Lollipop Chainsaw is the one game I was really looking forward to this year, and it did not disappoint.
I WAS a little concerned at first. Suda51’s games seem to be getting increasingly dumbed down as they become more slick, when you look at how Grasshopper has progressed from developing the insanely dense and obtuse Killer7 to…a game about a cheerleader who fights zombies with a chainsaw. And yeah, it is a little disappointing that these games aren’t quite as thought-provoking, unpolished, and…maybe insane isn’t quite the word, but what I’m trying to get at is while the narrative for Flower, Sun and Rain will have you ripping your hair out in confusion (if the gameplay itself hasn’t caused an aneurysm), Shadows of the Damned is just about shooting demons in Hell to get your woman back, not a whole lot to think about there.
So yeah, a little part of me wishes Suda51 would throw out another game with a story that requires a lot of research to grasp and gameplay that can be just plain inconvenient, but at the same time? Lollipop Chainsaw is just so much damn fun, even if it is rather shallow.
Here’s the big thing about it that appeals to me: this game is like a tribute to the bizarre splattergore films that guys like Yoshihiro Nishimura have been cranking out over the past few years. Specifically, I’m reminded of Vampire Girl Vs Frankenstein girl, but the flying zombies in the game (propelled through the air by blood spurting from their leg stumps) HAVE to be influenced by the final showdown in Tokyo Gore Police. James Gunn, director of Slither and writer of the Dawn of the Dead Remake, is in on it too, and you can see his fingerprints all over it in the dialogue and the silly references that the game throws out.
That’s another thing I love. This game is HILARIOUS. Juliet is so vapid and takes this localized zombie apocalypse all in stride, while her severed head boyfriend Nick gets all the best lines as he freaks out and questions what the fuck’s going on. The zombies themselves say some great shit too. I can’t get over this one fat zombie who declares “they’re selling popsicles for fifty cents!” And, for some dumb reason, I always laugh at the football player zombie who shouts “ten hut, ten butt fuck!” It’s crude and oh so juvenile in so many ways, and I think that’s one of the reasons I love it.
You could beat the game in about 4 hours if you just run through it, yes, but I take no issue with this. Between work, making art and comics, and the other stuff I do, I’m cool with playing a game that’s not going to take me 50+ hours to beat or whatever. I can jump in, play a level or two, and I’m good. And I can’t stop replaying certain levels of the game either. I mean, I was gearing up to write this review, and instead decided to go replay the 3rd stage. That’s how much I enjoy this game. Yes, it’s a little repetitive since all you’re doing is hacking up zombies and occasionally playing a minigame of Zombie Basketball or something, but trust me, it’s FUN.
The soundtrack goes a long way too. In fact, I’m fairly sure it easily ranks among my top five favorite videogame soundtracks ever. Akira Yamaoka ROCKS THE FUCK OUT in a way I haven’t heard since his work on Contra: Shattered Soldier, which is also in my top 5 faves. Here’s my favorite track from the game’s prologue stage:
There’s also a lot of great rockabilly and bone-crushing metal. You have the option of picking any five tracks (you unlock more as you progress, of course) to make a playlist to listen to while playing, which is a huge plus to me. And, since this game is published by Warner Brothers, there’s a lot of licensed music thrown in too. Every time you use your Sparkle Power (one hit kills + invincibility), “Hey Mickey” starts playing. I think this is the first time I HAVEN’T outright hated that song. Another stage has you slaughtering zombies on a rooftop to “Pac Man Fever.” Of course, not all of the licensed music is great. Not even Lollipop Chainsaw can get me to enjoy Skrillex or Five Finger Death Punch.
Also? The boss battle tracks are all scored by Jimmy Urine of Mindless Self Indulgence, who also voices the first boss, Zed. He does a FANTASTIC job of it, too.
People knock the game a bit because the graphics aren’t too great, but that’s a charming thing to me. I have never played a Grasshopper game with mindblowing visuals, and I’d kind of like to keep it that way, it suits the punk band influence that Suda51 comes from. Still, I’m so happy that this game is so goddamn colorful. They use a great comic book aesthetic for everything too. I’ve always loved the visual aesthetics that Grasshopper has used in their games, so this is definitely no exception. The game has also received criticism for having a ridiculously sexualized protagonist, but that doesn’t bug me. Juliet is a cartoon character, and it’s hard to get upset over her appearance when she’s just so damn bubbly and kind of badass. No one really comments on her appearance or threatens to rape her or anything like that, and past the opening cinematic, it’s not like the camera is always up her skirt or down her cleavage. If anyone’s truly being objectified, it’s Nick, LITERALLY. I think this whole thing is just Suda51 poking fun at and satirizing gaming trends with no real overall statement about uh, feminism or anything. And that’s unfortunate, but it’s not really a problem either. Actually, Jonathan Holmes did a great post on Destructoid where he interviewed Jessica Nigri as Juliet and wrote quite a bit about the central ideas of objectification in the game. Give it a read.
Okay, I’m well over 1000 words so let’s wrap this up: Lollipop Chainsaw is AWESOME. Go play it. Or not! It’s up to you! This is just how I feel about it, you may think differently.
Regardless, you gotta admit, with the way the gaming industry is these days, we should be thankful there are still dudes like Suda51 who do things differently. That man is my hero. RESPECT.