I’ve played some strange games in my time. Leather Goddess of Phobos, Mr. Mosquito, Sneak King, and even Custer’s Revenge are just some of the eccentric titles to have graced a console or PC of mine, but nothing beats this. From the mind of Goichi Suda, the same mind that brought you oddities like Killer7, Flower, Sun, and Rain, and No More Heroes, we get Lollipop Chainsaw – the story of a cheerleader named Juliet Starling who uses an oversized chainsaw (with hearts on it, of course) to fight the risen dead ex-classmates of her California high school. When the barrier between the human world and the Rotten World breaks, demons, zombies, and all various flavors of crazy are unleashed. Your job is to decapitate, eviscerate, and otherwise rip apart the undead plague infesting San Romero High School.
The first thing you’ll notice about Lollipop Chainsaw is how much it resembles Suda51’s title, No More Heroes – and that’s a compliment. Focused heavily on Juliet’s cheerleader gymnastic repertoire, Juliet carves through scores of zombies using pom-poms, high kicks, splits, and her trusty chainsaw. As you progress through the game, you’ll get new chainsaws that allow you to shoot giant bullets, motor through crowds, and much more. It isn’t all that craziness that makes this game strange – it’s Nick. Nick is Juliette’s boyfriend that, very early in the game, suffers a horrible zombie-flavored misstep that has him getting bitten in the end. Distraught by the inevitable loss of her boyfriend, she does the only thing that makes sense – beheads him and uses a curse to keep his head alive! Swinging his severed head onto her ass, she sets out to slay the undead. Nick’s head is officially the strangest weapon I’ve seen in a game, so far.
Sweeter than candy on a stick, huckleberry, cherry or lime.
Suda and crew grabbed some juicy talent to handle the voice work for Lollipop Chainsaw. Tara Strong, (Harley Quinn from Batman:Arkham City) handles Juliet, and Linda Cardellini plays Cordelia. I’ll say that most of the time their lines are delivered with a zeal that borders on saccharine, but as Nick (Michael Rosenbaum) begins to come to grips (or lack of grips – he has no hands) with his screwed up situation, his presentation becomes more and more deadpan. By the end, every line he delivers is hilarious.
On the soundtrack side of things, the game features 16 tracks from Five Finger Death Punch, Toy Dalls, MSTRKRFT, Dragonforce, Skrillex, Children of Bodom, Toni Basil, Dead or Alive, The Human League, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, and The Chordettes, in addition to quite a few tracks to fill in the gaps. Despite the extensive soundtrack, there are two songs that, if I never hear them again, it’ll be too soon. Namely, I’d like to never hear Lollipop by The Chordettes, and Mickey from Toni Basil. Both are obvious Lollipop and Cheerleader tie-ins, respectively, and they come up something more than what you’d call frequently. Lollipop comes up every single time you go to a store, and plays on a loop the entire time you shop. Mickey comes up every time you unleash Juliet’s special attack, which is something you’ll use with regular frequency.
Beyond the repetition in the soundtrack, there is also some repetition in the voice work. Catch phrases tend to repeat, sometimes 3-4 times within 60 seconds. On the other hand, and competing with Nick’s severed head in strangeness, the enemies in this game make the most bizzare statements I’ve ever heard as they leap into a scene. When I say bizarre, I mean “Fuck my ass with a bat!” or “Let me fuck your father” – and those are tame compared to some of the flat-out batty things you’ll hear through the course of this game. The zombies also like to refer to Juliet as a whore or a slut rather frequently – something that wears thin by the end of the game.
Any of the stages you complete can be tackled again for a higher score. Additionally, you’ll encounter students that need your unique brand of violence to save them from becoming zombie kibble. Pressing pause lets you see how many you’ll need to save to max your score in the level. If you fail to rescue the students, more often than not they’ll turn into stronger zombies that take a bit more ass kicking to defeat.
To help you with your zombie suppression, you can use Nick’s severed head. Either from the store or in the environment you’ll be able pick up “Nick Tickets”. These tickets allow you to spin a roulette wheel of possible outcomes, including becoming a soccer ball, explosive, and more. Additionally, you’ll use Nick’s head on some select zombie bodies to move debris (complete with cheerleading quicktime events) or clear pathways. Whenever you need your decapitated boyfriend, he’s always right there…hanging on your right ass cheek.
Did you know Zombies are made of gold coins and glitter? I didn’t either, but having played Lollipop Chainsaw, I learned this very thing. When you kill them, they’ll drop gold and platinum coins that can be used to purchase items from the store. When you manage to decapitate three or more zombies at the same time, you’ll earn extra coins and power for your meter in a bonus called “Sparkle Hunting”. Essentially, you use light attacks to stun zombies, and then sweeping chainsaw attacks to kill them. In reality, this mode comes as more of a ‘oh, look…I got three of em’ moment instead of something you strive to pull off. As the zombies become stronger and more numerous, you’ll see Sparkle Hunting bonuses less and less.
In addition to Sparkle Hunting, decapitation, and chasing after your crazy sister (who brings the all-new swear “Shitmuffins!” to the table. Thanks for that!) you’ll also get a chance to play some Baseball with the Chainsaw Blaster, cut down a ton of zombies with a thresher, play basketball with severed heads, and more. Cutting through zombies is awesome, but these minigames help to break up the game a bit.
“What the dick?”
Lollipop Chainsaw is powered by Unreal Engine 3, and it shows. Flowing with an unshakable framerate, despite any amount of critters on the screen, the game is smooth and fast paced. Featuring a visual punch that can only be described as ‘degenerate’ with its camera angles, the cutscenes are funny and detailed. The game itself is a rainbow of colors, with only a few clipping issues, and some occasional ugly textures. There is one area where the game does struggle – the camera is at least as insane as your kid sister.
The camera isn’t broken – most of the time it behaves. The problem is that when the camera does go all shitmuffins, it goes all out. Either getting stuck in the corners, slowly ambling to show you the enemy, or focusing all-too-intently on our protagonists juicy bits, the camera does occasionally break your bliss.
For all of the huge variety of gameplay types, Lollipop Chainsaw only takes a half-dozen hours to beat. For an action title, that’s about par in length. To extend this you’ll find collectables (lollipops, of course) as well as unlocking the “Ranking mode” for each level you complete, allowing you to post your score up against that of your friends. You’ll also be able to purchase art assets, additional songs, and much more – you need multiple play-through runs to unlock them all. The five bosses (complete with old-school 3-stage forms) serve as amusing and odd exclamation points to the levels.
Lollipop Chainsaw does one thing exceptionally well – it never takes itself seriously. It’s fan service, it’s over the top, it’s beyond ridiculous, it’s cute, it’s funny, and it is more fun than it should be. While it does have a few flaws, the sum of all of the ridiculousness is a game that will have you laughing. Whether it ’s out of discomfort or a few of the genuine funny moments is entirely up to you.