The students of San Romero High have been turned in to zombies and itís up to cheerleader Juliet Starling to crack some undead skulls in SUDA 51′s zombie beat-em-up for the Xbox 360 and PS3, Lollipop Chainsaw. With a short campaign, questionable humor and a slightly simplistic combat system, is it worth the purchase or should you head over to Gamefly and give it a rental instead? Letís find out.
Rewind, if you will, back to the glory days of the arcade. Taking your $5 bill up to the change machine, stuffing the handful of tokens in your pocket and pumping one after another in to your favorite cabinet until there was nothing left but a few balls of lint. Combine that feeling with magical rainbows, Streets of Rage, a sarcastic talking head, Tony Basil's ďMickeyĒ, Evil Dead and enough gore to make George Romero happy and you pretty much have Lollipop Chainsaw defined perfectly.
The entire story of Lollipop centers around San Romero High cheerleader Juliet Starling, her zombie slaying family and her boyfriend Nick; or his head at least. Itís her eighteenth birthday and she heads off to the park to meet Nick and introduce him to her parents for the first time, but Nick ends up being bitten while saving Juliet from a zombie. Juliet, being the overly affectionate girlfriend that she is, removes his head ďwith magicĒ and proceeds to carry him around on her belt for the remainder of the game so he can look up her skirt and make various one-liner jokes.
"You're getting a C-, bitch!"
The conversations between the two can be downright hilarious, with Juliet playing the ditsy cheerleader and Nick being the overly-sarcastic voice of reason, but it's a role reversal of sorts with the male character being the one treated like an object rather than a love interest. The voice acting is also pretty cheesy and it just adds to the charm. Lollipop Chainsaw never once takes itself seriously and feels like a great port of your favorite B-movies if they mated with the cast of My Little Pony and injected themselves with bull shark testosterone or the ďrageĒ virus from 28 Days Later. The entire game is probably equivalent to watching a Troma film while high on bath salts.
The dialogue is always over the top and my girlfriend and I would periodically look at each other with that ďdid they really just say that?Ē look, but itís not like thatís a bad thing. Weíre both mature adults with a fondness for campy films and zombies and we knew exactly what we were getting ourselves in to. Sometimes the jokes were hilarious and sometimes they missed the mark, but more often than not my inner 10-year old would chuckle as Nick shouted "If I had a neck, I'd be shitting all over these people!" or the camera took advantage of up-skirts or cleavage shots to further set the campy mood.
Moving in another direction, combat is pretty simple in Lollipop using your pom-pom attacks to weaken the enemies before switching to your chainsaw attacks to decapitate them in an explosion of happiness and rainbows. While this might sound pretty basic, mashing buttons will only get you killed on anything above the easy difficulty setting since Juliet can easily become overwhelmed. Without the ability to block, she has to rely on quick dodge reflexes to avoid incoming attacks and leap-frog over the hordes to gain better a better attacking position.
Pom-pom attacks stagger while the chainsaw goes for the head. That's where the pudding is, after all.
Killing enemies adds to Julietís sparkle meter that, when triggered, allows you to enter ďsparkle hunting modeĒ to the tune of Toni Basilís ďMickeyĒ blaring in the background. Forget the fact that you can instantly decapitate weaker enemies in sparkle mode to wrack up coins, because the only reason you need to fill it is to mow down zombies to Mickey over and over again.
You can then use the collected coins at various kiosks to purchase physical upgrades like health and damage, better combo moves, additional costumes, concept art and background music. There is a metric shit-ton of stuff to unlock and that only adds to the replay value of Lollipop Chainsaw, which is fantabulous since the campaign only lasts around 5 or 6 hours.
The highlight of the game comes in the form of some of the most outlandish, flamboyant boss fights in the history of gaming. One boss, Zed, screams through a microphone and throws his words at Juliet while another starts as a rock star on a flaming motorcycle but ends up as a giant robot elephant that rollerblades around the room with a chain gun. What in the shit is going on here? This is why I love Suda 51 games! Every boss is brilliantly executed and satisfying to play with none ever coming across as cheap. Just like the old days, you learn the patterns and you exploit them, except now you cut them to pieces as a half-naked cheerleader with a head on her belt.
If Rick James wore a diaper, looked like Papa Shango and had a bunch of half naked women flying around with him on a space ship, he would be Josey James.
Lollipop consists of a tutorial level, 5 chapters and the final boss fight. Each chapter lasts around an hour and generally consists of mass amounts of zombie genocide, collecting stuff and completing a few quick-time events. Usually youíll find yourself at a dead end that opens up after youíve killed a certain amount of zombies, but the monotony of the ordeal is broken up with various mini-games that can be hit or miss. For instance, Chapter 4 has a Pong room where you lure zombies in to the path of the ball while another chapter has Juliet manning a harvest combine, mowing down hundreds of zombies as Dead or Alive's "You Spin Me Right Round" plays in the background.
Speaking of which, the zombie slaying soundtrack of Lollipop Chainsaw is very eclectic and worked really well for each of the chapters. Iím a huge fan of Mindless Self Indulgence and The Left Rights and hearing Little Jimmy Urineís voice as Zed, as well as his musical influence on the boss stages, was awesome. His collaboration with SUDA 51 just makes sense, with both of them being completely off the wall artistically. Lollipop also includes tracks from Arch Enemy, Five Finger Death Punch, Children of Bodom, Skrillex & Dragonforce.
My main complaint with Lollipop lies in its wonky camera in tight spaces, which has been a common trend as long as 3D gaming has been around. There were a few times where the camera just wouldnít adjust back to a stable position and taking my finger off the dodge button to swing it back around with the right analog stick was enough time to end up in an undead gang-bang, but it was really only a problem in tight spaces. Still, it was never fun to chase the high score only to have a group of zombies run a train on me because I couldn't see what in the hell was going on.
Overall, Lollipop Chainsaw is a very typical Suda 51 release and that is in no way a bad thing. I'm always excited for new Suda games because I know that they'll be unlike any game I have ever played before and, most likely, will never play anything like them again. Lollipop's in your face, ďfuck the normĒ punk rock attitude is exactly what Iíve come to expect from SUDA 51 and I never lost interest during my runs through the game. It combined everything I loved about the arcade and classic horror films from the 70's and 80's. The important thing to remember is that Lollipop Chainsaw is, at heart, a throwback to classic arcade beat-em-ups and horror films. Sure, the campaign may only clock in around 5-6 hours, but there are worldwide leader boards for high-score addicts, tons of costumes to unlock, various upgrades to purchase and collectables to find by replaying the game over and over again. I know it's been out for a few months now, but Lollipop Chainsaw is a special kind of game that will always have a home in my collection. Itís easily a game I can pick up 10 years from now and have just as much fun as I did today, just like Jet Set Radio, Contra or Mike Tysonís Punch-Out. Itís just that good.