“Zombies suck dick at driving!” – Juliet Starling
What do you get when a crazy genius at Grasshopper Manufacture Inc. wants to make a hack ‘n’ slash? An ever-optimistic bloodthirsty cheerleader running around with a chainsaw, which makes hearts and rainbows as she kills zombies. Seriously. Welcome to the strange world of Lollipop Chainsaw. In this frankly bizarre experience you play Juliet Starling – head cheerleader, lollipop addict, devoted girlfriend and hereditary zombie hunter. After waking up on your 18th birthday, you make your way to school only to discover it’s been overrun with zombies. Bummer. Good job you always carry your trusty chainsaw (surely the school would hit the roof if they knew you carried that!). It’s up to you and the rest of your zombie-hunting family to save your fellow students and get back in time for your birthday party.
Essentially, Lollipop Chainsaw is a stylish, yet comical hack and slash that allows you to combine bone-grinding chainsaw moves with sexy cheerleading moves in order to become an unstoppable killing machine. In a style typical to the genre, moves start off limited, with handy shops around levels in order to buy increasingly complex upgrades and combos. Plus, you never know who you’ll bump in to that’s carrying a timely birthday present just for you.
So what about the lollipops…
As you navigate the school, and then the town you’ll take down various types of zombie horde (“zombie teachers are the worst!” – Juliet). It could be the football team, teachers, or firefighters there to “help” you. The more indulgent combos will see hearts and rainbows pouring out in an over the top obviously Japanese way. This is definitely a nice change from nothing but blood splatters and helps to keep the whole experience light-hearted. Additionally, killing three or more zombies in one hit creates a “sparkle hunt”. In essence, more pretty graphics and a huge heap of rewards. Sparkle hunting is essential to reach those higher scores, and it never stops being satisfying to see.
Juliet’s one indulgence is lollipops. Whilst regular lollipops restore her health, there’s also a whole case of different flavours to collect. Whilst collecting usually means an endless trawl through millions of maze-like areas (masochists like me generally love that sort of thing!), this is one game that doesn’t give you much freedom to run. Areas tend to be very self-contained and simple quick-time events (QTEs) tend to move you from one area to the next. Whilst the lack of freedom may frustrate some, it makes collecting less antagonising, and helps to continue the arcade game feel that envelopes the whole game.
Not for everybody, but is it for you?
Lollipop Chainsaw is guaranteed to split the public opinion, as it’s constant QTEs, high-school sense of humour and super-short playtime are just a few of the things that may put people off. It’s definitely a distinct flavour of gameplay and whilst some of the humour and story seems reminiscent to Dead Rising, it really is out on its own as an experience. The levels are riddled with mini-games ranging from Chainsaw Dash course, in which Juliet rides her chainsaw, to Zombie Basketball, in which decapitated zombie heads are used as balls. Some of these provide fun interludes from the main game, but some can be frustrating as hell. The ability to die in these games means that they may challenge you more than the rest of the level, even the boss fights.
That was it?!
The length of the game may cause some aggravation to you if you’re a one-play only gamer. Comprised of six levels and a prologue, even the most thorough first playthrough can be completed in less than six hours. Designed for multiple replays, this keeps the gameplay fresh as you get bombarded with new challenges constantly. Whilst disappointment could be felt at the length, it is important to remember that the pace and feel of the game is constant. It bursts onto your console in a crazy action-packed blur and remains there until the very end. As character upgrades are permanent this gives you the joy of enlarging your move set and getting to try them out as you replay in a variety of modes.
The Bottom Line
There’s not a dull moment in the game, although there are some frustrating ones, and it’s refreshing to have such an arcade-style full release. Be prepared to play through numerous times to get your money’s worth, but it shouldn’t be much of a chore. The constant flurry of cheerleading moves to traverse the levels make this game sexy and fun for both genders. You may think that it’s too sparkly for a guy to play, but please remember – this is a zombie hack ‘n’ slash at heart!
Miss; Whilst replaying is generally an enjoyable experience, please let me skip the damn cutscenes!
Need; More awesome cheerleading anthems to listen to whilst playing. Mickey is classic, but you can always find more.