Suda 51 never ceases to amaze me. The eccentric potty mouthed developer’s multiple design philosophies echo with his numerous releases, to the point where fans can immediately point and say “that’s a Suda game”.
So given the natural expectation of quality, does Lollipop Chainsaw live up to the creator’s legacy?
There’s really no way around saying this: Lollipop Chainsaw is probably one of the most, if not the most absurdly dirty games of all time. Although there is no explicit sexual content, there’s enough innuendo, cursing, and violence to fill an entire day of Grindhouse cinema. In fact, I think this may have a world record for “most f bombs in a video game” (or pretty much any medium for that matter).
Thankfully, due to the wonderful writing by James Gunn (Director of the films Slither and Super), it never comes off as annoying, or thrown in just for the sake of it. In particular, the main character Juliet is wonderful, as she has the personality of a typical cheerleader, but is extremely resourceful, intelligent, and has a knack for excellent comedic timing.
Veteran voice actor Tara Strong is perfect as Juliet Starling , as is Michael Rosenbaum, who plays the part of her newly decapitated boyfriend being kept alive by zombie hunter magic. Juliet and Nick are joined by Juliet’s family — her older sharpshooting sister Cordelia, her hyper younger sister Rosalind, and her Dad (whom Juliet’s classmates refer to as a DILF).
Nick himself quickly became one of my favorite video game characters of all time. Simply put, even though he’s literally just a head, he’s likeable, he’s funny, and he’s wonderfully acted. Come to think of it, the entire cast is just plain likeable, to the point where I bothered to remember them well after my time with the game was done. This is partially because of the wonderful script from Gunn, which, entertainment wise, feels like a good old fashioned Sam Raimi film. Overall I think this may be Suda’s most likeable cast yet.
I’m not usually one to speak in true hyperbole, but Lollipop Chainsaw is probably the funniest game I’ve ever played. Nearly every five minutes I was busting out laughing, and given the game’s short length (more on that later), it never truly overstayed it’s welcome.
With numerous contemporary references ranging to Facebook, to the anime Highschool of the Dead, Lollipop Chainsaw is indeed a Suda game. In my opinion, I prefer to describe his titles as “a game that contains a hundred other games” — a tradition that he keeps alive with numerous industry-centric mini-games and references I won’t spoil here.
In addition to the noticeable visual charm, music is a large part of Lollipop Chainsaw. Not only are the original boss themes composed by Mindless Self Indulgence frontman Jimmy Urine, but a number of old classic songs are used, ranging from the 1958 Lollipop, to the 1985 You Spin Me Round (Like a Record). Rest assured, there’s pretty much something for everyone here musically.
If I had to think of the closest game in practice to Lollipop Chainsaw, it would probably be Godhand (which Suda also worked on). LC is a linear stage-based affair with limited exploration, in that most of your movement is funneled through one main path, but there are branching areas to find secrets.
Running on the Unreal Engine 3, Lollipop Chainsaw is pretty smooth for the most part, allowing you to bust out combos with the use of pom pom punches, chainsaw attacks, and low attacks. Juliet’s Pom Poms allow you to stun zombies (but not truly damage them), which can set you up for an instant decapitation move with your chainsaw — the more zombies you corral/stun and behead, the bigger the token bonus you’ll earn.
Of course, you don’t have to get that technical with stuns, as you can just rip zombies apart with your standard high and low chainsaw attacks, as well as a number of special abilities you’ll earn throughout the course of the game (such as the chainsaw rocket launcher, chainsaw dash, and a ton of Nick head attacks). At first the game may seem fairly simplistic, but once you start buying combos and earning Juliet’s chainsaw story upgrades, the game really opens up.
As a word of warning if you’re an experienced action game veteran, make sure to play the game on Hard right off the bat. As the difficulty increases, not only are you allotted less healing items (which severely changes the dynamic of boss battles), but it also gets a lot more difficult in general. As a frame of reference, I only died a paltry few times on Normal throughout the entire game, and all of those deaths were a result of falling off cliffs — not through combat.
In fact, these deaths are sort of an issue in-itself, as the reason for them was mostly due to the sometimes wonky controls. Throughout the game there are a number of QTEs you’ll need to engage in (which are mostly forgiving), and sometimes you’ll have to be in an exact spot to trigger them. It also doesn’t help that the camera can continually get in the way, adding to these issues.
Additionally, there are a few platforming sections (mainly of which require your chainsaw dash that you earn after level 1) that boast particularly twitchy controls. Thankfully, the bulk of the game is pure hack and slash, so this isn’t an overwhelming issue.
As previously mentioned, the game is packed with content. Through the use of in-game tokens, you can buy a ton of different combos, songs, artwork, costumes, and special moves — the sheer number of content included in the game is staggering. Although you won’t really need higher level combos until the higher difficulties, all of the auxiliary content can help break up the action.
Having said that, the main story of LC will only take you around five hours to complete. If the prospect of a five hour game utterly offends you, you should probably steer clear of this game.
Thankfully, for completionists, there’s a ton of replay value. LC includes additional difficulties, hidden collectibles, extra costumes, additional combos, artwork and BGMs, and a full time attack mode with worldwide leaderboards. In that sense, it feels more like a beat ‘em up of old in that the bulk of your enjoyment is found in multiple playthroughs (like Godhand).
In the end, Lollipop Chainsaw is above all else a fun game. It has some issues (like most action games), but it’s a non-stop outlandish joyride from start to finish. Thankfully, there’s a ton of content packed in, and completionists will probably need 15-20 hours to obtain absolutely everything (rankings included) . I can only hope Juliet returns for a sequel.
This review was based on a retail copy of Lollipop Chainsaw for the Xbox 360.