One of the biggest problems with the games industry today is that so many companies are content to just push out lackluster sequel after lackluster sequel, just because a franchise with an established name has a following. More often than not when someone does push a good IP, you end up with the problems that 38 Studios faced – with new IP, more and more gamers are willing to wait until the game hits the “bargain bin” to take the plunge and see if it’s any good. I only mention this because while I was playing last night, one of the people on my friends list said that was exactly what he was going to do with Lollipop Chainsaw, and even though the game is really good I imagine that feeling is shared by a lot.
With Lollipop Chainsaw, you can see the touched of Grasshopper and of course Suda51 everywhere. From the stylized loading screen, to the pixelated menu sections, to the outrageously funny dialogue that’s constantly spouted – this game feels like a Grasshopper/Suda51 joint. Now the script was penned in part by James Gunn – the same writer for Slither and the 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead. It becomes apparent very early on that his writing style easily jives with Suda51’s brand of off the wall humor. In the first few minutes of the game a zombie will crash a bus, to with Juliet responds, “Boy, zombie driving sucks dick” – the zombie not to be outdone yells at her, “I’m going to eat your taint!”; and it pretty much has that same atmosphere throughout the whole game. Frat-boy humor at its finest. This is all helped but the way Juliet is drawn too: a big breasted heroine who is constantly worried about people looking up her skirt (and who has a sensei that likes to fall into her cleavage) just gives an environment rips for that level of comedy. Is it going to be for everyone? Of course not! But if you like that kind of raunchy and raucous humor, you’ll fall in love.
The combat is fairly straightforward, and incredibly simple. You have one face button (on the PS3 it’s the O button) for jumping and dodging, one for “pom pom attacks” that serve to make zombies dizzy (square button), one heavy chainsaw attack (triangle button), and one low chainsaw attack that is supposed to deal with the crawlers (X button). These base attacks could potentially serve you fine throughout the campaign, because there’s really no motivation to upgrade to anything different. Oh you’ll get new tricks to use at the end of levels, but mostly they’re just gimmicks that won’t replace your base attacks. Now you can upgrade these base attacks by going to the store, however your ability to upgrade is directly influenced by how well you are actually playing.
By killing zombies and smashing the scenery, you get tokens. Kill a zombie in a unique or exciting way (i.e., don’t just stand there and mash triangle) and you get more. Perform what is known as “Sparkle Hunting” – decapitating three or more zombies with one attack – and get HUGE rewards. It comes down to a balancing act of figuring out how many zombies you can stun in close proximity to each other to activate Sparkle Hunting, and weighing that against how long you can survive while trying to get those zombies stunned. It isn’t super deep, but it does give you something to work for – and if you want to unlock things in the store you really do need to work. There were countess times I has to decide on buying a health or strength upgrade, or buying a new combo. By the time I had finished the campaign, I think I only had about a third of the combos that were available, and I rarely used any other than three that were easy to pull off. So they’re there if you feel like busting your ass to get them – but most certainly not necessary to beat the game.
The campaign is unfortunately extremely short, falling in at about eight hours, with little to do after you finish. Yes, there are leaderboard challenges that you would expect in a single player game, but that’s pretty much it. I would have really loved to see a “Devil May Cry” style Bloody Palace type mode open up. You can at least go hunting collectables that you happened to miss the first time through line new lollipops, new named zombies, and new people to rescue. Also the fact that when you change difficulty levels things move around gives you a small reason to keep going. Still though, with no real challenge mode other than ramping up the difficulty manually, I don’t know what kind of staying power Lollipop Chainsaw will have in anyone’s systems.
That I think, is one of the biggest shames with the game itself. There is so much potential here – the stages are beautiful, and each is completely unique from all the others. The story is out of this world. The voice acting is some of the best I have ever heard in a video game, The bosses are thoughtfully designed, and artfully created. Everything you could hope to want in a good game – it’s just with how short Lollipop Chainsaw is, and with how shallow the combat is I’m afraid that people will pass on it and another good -new- IP will be thrown to the wind. A solely single player game with that little meat though is a really hard sell in modern times when almost everything has some online functionality (besides stock leaderboards).
The Bottom Line: Lollipop Chainsaw is fundamentally a really good game, and a really fun game – unfortunately the short length and shallow combat holds it back from realizing its full potential.
- Some of the best dialogue I’ve heard in a game in a long time
- All of the stages are completely different and off the wall
- The boss fights are engrossing and entertaining
- No online functionality other than leaderboards
- The game itself is very short with little reason to go back for more
- The combat is extremely shallow
You can pick up Lollipop Chainsaw for the PS3 or XBOX 360 anywhere games are sold for $59.99, but right now Amazon has it on sale for $44.99
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