Lollipop Chainsaw – Game Analysis & Review
By Patrick Newman
Developer: Grasshopper Manufacture
Publishers: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, JP Kadokawa Games
Director: Ikeda tomo
Producer: Goichi Suda
Writer: James Gunn
Composers: Akira Yamaoka, Jimmy Urine
Engine: Unreal Engine 3
Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Release Date: June 12, 2012
Genre: Action, hack and slash
The unique premise of Lollipop Chainsaw – a scantily-clad cheerleader battles 80’s music-themed zombies in a grisly/adorable fashion – is the best thing about the title, as the gameplay is too inconsistent, the camera and controls too erratic to come anywhere near classic status. For some, the heavy dollop of near-pornographic lingering over cheerleader Julie’s flawlessly rendered body will also be a point against the game (Unless they are 14, in which case they’ll be one hundred percent for it). Lollipop Chainsaw is a fun diversion, however, and original in enough ways to set it apart from its numerous zombie competitors. I found plenty here to enjoy.
The pedigree behind Lollipop Chainsaw’s development is promising, with horror-comedy filmmaker James Gunn of Super and Slither fame collaborating with Shadows of the Damned creator Suda 51 to make the comedy funny, the horror threatening, and the overall tone light and cinematic. On that last count they succeeded, as Lollipop Chainsaw sports bubblegum colors and detailed models that balance perfectly the necessary realism of the animated characters with the need for comic exaggeration. A contribution that had to have been Gunn’s is the soundtrack, which is peppered with hits like Dead or Alive’s “You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)” and of course, The Chordettes’ “Lollipop.”
When the arcade-style action gameplay kicks in, the experience becomes one that is sure to divide players into two schools: The ones disgusted by Lollipop Chainsaw’s sexist regard for its titular hero, and the ones willing to let it slide to appreciate the experience as a whole. I fell somewhere into the latter group, appreciating the disciplined, intentionally silly aesthetic of the game while frowning at the immaturity that is undoubtedly there to appease unenlightened teenagers cut off from their usual channels to porn.
Lollipop Chainsaw, as well as its mannequin-like hero, is effectively a cartoon come to life, and stylized to the point of barely resembling the actual women or human relationships it could potentially damage. I don’t think it’s going to set society back a decade, in other words, though it must be said that the game has an undeniably juvenile and demeaning attitude towards Julie, who has all of the DD-sex appeal of Lara Croft and none of the dimensionality. Characters are constantly shouting out puns about Julie’s breasts and ass or referencing masturbation, and in cutscenes the camera never drifts far from the choice areas at Julie’s chest or between her legs.
The gameplay is simplistic and should be easy for anyone to pick up, and with the exception of the horrid sections of gunplay, which feature an imprecise free-aiming system and an even more erratic auto-aim, the general zombie melee is a lot of fun. Julie’s cheerleading moves can be used as a kind of martial art against the undead, and an upgradeable chainsaw is on-hand to be used for heavy attacks. A “star meter,” which, true to its title often illuminates the screen with its bubbly cartoonish displays, fills up as Julie racks up her kills so that she can unleash a super attack on a screen full of flesh eaters. All pretty typical of the genre, but no less diverting if you’re in the mood to cause some virtual carnage.
The game’s best moments are when the pop soundtrack, cartoony visuals, and zombie-killing ingenuity come together for mini-games such as grinding monsters to pulp in a combine harvester, or evading enemies in a deliciously 80’s, Pac-Man-like series of mazes. The boss battles are a similarly refreshing respite from the usual melee, a standout being the axe-wielding Viking who pulls himself apart and back together again, forcing you to rethink your strategy on the fly. As sometimes sexist and simplistic as Lollipop Chainsaw can be, there is enough pop amusement here (and replay value, if achieving higher scores is enough of a draw for you), to make this a worthwhile gaming experience.
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