Lollipop Chainsaw Review: Dilf
Lollipop Chainsaw is the latest game to come from Suda 51 and developer Grasshopper, billed as the spiritual successor to No More Heroes, and it is deliberately over the top in every way. Games that have had Suda 51 in the director seat have tended to be very much a love or hate affair in the past but personally I found last years Shadows of the Damned to be a rough gem with a lot to like. Its gameplay was solid but unremarkable, yet the game oozed personality and character with plenty of genuine humour and creativity worked into its fabric. I expected something along the same lines with Lollipop Chainsaw, and while the game is as insane and crass as one would expect from this studio it is far from the level of quality I enjoyed in Grasshoppers Shadows of the Damned last year.
Lollipop Chainsaw puts players into the shoes of Juliet Starling, an 18 year old cheer leader who also happens to come from a family of zombie hunters. Juliet leaves for her school to meet her boyfriend Nick, but a zombie invasion has broken out, and not just any zombie normal zombie invasion, but one unleashed by a goth recluse in her school named Swan who is bent on destroying the world that has rejected him. Unfortunately things take a turn for the worst in the school and most of the student body is zombified, including Nick, who is bitten while trying to protect Juliet. Fortunately Juliet knows exactly how to prevent Nick turning into a full zombie: decapitate his head and perform a ritual to preserve it. Nick finds a place on Juliet's skirt and so an adventure to stop Swan's diabolical plan begins. The rest of Juliet's zombie hunting family all make appearances throughout the course of the game, including Juliet's Dilf of a father. The story is extremely light hearted and has plenty of genuinely funny moments, though there are more than a few occasions of events being over blown for its own safe and not witty or intelligently written. The story is far from the focus with this game, there are no character developments or strong narrative direction, its just a setting for a sexualised and hyper violent bout of madness, and it tries to work as well as one would expect from this chaotic mash.
The graphics of Lollipop Chainsaw are very mixed. The game has a cell shaded look to it without going fully down that path, and there are a constant stream of bright rainbow explosions and lighting on the screen to accompany the combat and moves you can dish out onto the undead scum. The violence looks cool throughout the game, but animations are very janky and stiff, with shambling enemies that are very limited in the physical movements that their character models are able to make. The environments are mostly school areas, and are fairly generic and uninteresting, though the game does include an entire level devoted to all things video games. The game has colour but it just does not look crisp or up to the standards of what I expect from a game in 2012. It is not a rich looking game, with poor texture quality and very limited draw distances. The player is kettled by cheap scripted events, none of which are visually impressive, and the game relies heavily on its feminine style contrasted against the gore of what happens in the combat.
The soundtrack of Lollipop Chainsaw is strong, courtesy of a combination of licensed songs which are very well placed into the game and some original work by Akira Yamaoka, most of which gets away from his style of Silent Hill and Shadows of the Damned that I love. The music is very effective in Lollipop Chainsaw, adding a lot of character to the title and enhancing the feel of the game further. The voice acting is done well, with Juliet and Nick standing out along with Juliet's Dad, who has some great banter with Nick. However, the script is mostly a silly and nonsensical list of insults and sex jokes, which gets old really fast. The weak story means that the importance of the dialogue is greatly reduced but at times it feels like the game does not even make an effort.
In terms of its gameplay Lollipop Chainsaw is a third person action game that, despite its pretensions to the contrary, are very limited and unambitious for the genre. The combat is extremely simplistic and actually shallow, with Juliet too slow and pondering to replicate the fast and interesting combat of Bayonetta or Devil May Cry. The combos that players can pull off are relatively slow and pondering, and the enemies are extremely limited in variety. You fight zombies, some who have more health and different clothes than others, but zombies are all you fight. There is a ranged attack but the game has an auto aim that is infuriatingly ineffective as it aims at the nearest enemy instead of which direction you are facing, if at all. You can unlock upgrades and new moves but nothing I seen was interesting able to deepen the combat, and the game becomes very repetitive very fast. To combat this Lollipop Chainsaw has plenty of little mini games within its core gameplay but many of these are wasteful and only get in the way of progressing through the title. Juliet can jump in an acrobatic leap but amazingly this cannot be used to get over small walls, surmising the weak corridor like level design that the game rigidly sticks with. Lollipop Chainsaw is more like a hack and slash game along the lines of Dynasty Warriors rather than a major third person action game, and this is disappointing.
Lollipop has lots of little but fundamental problems that prevent it from being the smooth experience that I have come to expect from the best games in the action genre. Controls are unresponsive and poorly mapped to the controller. The menu has a small load time, and the camera angles are appalling. Restrictive cameras for games of this genre are something which I thought was relegated to the past, but Lollipop Chainsaw, a full priced game in 2012 has the exact same camera issues that games of the PS2 era were getting over. This really takes away from the game, especially in later sections when the pace is increasing towards the finale. Lollipop Chainsaw never really settles on a consistent tone, being a horror game at some points and a comedy on the other hand. It fails to juggle this mix in a way that Shadows of the Damned managed to succeed with, and the game overall has a relatively weak presentation. The game does allow players to bring a fully upgraded Juliet back into a new game plus mode but the lack of replayability and the barely 5 hour long campaign means that this is of limited value. However, Lollipop Chainsaw has some great stylish boss fights which add a sense of scale and grandeur to the game, and each boss fight has its own tone that goes hand in hand with the level the player will have gone through to get to them.
Lollipop Chainsaw is certainly a fun game, but its extremely short length and long list of small but niggling issues means that Lollipop Chainsaw fails to make good on its potential and is a game that I found to be an incredible let-down Bland repetitive combat and mixed humour along with a complete lack of replay value means that Lollipop Chainsaw is a novelty of a game that is a decent rental but nothing more than that. The lack of Mikami's solid gameplay design here is apparent, and games like Bayonetta and Shadows of the Damned do a much better job at the same core formula. Lollipop Chainsaw is a game that I could not recommend for purchase, but it is worth a rental for fans of the genre.
- Strong soundtrack and use of licensed music
- Fun boss fights
- Humorous jokes and dialogue
- Terrible camera
- Repetitive enemies and environments
- Combat is slow and lacks depth
- Short with little replay value
- 4/10 - Poor