Monday, November 26, 2012

Lollipop Chainsaw Game Review

(Originally written on June 24th, 2012)

Lollipop Chainsaw is a game caught my eye a little over a year ago with a chainsaw welding cheerleader fighting zombies. It caught the eye of the Brony community when it was announced that Tara Strong (the voice of Twilight Sparkle) was going to be the voice actor of the main character Juliet Starling. It caught my eye again when it was announced that professional cosplayer Jessica Nigri was going to be the official live action Juliet Starling for promotional proposes.  Once again my eye was caught when it was announced that Jimmy Urine, the lead singer of Mindless Self Indulgence, would be doing the boss music for the game and the voice of one of the bosses. As well, there was a lot of hype for this game across the internet and at game expos. To me, this looked one of those games that could be really good or really bad. After playing through it a couple times I can say it falls in the middle but on the good side of the middle. This game is dripping with style. It has a comic book like theme and feel and it really works with the characters and graphics of the game. It feels like Bayonetta, Scott Pilgrim, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Zombies Ate My Neighbors, and a pinch of The Evil Dead thrown into a blender. It’s a very silly game that doesn’t take itself too seriously and neither should the player. The game play is generally fun and moves at a good pace. First, let’s take a look at why and what is happening in this game.

STORY: You play as Juliet Starling who is the lead cheerleader for the San Romero High School and also happens to come from a family of zombie hunters. Today is also her 18th birthday but when she gets to school the freakin’ zombie apocalypse has started! Good thing she was carrying her super magical and multipurpose chainsaw! At this point you might be thinking ‘WOW! This sounds really stupid!’ well it gets better. Her boyfriend, Nick, gets bit by a zombie and in order to save him she cuts his head off and casts a magical spell to keep him alive as a severed head attached to her hip. Turns out this goth kid at her school (who looks like a Marilyn Mason wannabe) is casting an evil spell on the school to get his revenge on society and it’s up to Juliet, Nick, and her family of zombie hunters to stop them.  Now like I said, this game doesn’t take itself too seriously most of the time. Now I know people who like to keep their zombies more serious and this story is probably very much a turn off for them. This game certainly isn’t for everyone but this is where the style over substance comes into the play. All the zombie bosses that are summoned set up the themes for all the levels and all have music themes. For example there is a Punk rock zombie and an 80’s funk zombie. Also these boss zombies remind me of avatars from Guitar Hero 3. It has fairly good character development and I enjoy the banter between Juliet and Nick throughout the game. Only problem is that it is a short game and it comes to an end pretty quickly.

GAMEPLAY: The gameplay is generally a hack and slash type game. Juliet’s move list starts out very limited but you game new abilities and can buy new moves as the game progresses.  You buy moves, items, and unlockables with zombie medals which you earn by killing zombies. There are gold medals which are most common to buy moves and health items and there are silver medals which are used to buy unlockables, they are much more rare.  You kill 3 or more zombies at once and you will be rewarded with a brief slow-mo cut scene and gold and silver medals known as ‘sparkle hunting’ and I won’t lie, it’s very satisfying when you pull one of these off.

The levels themselves linear but have some variety in gameplay though they aren’t always so fun. One level you are in an arcade and get sucked into old 80’s style arcade games throughout the level.  In another level you drive a thresher and run over zombies in a wheat field. The one I hated was zombie basketball where you have to decapitate enough zombie heads and throw them into a basketball hoop before the time runs out. Not all moves decapitate zombies and you are racing against the clock and if you lose, you die. This took me several frustrating continues to get past this part. One big issue I have with the game is that it is short. My first play through it took me 8 hours to beat. My second play through it took me about 5 or 6 hours which sadly is pretty common these days for games. It encourages multiple play troughs with all the unlockables and two different endings and difficulty settings but for a lot of people once will probably feel like enough and the unlocks really don’t give that much incentive to play again. Another big problem I have with the gameplay is heavy on quick time events. This game is filled with QTEs that result in instant death so you gotta be ready. There are also lots of little mini-games involving putting Nick on a zombie body to perform some task but it’s just one long annoying QTE. If you HATE QTEs you will probably not like this game at all but if you don’t mind them then it shouldn’t hurt how much fun you are having ripping up zombies with a chainsaw. The best parts of the game are the bosses. These are some kick ass boss battles with interesting music themed bosses and multi-stage fights. Easily the best parts of the game.

GRAPHICS: COLORFUL RAINBOWS! This game has lots of sparkle and flash to it but it all works with the comic book theme. The character models look really good with that cell shaded look and the zombie bosses are very well designed. The levels are a bit more on the bland side. Aside from the arcade level, none of the levels stand out too much visually and there is some texture pop-in going in a few of them. I really like the main menu and level select design though, once again with that comic book theme. The animation on the characters is great and flows well with the combat and gameplay. While the environments could have been better, the characters look great.

SOUND: This game has a KICK ASS soundtrack. Along with some great original music, there is also licensed music such as the song Lollipop by Julius Dixon that plays during the online store sections. Boy that will get stuck in your head. Hey Micky You’re so Fine plays when you’re invisible for some extra lulz. But there is also a lot of metal and punk music that fills the soundtrack such as Dragonforce and Children of Bodem that all just fits the style of the game so well. You can unlock and arrange all the music as well and create your own background music play list. The voice acting is also really well done for the most part. Tara Strong does a creating Juliet and bringing her to life and the voice actor for Nick is hilarious. Jimmy Urine does the voice of the Punk Rock zombie and his dialogue is just filled with all sorts of naughty language which he does use to literally attack you with. Make sure to jump when a wall of the word ‘COCKSUCKER’ comes flying at you. Also, if you don’t like profanity, you really wouldn't like this game.

OVERALL: Lollipop Chainsaw is a flawed game but it is fun and super stylish. Like I've said, this game isn't for everyone but if you don’t take the story too seriously and just want a mindlessly zombie hack and slash good time you’d probably enjoy it. I do not recommend getting this game at full price. This is not a $60 game. I’d wait till it’s down to $40 or less. I bought it when I did because Amazon had a pretty good first day deal for it at $45 no shipping and handling.
I recommend that or a lower price or a definite rental.

Score 6.9/10

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