It’s true that this generation has no shortage of video games in the zombie genre. It seems as if zombies are added to almost everything to the point that it’s almost mandatory. The trick though is to create something that is unique enough to draw attention to it. So from the minds of Creative Director Goichi Suda “51” and filmmaker James Gunn comes Lollipop Chainsaw; a game that if you don’t take seriously, with a grain of salt, you might miss out on a really terrific game.
The story of Lollipop Chainsaw begins with Ms. Juliet Starling, a cheerleader from the fictional San Romero High School. Awakening on her 18th birthday, anxious to meet up with her boyfriend, she finds that the school and most of the town is in fact being ravaged by an attack of the undead. Now while at first glance it may seem as though Ms. Starling is the stereotypical American high school cheerleader, Juliet actually comes from a family of zombie hunters. After realizing what is happening, armed with a special chainsaw and partially saving her boyfriend Nick (play the game and you’ll understand), she begins her quest to discover what exactly is causing her former classmates and everyone else around her to turn into the undead.
Gameplay here is primarily hack-and-slash, beat ’em up. While the game might turn sometimes into battling zombies, moving to the next area, rescuing another classmate, it never at any time felt dull or repetitive. You will battle a variety of zombies with different themes. From high school football and baseball players and rockers to others such as dynamite strapped kamikaze zombies and more.
Combat is delightfully responsive and fun. Watching Juliet attack while mixing in her cheerleader routines on screen will make you smile or laugh. Never once did I feel as though there was any delay in attacking or jumping out of harm’s way. Even Nick will help you at certain points. Destroying enough of the undead will also earn you an overdrive mode for Juliet which makes it easier to kill the enemies on screen. By destroying them, specifically in this mode, enables you to earn gold and silver coins. With these you are able to purchase upgrades for Juliet such as longer and different combos, extra health and strength, alternate costumes, music and more.
During parts of the game, QTE’s (Quick Time Events) will happen during certain times. Mainly when needing to get to another area of the game and during boss fights. Also during certain times mini-games will be played to break up the basic zombie action such as baseball and basketball mini-games, albeit with an undead twist to them. While there is no multiplayer mode here, the game is made for multiple play troughs with time trial mode, which is opened up after each level is finished.
Lollipop Chainsaw’s game design is done in a cartoon, cel-shaded like style that is almost reminiscent of the classic EC Comics that produced the original Tales from the Crypt series with a bit of anime such as Highschool of the Dead mixed in. In fact, the comic book motif is done in almost everything from menus, on screen displays, text and more. Environments and characters show off a terrific amount of detail also. From vehicles and environments showing damage and blood splatters to monsters and zombies showing limbs and heads coming off at times when destroyed. I never experienced any slow down during battles, even when a large amount of enemies were present on screen. Even levels later on will take on certain themes dependent on their final end boss.
The music of the game is another interesting point. For a horror themed game, heavy metal bands such as Arch Enemy, Dragonforce and more will play in the background, only for Toni Basil’s “Mickey” to play when overdrive mode is turned on. These little touches are what add a certain charm to Lollipop Chainsaw.
I found myself laughing at the somewhat dark humor found throughout the game also. Certain parts will focus on Juliet and her oversexed style. One particular part has her swinging on a pole to mention that she was taught this “technique” specifically with innocence in her voice of not knowing the hidden meaning behind it. Throughout the game Juliet and her boyfriend have somewhat hilarious conversations, especially during the beginning when Nick is still struggling to realize what exactly is going on with the world and Juliet. This is due to the terrific veteran voice acting of Tara Strong (Rugrats, Batman: Arkham City), Michael Rosenbaum (Smallville, Justice League: Doom). Even other acting talents such as Linda Cardellini (Scooby-Doo, ER), Michael Rooker (The Walking Dead, Call of Duty Zombies) and Sean Gunn (Angel, Gimore Girls) provide voice acting for other characters in the game.
But unfortunately it’s not all rainbows and candy for this game. In certain environments, especially in the smaller areas, camera issues can hamper the action. At times I found controlling the camera more difficult than any enemy on screen. Other frustrations can happen with certain mini-games or different modes thrown in. One particular game has you play through the area without getting hit. Fail and you must restart over again from the beginning regardless of where you get hit. One of the weapons you will acquire within the game requires auto-aim. And at times will lock onto the wrong enemy as opposed to the one you are aiming at. However this can be turned off which I recommend you do.
Still, in overall, Lollipop Chainsaw is a great game. While most people might overlook it as somewhat of a strange combination of different parts put together, let it be known that it doesn’t stop this game from being a great game. Or maybe even a guilty pleasure.
Lollipop Chainsaw gets a 9/10