Lollipop Chainsaw (LC) is the latest game from famed/overrated developer Goichi Suda AKA Suda51 (depends on which side of the fence you’re on) and it’s freaking weird. Of course, you already knew that because everything from Suda51 is laced with over-the-top humour, inappropriate sexual innuendos and stabs at Western pop culture. This has largely worked for him in the past, granting his games critical if not commercial success. However, Lollipop Chainsaw falls flat on most fronts coming across as annoying and awkward because it’s trying so very hard to stand out from the crowd.
Now before you roll your eyes at the back of your head and assume I don’t “get” his brand of your humour, know that I really enjoyed Shadows of the Damned. I totally dug the game’s grindhouse vibe and literally laughed out loud at a lot of the game’s juvenile, yet seemingly appropriate dong jokes. With Lollipop Chainsaw, I sensed something amiss right from the time I inserted the game into drive. I think a huge chunk of that has got to do with the game’s protagonist, Juliet Starling. In SoTD, I could get behind Garcia Hotspur because even though he felt like a cocky ass, he was on a noble mission to save his girlfriend from eternal damnation. Starling comes across as someone quite unbearable from the get go with her overtly chirpy demeanor and juvenile babble. I understand her character has been significantly exaggerated for comedic effect, but all it did was rub me the wrong way.
Bleeding rainbows, only possible in a Suda51 game
In case you haven’t got it by now, Lollipop Chainsaw puts you into the boots of Juliet Starling, a regular American teen who loves pop music, lollipops and of course, killing zombies. You see Juliet and her entire family are age old zombie hunters who’ve done a remarkable job of blending into society showing their true colours only when the undead start walking all over their turf. All’s well for this seemingly normal family till some Goth kid starts resurrecting the dead in town because well, he’s a troubled Goth who hates society and that’s how they roll.
As if having your hands full with a potential zombie apocalypse wasn’t bad enough, Juliet finds out that her boyfriend, Nick Carlyle has been infected and will soon turn into one of the undead, unless of course, she decapitates his head. Won’t that kill him in the process you ask? Normally we’d go with the same assumption, but since this is a Suda51 game, he of course continues to live on without a body and even pulls his weight (poor choice of words?) during all the chaos.
Lollipop Chainsaw’s level design feels like Suda’s love letter to campy American teen movies, like Grease or shows like Happy Days with a whole lot of weird thrown in. In that respect you have to give him props for nailing that vibe pat down. You’ll prance around high school gyms, indulge in some amusing mini-games like zombie basketball and even slaughter hordes of high school stereotypes like jocks, nerds, football players and teachers with your trusty chainsaw. Of course it does feel a bit weird when rainbows start pouring of
zombies along with blood.
Combat is LC is exactly what you’d expect from a third person action title with a focus on melee combat. Juliet can slash at zombies dismembering them in process and can even stun the tougher ones with her pompoms (that’s not a sleazy word play mind you) to weaken them before she carves them up. She can leap frog over the undead and then proceed to split them into two vertically from the groin up. As much as I enjoy splitting zombies into two, I cannot overlook the fact that combat in this game generally felt clunky and unresponsive as compared to games like say Bayonetta or Devil May Cry.
Zombies in LC come in different shapes and sizes but all of them are quite fast. In fact they’re a far cry from the slow moving, shambling corpses you’re used to blasting from other games. They feel more feral and aggressive which is fine but because combat feels clunky, taking them out can become somewhat of a chore. It becomes even worse when you lop their legs off and they come crawling at you because for some reason it seems them can move faster without legs. You then have to press the A button for low attacks but they don’t register too well so you’ll just be flailing your chainsaw above them while they wiggle below you taking bites out of your health bar. The game’s awkward controls continue in some sections where you have to zip around certain using your chainsaw as a ride. They could have provided a bit of respite from the monotonous action but once again poor controls make these sections feel terrible.
Pain in the butt?
After the game’s done trying to impress you, it settles down into somewhat of a mechanical drill where you kill waves of zombies, ride around your chainsaw a bit, kill even more zombies and indulge in some rather lackluster boss fights. Even sections where you can play as Nick are fully QTE driven as once Juliet mounts Nick’s head upon a headless corpse, you blindly have to follow the prompts on-screen or you’ll fail the sections. We feel there’s a real missed opportunity here as the parts where you play as Nick could have designed in a more innovative way.
And that’s really what I felt the whole game was – a missed opportunity. If Suda wasn’t too busy trying to seem so ‘out there’, he could have made Lollipop Chainsaw far more enjoyable than it actually is. Tweaking the combat to make it smoother, faster and more responsive would have gone a long way. In fact I would have overlooked the gimmicky, rainbow laden sick as saccharine presentation has the combat been solid. Dialing down the cheese and the unnecessary expletives would have helped too. I have no problem with games being punctuated with bad language if the scene demands it, but LC just felt like a young child mouthing off words because it felt cool.
Gym class came in handy
If you’re one of the guys who worships the ground Suda51 walks on and strongly believe he can do no wrong, you’ve already played through the game and are probably competing on online leaderboards to crush other scores. The rest of you definitely need to look elsewhere. If you’re on the market, however for an unconventional/weird experience, I’d definitely recommend some of his older works, like Shadows of the Damned, a quirky game that managed to maintain a fine balance between cheesiness, crass humour and over-the-top shenanigans.
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Oct 27, 2016
Oct 27, 2016