Leave it to Suda51's game development company Grasshopper Manufacture (No More Heroes, Sine Mora) to take zombies and a high school cheerleader and turn them into something actually worth one's time.
Lollipop Chainsaw, a recently-released video game made with the help of Hollywood filmmaker James Gunn ('Citizen Toxie: The Toxic Avenger IV', 'Humanzee'), is a game that proves that blonde 18 year old high school cheerleaders are great for more than just rallying the crowd during a Friday night football game. They are, as it turns out, excellent at ridding the world of zombies. Well maybe that's just protagonist Juliet Starling, a San Romero High School cheerleader extraordinaire by day and zombie slayer by night.
Okay, so the premise might be a bit crazy; but so is the game itself. The again, the same can be said about most of the video games into which Suda51 involves himself.
Visually, Lollipop Chainsaw is above average. As could be expected from a game developed by Grasshopper Manufacture, even the mundane was well done and comes off as interesting and the further the player gets in the game the more far-out the visuals become. Character models (such as those of various zombies and non-player characters) uniformly look great, and obvious special attention was paid to Juliet herself.
The game's soundtrack is great in general and adds an extra element of fun. Jimmy Urine (of the band Mindless Self Indulgence) and Grasshopper Manufacture Sound Director Akira Yamaoka did a great job in integrating original music with relevant licensed tracks. Unlike the soundtrack, however, the game's voice over work alright, but inconsistent audio levels make some of the bantering during play jarring. Also jarring are some of the words in which the characters say, as Gunn's writing gets rather crude at times with an almost excessive use of cursing and quick conversational references to subjects such as casual masturbation. Chit-chat during cutscenes, however, seemed fine.
While the game is extremely good looking and boasts and above-average audio presentation, gameplay is where Lollipop Chainsaw falls a bit short. The action itself is there and it's rather entertaining to plow down countless zombies with a combination of chainsaw attacks and cheerleading moves. What's not there is a fully smooth combat system. While the game's controls are easy to use, they feel a bit clunky when the action heats up. There is no real rhythm to attacks and players are often times left feeling like they're simply mashing the buttons on his gamepad in order to get by. Lollipop Chainsaw's sub-par camera doesn't help much as it will sometimes get hung-up on things or provide a poor view of Juliet (from a gameplay standpoint, at least) when she is in a hallway or similar environment. While these complaints don't break the game in any major way, things could be better.
If variety is the spice of life, then Lollipop Chainsaw should be right up there with Indian food when it comes to level design. While the game starts out as a pretty straightforward and standard hack-and-slash title, players soon discover that there is more to Lollipop than that. To break up the action in the retro/disco-themed level, for example, there is an elevator stage in which Juliet ascends a building on a grid while dodging eight-bit objects that the zombies are throwing down towards her. Alternate-style areas within the game such as that one prevent Lollipop from seeming like everything is basically the same from level to level -- a trap that many hack-and-slash games find themselves within. The game itself is only of moderate length (7-8 hours at a comfortable pace), but unlockable outfits and simple enjoyment add to its replay value and extend the game's overall playworthiness.
Fun yet flawed, Lollipop Chainsaw is a game that should be right up the alley of Suda51 fans. Those who aren't familiar with his previous titles might not be able to fully appreciate this game, but most of those who like this genre of game should find this "M"-rated title to be good enough for them.
Final Game Guys grade: B
(WBIE provided a copy of this game for review.)