Review: Lollipop Chainsaw

Despite what you may have heard through the digital grapevine, Lollipop Chainsaw certainly does NOT wish it were the Bayonetta of 2012, or anything so preposterous a claim as that. (Heck, it doesn’t even wish it were a game at times!)

Instead, Lollipop Chainsaw does its darndest to ditch the tired notion of struggling to soak up an overblown, occultist plot amidst the ceaseless insanity of the hack ‘n’ slash action grabbing all of your attention, drawing the fun element right back up above the surface, cranking up the volume of the latter where fun and fantastically over-the-top-everything is concerned to the absolute max and completely locking out the former, all for the very best.

Lollipop Chainsaw follows zombie hunting high school cheerleader Juliet Starling, the stereotypical ditzy blonde typically fated with the starring role in a cheesy American summer blockbuster rom-com, who enjoys tweeting about how everything glittery is “OMG SO LUSH!!!”, and who is partial to the odd strawberry lollipop or six every now and then. Granted, to an extent it is just that, with Juliet’s body-less boyfriend Nick – his head assigned to a lanyard on Juliet’s belt after an accident involving zombies – playing the other half of the cheesy rom-com romance equation. It’s all very goofy and Disney Princess-esque, but do you know what? Girl can kick some serious zombie arse, man!

Meet Juliet – she effs stuff up with a chainsaw!

And, to fully complement the high octane zombie arse-kicking, visual delicacies reminiscent of an LSD and rainbow-infused zombie roller disco tumbling down a sherbet road show off the game’s sugar sweet flare. It’s pretty, but this fruit-flavoured façade does nothing to cover up the fact that, overall, the visuals are pretty damn unimpressive beyond the high contrast eye candy and distasteful over-sexing of the scantily clad protagonist. It’s balancing shakily on the border between cel shading and full 3D rendering, a visual recipe that we’ve seen put to very poor use before in games such as 2010’s abysmal Splatterhouse – a video game representation of what a box of frag grenades in a paint factory would look like – but, in Lollipop‘s defence, its eye candy is on the better end of the scale, rarely impressing, but at the same time granting a few murmurs of praise in regards to its direction of colour.

“Gimme an ‘I’! Okay, now gimme a spleen!”

It’s just a shame that combat is so shallow and restricted to little more than mindless button-mashing and temperamental combos that often fail to even execute properly, marred even further by the game’s extremely temperamental camera which, although good at capturing the action with its fixed angles, really doesn’t grant the player a whole lot of freedom beyond a twitchy, unshakably glued feeling in free-control. This is particularly irksome taking into consideration that combat, at its vanilla level, is so here-and-there in the first place that the fact that you actually have to purchase your combos – although a very common practice in hack ‘n’ slashers – really does feel like an out of place liberty. It’s stark, and feels about as meaty as a potato salad at its worst.

Combine these shortcomings with lousy, sloppy checkpoints that will, ninety percent of the time, plonk you back to the most inappropriate points in the level upon death, and there’s simply no denying that these areas of the game leave much to be desired.

The interface art is more impressive than the game itself at times

The round-up

It’s funny that a game such as, for argument’s sake, Asura’s Wrath – one of 80% gameplay-less cinematics and the rest actual solid gameplay – does a much better job at combat than Lollipop Chainsaw, a game that is almost entirely gameplay; and, had Grasshopper Manufacture taken a leaf out of Asura’s Wrath‘s book of absolute greatness – solid, back-boned, substanceful gameplay spread out across a premise that’s very interesting on paper – we could be playing a very different game indeed right now. Different, but better. Much, much better…

Nonetheless, a thoroughly action-packed hack ‘n’ slash romp through miles and miles of zombie goodness. Granted, it’s not quite up to the standard of its better-handled contemporaries – Asura’s Wrath, Bayonetta and Dante’s Inferno to name a few – but it’s a completely over-the-top, oodles-of-fun take on the genre for sure, and I, for one, certainly hope this isn’t the last we’ve seen of the lovely Miss Starling.

Pom-pom bash, chainsaw dash and scatter the brains of the groggy not-quite-dead, all to the bitchin’ tunes of Arch Enemy, Children of Bodom, Five Finger Death Bunch, and a whole playlist of gut-rippers to make the zombie slayer all the more appropriate. All wrapped up in a nice warm blanket of taking genuinely chuckle-worthy jabs at pop culture topics when and wherever possible, and you can just about consider Lollipop Chainsaw an interactive commentary on pop culture buffoonery. CAUTION: MAY CAUSE MOSHING!

Fix the fudge-ups, tune the formula a wee bit and you’ll have a hack ‘n’ slasher worth boasting about, Grasshopper!

6/10

Author: G H

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