: Great Controls, Gameplay and Voice Acting, Seriously Fun, High Replay Value.

The Bad: Long Load Screens, Instructions Not Always Clear.

The Ugly: Overly Sensitive Gamers Might Find Game Offensive.

Score: 8.5/10

Carly "PoisonPinkFluff" Frith is a little sugar, a little salt, and a whole lot of personality. Gamer, general geek and beer aficionado. Just call her a tomboy in high heels. She is on Twitter: @DN_PinkFluff.


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