Lollipop Chainsaw is an interesting game. Before launch it garnered a lot of attention from the media for its sexualized main character, Juliet Starling, a cheerleader who happily vivisects hordes of zombies while snacking on lollipops. Now that the game has hit store shelves and the hubbub has died down a little, does Suda 51’s latest mind trip offer more than just eye candy to the discerning gamer? Lets get to it.
We’re gonna get this out of the way as soon as possible. Yes, Juliet is quite the looker and the game doesn’t shy away from panty flashes and sex jokes, but honestly, it’s nothing you haven’t seen before in most PG-13 movies marketed at teenagers. There is some perversion on dispaly, such as with Juliet’s aging teacher Morikawa and his frequent comments about her underwear and lapdance classes, but it’s a chaste sort of perversion without any nudity or mean-spirited exploitation.
Alright, now that we’re done with that lets get what’s actually important, like the gameplay and story. Lollipop Chainsaw is a fairly standard action game. You have pom-pom attacks which are mainly used for stunning enemies and heavy attacks that utilize your chainsaw and inflict considerable damage. Being a cheerleader, Juliet is quite nimble and also has an evasive dodge maneuver that lets her flip and prance around the slow and dimwitted zombies with relative ease.
Killing zombies and various environmental objects can give you golden coins that can be spent on new combat moves, upgrades and health items. There are also rare platinum coins which are used to buy things like scantily clad outfits. Most of the combat revolves around using your dodges to avoid damage while utilizing light attacks to stun enemies and set them up for a devastating blow from your chainsaw. You see, managing to kill 3 or more zombies in a single blow gives you “Sparkle Hunting” bonuses that produce platinum coins while temporarily shifting the game world into a rainbow colored slow-mo gorefest. The added metagame of trying to set large groups of zombies up for these sparkle hunting bonuses adds an interesting dimension to the gameplay.
There are, of course, other weapons and abilities that come into play during the course of the game and include everything from a chainsaw cannon weapon to a tractor harvester. It’s all good fun and serves to break up the repetition that can crop up from killing wave after wave of zombies before progressing to yet another room of more undead jerks.
Where Lollipop Chainsaw really excels is in the portrayal of its story, characters and atmosphere. The game begins on the morning of Juliet Starling’s 18th birthday as she heads out to San Romero High to meet up with her boyfriend Nick. You see, today is the day Nick is finally supposed to meet Juliet’s family for the first time. Unfortunately for them, a Zombie outbreak perpetrated by an evil goth named Swan puts a bit of a damper on Juliet’s birthday and Nick is bitten while trying to defend his seemingly helpless girlfriend. With no other option to save Nick from the spreading zombie infection, she decides to amputate his head from the rest of his body, leaving him somehow magically conscious and alive. In a not-so-surprising twist, it turns out that Juliet and her family belong to a line of zombie hunters. With the school and soon the entire city being torn apart by the zombie infestation, Juliet is forced to put her chainsaw to work and stop Swan’s evil plot.
The story is certainly unique, but what really sells it is the wonderful delivery provided by the various voice actors who bring Juliet, Nick and her family to life with a sincere and comedic slant. Voice by Michael Rosenbaum of Smallville fame, Nick in particular is a stand out character. Reduced to nothing more than an agitated talking head strapped to his girlfriend’s waist, he goes through quite the progression as he comes to terms with the loss of his body and the realization that Juliet isn’t quite the girl he thought she was. He also serves as the voice of the player, often calling attention to the absolutely ludicrous happenings on screen with cleverly sarcastic comments and dialogue. It also bears mentioning that the atmosphere of the game, both decidedly modern and yet very 50’s at the same time, is quite superb. One moment you’ll be listening to great 50’s rock and the next you’ll be ordering upgrades off the in-game website Chop2Shop.zom.
I had to really reach to find any obvious flaws with this game and all that I could come up with was some repetitious zombie slaying and some questionably placed checkpoints that can cause some annoyances later on when the game’s difficulty ramps up a bit. That and the game is a little on the short side. Other than that, Lollipop Chainsaw is just plain fun. It doesn’t take itself seriously and provides you with a entertaining and fun-spirited story to go along with the rainbow gore zombie slaying at its core. Personally, I wouldn’t have it any other way.