Lollipop Chainsaw is a diversion. It's a zombie fighting game with a great penchant for humor, approachability and genre busting.
It's also not made for everyone. If you don't take kindly to sexuality, brutality and vulgarity, this game won't be for you. Grasshopper Manufacture designed an unabashed exploration of gaming and parody with Lollipop Chainsaw; joining them on that adventure will mean checking your grip on what's morally right and wrong at the door.
If you can do that, though, there's oh-so-much fun to be had with this arcadey title. You'll fill the shoes of Juliet, a zombie hunter. Along with you for the ride is Nick, the head of her recently decapitated boyfriend.
Approachable gameplay and combat.
At its most basic level, Lollipop Chainsaw is a flashy, third-person, action, RPG game. It's a beat 'em up with tons of hack and slash goodness. It's more God of War than Devil May Cry, however, so don't come into the experience looking for an extreme challenge.
What you'll find here in terms of gameplay and combat is something that's friendly, relaxed and approachable. Juliet starts with a small set of basic attacks. You'll use X or Square for stunning attacks, Y or Triangle for heavy chainsaw slashes, A or X for ground swipes and B or Circle for jumps and vaults. It's exceptionally easy to pick up and learn, and that approachability translates to a faster route towards fun.
Upgrades can be purchased in the sparsely scattered shops. Those upgrades add slight layers of complexity to the combat by introducing more combos and devastating moves, but they don't come in such abundance that you'll quickly forget you purchased them.
The downside to that, of course, is that it doesn't really present much of a challenge for gamers who fancy themselves massive fans of exceptionally difficult games built on tough combos. If you're the type of player who finds the absence of absurd challenge in combat a little boring, then Lollipop Chainsaw's fighting won't serve as much of a fun thrill.
When you're not simply fighting, you'll be activating Nick-centered specials or enjoying mini-games. All of those things are fun and executed well enough that they serve as a perfect break from the grind of fighting.
Is it okay to like this?
If you move beyond the realm of Call of Duty and Battlefield regularly, then there's a good chance you consider yourself in tune with the critical side of the gaming industry. I'm talking about the side that gets down in the muck of game discussion and hashes out what's good, bad, right and wrong.
Beyond the zombie slaying, sexuality and foul language, the combat of Lollipop Chainsaw is something worth talking about. This game is an act of parody, it's a work of satire and, most importantly, it's a joke. Goichi Suda and the team at Grasshopper Manufacture are known for taking basic game and game culture elements and pushing them well over-the-top in their projects.
Consider No More Heroes for a second. Travis Touchdown, and everything about him, was absurd. Juliet from Lollipop is the same. She's sexed up beyond comprehension, but she's exactly the same. Juliet is a caricature of the gaming world today; she's a parody of characters like Bayonetta or Nariko from Heavenly Sword.
Even better, the game constantly reminds you that it's entirely self-aware. At one point, Nick literally tells Juliet that the two of them are being manipulated. The fourth wall breaks like that all the time, and players are downright told that the experience in front of them knows that it's a game.
Lollipop Chainsaw knows what it is. It takes themes like sexploitation, grindhouse ambiance and gaming misogyny and pumps them up so much that they're no longer relevant as problems.
You don't need to feel perverted or sexist for liking the look and style of Lollipop Chainsaw. You don't need to look at the game as an unabashed attack on women and sexuality. Lollipop Chainsaw is completely aware of its exterior, and it plays that quality up so much that it moves from being shameless into being silly.
It's okay to like this game.
You don't need to feel perverted or sexist for liking the look and style of Lollipop Chainsaw.
Fun for the sake of fun.
Everything about Lollipop Chainsaw feels like an exploration of fun itself. That notion translates to the aesthetics, the soundtrack and the core of the game. Grasshopper Manufacture built an unabashed romp, rife with in-jokes and genre nods.
The fireworks, rainbows and hearts that fire out of the zombies as they die again stand starkly against the metal tunes and the grindhouse grain. Juliet's overtly girly attitude lands in strong opposition to her decapitated boyfriend, Nick.
In fact, gamers will quickly find that the bodiless head is their rock in this outlandish journey. Nick is the wit of the game, and his asides and pokes remind players that they should be laughing rather than shaking their heads in disgust. Nick knows he's in the middle of something fun, and he was written in such a way that he reminds players of the same thing.
When you beat this game (actually, as you beat each level) you'll be challenged to play through it again. There are items to collect, costumes to unlock, survivors to save and a tough ending to earn. After that, you'll want to dive back into the short campaign one section, difficulty and mode at a time in order to beat the leaderboards and unlock the goods.
If you can look beyond this game's sexually charged exterior, you'll find a lot of fun within. It's one of my favorite experiences so far this year.
We purchased a retail copy of Lollipop Chainsaw for the Xbox 360 with company funds. We played the game's full campaign on normal difficulty, revisited several stages and spent a few hours unlocking goods before we started this review.
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