Lollipop Chainsaw - His and Hers Review
His Review with Ian Abbott
Lollipop Chainsaw has an absolutely stellar creative backstage line up featuring: Suda 51 on ideas, Little Jimmy Urine from electro punk gods Mindless Self Indulgence composing music for the boss segments, NekoshowguN designing characters, James Gunn the director of the film Super on story and characters and Akira Yamamoaka on OST duties. Grasshopper Manufacture INC has curated a super collective o’minds that have rained down creativity and flooded us with invention that goes by the name of Lollipop Chainsaw.
Zombies, lollipops, chainsaws and a cheerleading female protagonist are on offer for a grindhouse exploitation fantasia. With a prologue and six levels delivering the finest eight hours of gaming happiness I’ve had for quite some time, Lollipop may be short on time (though it does have plenty of replayability) but it’s long on ideas, inspiration and collectibles.
Juliet has just turned 18 years old and she has a secret – she kills zombies. There are also her two sisters, her dad and Nick, her boyfriend who recently became infected, so she decapitated him – out of love – and now wears his head as a key ring hanging off her bum. It’s a complete hackety slashety in the premise with Juliet dishing out a mixture of light attacks using her pom poms and acrobatic skills or heavy attacks with her beloved chainsaw to rid her town of the rather unfortunate scourge of zombies that have been unleashed on San Romero by the local emo kid at school who was ignored by everyone and now wants his revenge.
Moving through the town, I encountered the most outrageous types and variants of zombies I’ve ever come across with a genuinely witty and sometimes self referential script. When an obese zombie farmer crawls out from under a shed and exclaims "I've got haemorrhoids!" before lumbering over to attack me, I knew quickly the tone that the game is setting out to achieve and it is entirely consistent, sometimes provocative but has a spirit of pleasure running right through it. Riding a combine harvester around a field, mowing down crops and zombies to “You Spin Me Round” by Dead or Alive was joyous. There were running zombies with TNT belts, flying zombies with no legs, and charging American Football zombies with helmets plus the bosses were oodled with diversity as well. From a 60s hippie bubble riding stoner zombie to a 50s rock n roll throwback zombie, there was also an autotuned zombie boss with a space ship (aurally reminiscent of my favourite character Zimos from Saints Row The Third) and a punk rocker who physically attacked me with his words.
The skill and ultimate joy is found in “Star Soul” mode which temporarily upgraded my speed allowing for instant decapitations with a small window of invincibility. It’s here I unleashed my maximum cheer and zombies big or small fell with one scythe of my chainsaw. It felt especially satisfying when the Sparkle Hunting system comes into play, rewarding me for multiple kills with both common and rare medals, which enables me to get back in the shop and buy more collectibles and searching for a big score. Beating Juliet’s dad and topping those worldwide leaderboards is a huge factor in replayability value of the game.
In every level there are little details which made me smile and love this game. Juliet sometimes required a little bit of help from the boyfriend on her bum Nick – usually when there was a big obstruction, rock or car in the way where she temporarily reconnected his end to a new body resulting in a mini rhythm button bashing game which gives Nick some awesome dance moves and steps as he slowly gyrates and thrusts his way across the screen whilst Juliet cheered him on. In a celebration of the arcade area, there’s a ode to Pac Man where I was immersed in a glorious vector arena and had to dodge the ghosts who were intent on chomping on me. Satisfaction was also delivered by when I was fighting bosses; it actually looked like I was cutting the screen in half with my chainsaw, blood gushing out of the TV.
There are some issues with the camera which was slightly too sensitive and had the persistent bore of it going for an up the skirt angle like a cheap paparazzi shot but I found it entirely possible to play and see the game simply as a cheerleader with a chainsaw on a mission to rid the world of zombies whilst trading quips with a severed head. There’s no doubt Lollipop Chainsaw will provide us with a new set of characters for cos play world and the soundtrack which included a diversity of wonderful tracks from “Stop Reading, Start Doing Pushups” by Destroy Rebuild Until God Shows to “Pac Man Fever” by Buckner & Garcia is an absolute winner in my eyes. With such differentiation in the gameplay, an all star creative team cheering it on, a focus on creating a fun and satisfying experience for the gamer in a uniquely inventive world, Lollipop Chainsaw is an impressive and skilful game that is great to play and be a part of.
Her Review with Tracey McGarrigan
After an arousing month of scrutinising online debate regarding the portrayal of women in videogames and the industry in the wake of E3, the release timing of Lollipop Chainsaw probably isn’t the best. The opening cut scene alone runs a huge risk of quickly turning off every female gamer on the planet with its dumb-ass, panty shot ridden, clichéd opening scene but underneath the knickers and blond hair is a strangely compelling and fun tale about family, love and decapitated zombies. Scantily clad cheerleader Juliet wakes on her 18th birthday, does a spot of yoga on the bed, introduces us to her family (including mom who has inspired Juliet and her sisters to be “proud to wear our vaginas”) before showering and grabbing a handful of candy “I eat lollipops to keep my energy up and I know what you are thinking, I’m getting soooo fat but they are yummy.” Another quick panty shot as she leaps from the room late for school and we’re off on a mashing, slicing, revving, rainbow induced zombie hunt.
The thought of spending the next 10 or so hours looking up the skirt of this Britney Spears copy as she cartwheels, leapfrogs and gruesomely hacks her way across the infested town didn’t fill me with desire after the high-school prologue. Rescued jocks and nerds thank Juliet by revealing their evening masturbation plans whilst transformed, rotten maths teachers threaten to blow everyone up in detention. Happily, the game soon opens up to offer a new take on the mindless hack and slash genre and is packed with crazed, vulgarly funny zombies with zimmer frames, mesmerising ghetto blasters or mechanical chicken heads. Ian is right, the cast is quite unlike the majority of undead we’ve played and killed over the years.
Initially, Juliet's dialogue can appear as shallow as a petri dish and is as crudely comedic as the zombies but gradually, her eternal optimism, her witty teenage observations (“What kind of a whackjob waterboards Chip and Dale?” She asks of a punk zombie who cites hurting animals as a hobby) and enthusiastic use of swear words actually become endearing and authentic with a logic that can’t be argued with. This isn’t just desensitization or toilet humour served up Date Movie style for the sake of shock or gross-out but is important in how we connect to Juliet and Nick as their relationship develops. She may be the blond star of the cheer squad but it’s her role as a zombie hunter within a family of zombie hunters that she focuses on and it’s important to her that Nick doesn’t think she’s ‘weird’. She has grown up having to deal with all sorts of nasties but takes it all with a pinch of salt and enjoys slicing them up, which in turn is quite infectious on the player. Look beyond the make-up, glitter and pom-poms and Juliet slowly reveals herself to be big of heart with a true love for those around her and a giddy scorn for the un-dead “It’s sad to kill my friends but shooting cheerleaders is fun!” Balancing out her rose-tinted outlook is her magically decapitated boyfriend Nick who she is proud to introduce to her family and who in turn all think he’s pretty cool, despite him only being a head. However, Nick becomes increasingly disturbed with the whole experience, having become a sexless accessory and being powerless to do anything but comment and watch in disgust as zombie after zombie try to destroy their world. Juliet and Nick have a tiff as not only is he dealing with witnessing ultra-violent horrors, he wails that life as a head is no life at all (especially when her little sister tosses him in the air playing keepy-uppy) and would rather be dead. Juliet just can’t see his reasoning – she loves him and this way they can be together. Okay, it’s not deep but it does transcend other lazy, mediocre zombie bashing games that claim to be self-referential commentaries on the genre but end up neither saying or presenting anything. It’s quirky with some good writing that sticks two fingers up at subtly whilst the pace is excellent.
Though it’s quite linear with little freedom to explore, there are some quirky mini-games including dunking as many decapitated heads as possible in a two minute basketball match or ploughing over zombie hillbillies on a farm that help break up the rhythm of zombie slaying. There is also plenty of over-the-top quick time events with big Batman POW visuals, sharp dialogue (Juliet squeals with delight at the thought of killing zombies who are playing videogames of killing zombies in the arcade as “That would be so meta!”) as well as some inventive design ideas (like having a girly mobile phone built into the handle of the chainsaw or anything involving Nick’s head). The dynamics of the game changes from level 3 onwards when her family arrive to help mash zombies and the Chainsaw can be used as a blaster as ways to kill become varied, chaining together acrobatic moves with a lethal machine. Though the controls and camera are a bit clunky in some parts, the entertainment value more than makes it for it.
Under James Gunn’s excellent control, having explored “super” heros that have neither super or financial powers in his movie Super at SFL10, here dark violence openly plays for laughs and the sexy stereotypes are not what they appear upon closer inspection. Gunn also weaves in emotional conflict, albeit a warped, candyfloss covered and often immature version that says revels in familiar American high school and family structures. Add to the mix Suda 51 who also responsible for Shadows of the Damned and his penchant for soundtracks bleeding with spiky electro guitars and outrageously bold, creative animated ideas (from tiny details like a chainsaw with love hearts decorated around the teeth to whole levels like the retro arcade manga pac-man) that bring a surreal aesthetic to proceedings. Lollipop Chainsaw a bright white smile gleaming on top the gnarled, hyper-sexed, adult manga, zombie game pyramid.
Lollipop Chainsaw is out now for Playstation 3 and Xbox360