I had the pleasure of trying out Dragon Age II over the summer at San Diego Comic Con 2010. Was I a lucky member of the press whisked away to some dark room to spend hours with the game? No, absolutely not. I waited in a long line with other passionate fans for about an hour to get my hands on an early build of the game. As I told a number of my friends, the game looked and felt amazing. Combat had been sped up, and everything felt more fluid and tactile.
It’s not very often that we encounter a game that is simultaneously absurd, frustrating, funny, strange, and polarizing. Welcome to the hack and slash world of Lollipop Chainsaw from Suda51 and co.
Lollipop Chainsaw appeared on the Nerd Appropriate radar this past PAX East. Well… you may have heard about Lollipop Chainsaw recently because of this (see right). You see, this lovely gal is Jessica Nigri, an enthusiastic young cosplayer, who was more or less asked to leave the PAX East show floor… twice, once for the the right, and then again for the left (outfits… I’m talking about the outfits in the photo, get your heads out of the gutter). Anyhow, as you may or may not know, PAX East has a no “booth babes” policy, and this apparently did not fly.
Fast forward to June, where we can finally get our hands on Juilet Starling, wait… I mean that’s when the game was released, and we can get our hands on the controller… for the game… ahem.
Right, so in Lollipop Chainsaw you play as Juliet Starling, who finds her high school overrun by zombies, while she is on the way to meet her boyfriend, Nick Carlyle. Zombies! ZOMG, uh, like what a total bummer. And on top of all that, it’s Juilet’s Birthday, those zombies must have some nerve.
The game only gets more absurd from here. In the prologue to the game, Nick gets bitten by a zombie. Juilet, with her quick thinking, saves Nick by decapitating him with her chainsaw to preserve his mind. So for the bulk of the game Juilet gets a little head. WAIT! I mean, she… um… carries Nick’s head around on her belt. It’s not what you think! Really, he’s actually quite useful throughout the game. Juliet’s family also helps her throughout the game, it’s actually pretty funny.
Naturally, Juliet and her family are born Zombie hunters. So it’s sort of funny in the irony that no one really seems to be surprised or concerned about why these zombies showed up in the first place. Obviously, these zombies are all being led by some demon rock, bad dudes, who comprise the bosses through the game. And when I say throughout the game, I really mean there’s only a handful of stages here. You see, there are only about 7-ish stages (without saying too much). So if you’re the type that likes to hit it and quit it (still talking about games, here) then you may find this game somewhat lacking.
Lollipop chainsaw features an upgrade system: combos, character upgrades, costumes, music, and concept art are all purchased with Zombie Medals (of course) which you acquire by killing zombies. You get more medals for killing zombies with combos, Sparkle Hunting is what they call it… seriously.
If you are familiar with Suda51 / Grasshopper Manfacture’s body of work, you’ll know this is all par for the course: grindhouse style combat, over the top characters, and a game that never really takes itself seriously. The initial problem I had with the game was the length of the campaign. You can get through the entire story in about 5-6 hours, but even then you would likely only unlock less than 50% of the game’s upgradable items. Oh, and the camera system is frustrating as all get-out.
You see, this is more of an arcade style game, where the game’s stages are meant to be played multiple times for score and time runs, which can be posted to online leaderboards to compare with the community. The real question is whether or not this is incentive enough for you to stay in, or pull out (of the game!! pull out of the game and play with something else, WAIT, I mean, another game!)!
The combo system is not super deep, and many of the games levels are interspersed with QTE’s and bizzare mini-games (see farm tractor-based zombie harvesting mini-game). With a fully leveled character, you’re in more danger of getting an instant “Game Over” on these mini-games than the actual fighting part of the game. That is, in order to post a score to the world leaderboard, you must play in ranking mode, in which there are no continues. Most of the levels are about 1/2 hour long. Such is the life of Japanese score / time / mastery gaming.
Lollipop Chainsaw definitely has some rough edges, but also has many high points. The soundtrack is pretty solid, with some metal, funk, etc. as well as some licensed music. The game’s art and levels are also pretty diverse too, even after seeing the levels for a 3rd or 4th time. Perhaps the real silver lining to this game is the voice acting: Juilet is voiced by Tara Strong, while Juilet’s younger sister, Rosalind, is voiced by Kimberly Brooks (Ashley Williams, for our readers), and Michael Rosenbaum plays the part of Nick. The delivery of the dialogue and one-liners are spot on. Tara knocked one out of the park with this game.
Although a relatively shallow experience, Lollipop Chainsaw is admittedly good fun. If you’re a Suda51 fan, this one is not to be missed. Juliet is not as deep (the combos!!! I’m talking about customization, sheesh!) compared to characters of similar hack and slash games, however the absurd visuals and dialogue go a long way in making up for the limitations of the game.
This game sits somewhere between horribly bad and horribly awesome. Some players will enjoy the challenge of replaying all the levels and unlocking more of Juilet’s costumes, but I feel that for those players, there will be very little left to see once all the costumes are finally unlocked (not of Juliet… of the game!). So while some will get frustrated trying to get over the initial combat barriers, others will remain stimulated and want to stay in it…
(Thanks everyone, I’ll be here all week. Tip your waiters.)