Friday, January 31, 2014

Lollipop Chainsaw

Developed by Grasshopper Manufacture
Published by Kadokawa Games and Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment

            Suda51 is an incredibly inconsistent game developer, and it’s glorious, if only because each game is different.  His games have gone from third-person shooters to beat-em-ups to…whatever Killer7 was, with bizarre story and dialogue to match.  Lollipop Chainsaw is not his craziest, but it may be one of the most fun ones to play.
            Juliet Starling (Tara Strong) is a normal high school girl.  She’s a cheerleader, she’s got a boyfriend, and she’s a zombie hunter.  On her 18th birthday, though, things go terribly wrong as her school is infested with zombies unleashed by the resident goth kid, Swan (Sean Gunn).  It’s up to her and the decapitated head of her boyfriend, Nick (Michael Rosenbaum) to defeat the zombies and save the world.
            Most of the gameplay takes a fairly standard hack-and-slash style.  Armed with, what else, a chainsaw, the game throws hordes of zombies at you that you have to slice through before you can move on.  The game does help to avoid the button mashing that can sometimes become too easy in this genre, with a good use of combos required to kill zombies effectively.  You’re also rewarded with extra medals (the game’s currency) by killing 3 or more zombies at once, so it’s in your best interest to line them up and knock them all down at once instead of just making wild slashes.  The game also gives you more abilities as you go through that change up the zombie-killing game.  Even giving you a gun, though, just adds to the strategy instead of turning it into an outright shooter.  It’s smartly done.
            And, of course, there’s a little more than just killing zombies normally.  Right at the edge of getting on repetition, the game will throw something new at you that changes things up.  Playing zombie baseball and basketball, throwing Nick on a headless zombie for a QTE event, arcade games, riding a combine harvester.  Part of the fun of the game is just finding out what you’re going to do next.  And the game also has plenty of hilarious dialogue (adapted for America by James Gunn, the director of the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy), especially between Nick and Juliet.  Their pointless conversations are endlessly amusing, discussing things from Nick’s favorite color to Juliet’s oddball sisters.  There are some repetitive parts where the characters will just keep saying the same thing over and over.  The use of licensed music in the game also has to be praised.  The Runaways’ Cherry Bomb on the start screen, Toni Basil’s Mickey playing during the super mode, Buckner & Garcia’s Pac-Man Fever in the arcade level, and naturally, Lollipop in the shop screen.  It all fits in well and puts a smile on your face, and is perfectly mixed with the game’s normal OST.
            There is one thing that has to be pointed out: the sexualization of the main character.  This being Suda51, it’s entirely possible that it’s all done in jest or it’s meant to be satirical.  People have even pointed out that Nick’s treatment in the game mirrors the normal treatment of female characters in games.  However, there are parts of it that still just feel unnecessary, not least of all being that there’s an achievement for looking up Juliet’s skirt.  Juliet is a badass female character, but just like Bayonetta and Lara Croft, it feels like we still can’t have badass female characters in games without some cheesecake.

            Regardless of those problems, Lollipop Chainsaw is still a fun and funny game.  Plenty of variety in gameplay makes zombie killing feel fresh for the first time in a while. 

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