Review: Lollipop Chainsaw

Am I allowed the preface this by saying this is my first review? Boom shakalaka I just did. In the time line of things I know I said this review would come out Friday and today would be more E3 things, but I finished the game and got the review done, so I thought I'd post it in a timely manner. More E3 stuff tomorrow. This being my first review, I'd love critical feedback. As I mentioned in the past, and as it says over by my picture, I want to be a freelance videogame journalist, so I'm always looking to improve my writing. I hope you all like it, and I have done you proud.

If you take one look at Lollipop Chainsaw you will have a pretty good idea of what the game is about. If you were thinking the answer was killing zombies and rainbows you would be correct. Lollipop Chainsaw is a Grasshopper/Suda 51 joint (No More Heroes, Killer 7) and it is very easy to tell that Suda's flair comes off in the game. It's zany, it's loud, and it's in your face. All of those things together add and take away from the game. From the get go you get the notion that the game is all action based with story parts and cut-scenes laced throughout. You play as Juliet Starling, a cheerleader who has just turned 18. On the day of her birthday a zombie outbreak happens at her school and lucky enough she moonlights as a zombie hunter.

You take control of Juliet right as she gets to school and discovers the walking dead afoot. Being a cheerleader you get a basic stunning pom-pom attack as well as a heavy duty chainsaw attack. Your third option for combat is a light low slicing chainsaw attack. Using these three moves you make all sorts of combinations of attacks. The game rewards you for stunning enemies and decapitating them, or using an unlocked combo for heavy damage. The rewards you get for pulling off these combos are zombie metals, that you can use on conveniently placed laptops to buy upgrades for Juliet or her aforementioned combos.

The complication when it comes to combat is in the blasted combo system. During the first stage, when you come across the first laptop, you are given about six options for combos to buy. Once purchased they briefly tell you the button combo and then you are off to kill more zombies. The part I don't get is the combos are not really useful. Straight button smashing (the way I enjoy most games) works just fine. Some of the combos I found helpful, but those were the ones they told you for free after learning the basic controls. I mainly used the drop kick to knock enemies back or the jackhammer move to kill crawling zombies. When I wasn't doing either of those moves I was just jamming on the A, X, and Y buttons. The one thing the combo upgrades allow you to do though is extend your hit chains. Near the end game I unlocked the ability to swing my chainsaw 6 times in succession. Buying combos was necessary to flesh out the combat so I could swing my weapon more, but complicated combos seemed to just be there because they had to be.

At the end of every level you got scored on your performance. There was quite the many scoring criteria, which lends to a lot of replayability. The game overall was quite short. There were only 7 stages which only took me 4-6 hours to beat. The stages are 30-45 minutes long, so going back for highscores and more loot can add a significant amount of time to your save file. The game rewards you for exploring the levels you are in but make it a pain to do so. Sometimes you can control the camera with the right stick, other times you cannot. When you find something you want to pummel the zombie medals out of it's not always easy to hit due to the camera and the attack moves themselves  The chainsaw and pom-poms work great on zombies, but when I'm trying to destroy a hallway of lockers they just can't get the job done.

If all this game had was the zombie chopping it would get old fast. Lollipop varies up the combat with great side missions. I reluctantly call them side missions because you are forced to do them to progress in the game, but it's not the typical zombie slaying. The first side mission you come across is playing basketball. Every head you decapitate fly's into a basketball hoop scoring you points against the away team who starts with a 100 point advantage. These missions add a necessary break to the mission structure. The downside is killing zombies is easy, but sometimes these side missions place difficult restrictions on you. Such as in the basketball sequence you need to topple that 100 point score before the short timer runs down. Sometimes they don't give you enough time to do what you need to get done.

The same variation in difficulty could be said about the quick time events. They add variety to the zombie slaying, but sometimes can send you back a bit farther than necessary for missing the smallest button prompt. The other problem I had with the button prompts was that you had to be standing in such an exact spot in the environment for them to work. Throughout the game you're jumping over and through school buses, but the flow of movement is sometimes staggered because you're not standing in the right spot to press 'B'. After you learn what button to use and where, be it a door or bus hop, it would be nice if they let you seamlessly interact with the environment.

With all of it's flaws the game is still fun. The writing is hilarious and the motifs of the levels are outstanding. Everywhere you go the environment and npc's are over the top. The emphasis on heavy metal was a turn off for me, but some of the other song choices like 'Pac-man Fever' had me cracking up. They also used the Borderlands style of introducing characters, with a big flooded colored screen with their names and things they liked.

Lollipop Chainsaw has a great presentation and colorful list of characters each with their own witty humor. The combat, although the focus, was not top notch. All the fun extras really help the game mix up the pace and add to the games flavor, but sometimes can become more of a struggle due to the lack of control given to the player. The combo system was useful but could have been more effective. This game doesn't have the polish of an AAA game but it also knows that. If you enjoy your first go around with the game there is plenty of replayability to keep you going for hours. Personally I'd only play it once.

I'm giving Lollipop Chainsaw a 6.5 out of 10 with the descriptor Good/OK
I'm using the IGN's Guide to Game Reviews to score this and subsequent game for professionalism sake.


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