Sometime after the release of Zombieland, I came down with what I can only describe as “zombie fatigue.” The sheer amount of books, movies, songs, and games featuring zombies seemed to increase at an exponential rate. So imagine my feelings as I walked into my local game store only to find a trailer of Lollipop Chainsaw playing on the LCD TV. To know that there was one more entry into the zombie media apocalypse. As I stood there, stunned, I felt a strange feeling sweep over me. My eyes drooled over the graceful, sparkly, rainbow dance of Juliet’s chainsaw as it gnawed through zombie flesh. A smirk spread across my face as the decapitated head of her boyfriend dangled at her hip. I reserved the game without a second thought and it didn’t disappoint.
Suda 51’s Lollipop Chainsaw is a hack and slash action game where you take control of cheerleader Juliet Starling as she dashes off to the aptly named San Romero High School to meet her boyfriend Nick on her birthday. Juliet arrives to find the school overrun with zombies. Juliet kicks zombie butt—she is from a family of zombie hunters—but is oblivious to the flesh-eating mongrel sneaking up behind her. Nick manages to save her, but suffers a zombie bite in the process. Juliet quickly cuts off his head, casts a magic spell on it to keep him alive, and hangs the head from her skirt. If that’s not insane enough for you, Juliet and Nick must now defeat the zombie bosses of rock to return the world to normal.
The game is reminiscent of an old-school arcade game as you are rewarded with a higher “hunter level” for completing a stage quickly and with a high score. In addition to that, the game works on a checkpoint system so if you die you restart from your last checkpoint—the same applies if you exit the game.
Juliet starts the game with a limited amount of moves. You can pom-pom bash a group of zombies until they are groggy and then send their heads flying in a seizure inducing fit of sparkle hunting. As the player progresses through the game you can acquire medals from slaughtering zombies and saving your classmates. These medals can be used in the store to purchase new moves—in addition to abilities and items—to aid you in your zombie massacre. The move list is nowhere near as extensive as some other games in the genre, but the ones there are effective. Hint: Dodging is your friend. The possibility of button mashing through is present, but it’s far more satisfying to be able to plan out how you will mow down the next batch of brain munchers.
In addition to sawing zombies in half from the crotch up, you get several breaths of fresh air in a series of Quick Time Events (QTE) and mini-games. Place Nick on a headless zombie and perform QTE to have him clear obstacles for you. Toss decapitated zombie heads into a basket to outscore the zombie team in Zombie Basketball, mow them down; tractor style, to the tune of “You Spin Me Round (Like A Record)” by Dead or Alive, or complete a Pac-Man-esque stage without getting killed. You also get chainsaw modifications in the form of gifts from Juliet’s family members. The chainsaw blaster is, by far, my favorite it’s basically a shotgun you can use to defeat enemies directly or by setting off explosions. The gameplay is fun, but doesn’t come without its flaws. The controls aren’t as responsive as similar titles and you may find yourself adjusting the camera a lot—when you can. However, these are minor annoyances that you will likely forget all about by the end of the game.
The game isn’t making history in terms of graphics, but it is passable. The voice work doesn’t sync well with the animation. The cutscenes are static and the shorter ones a little choppy. The environment and textures definitely can’t compete with other games of the same genre. What it lacks in graphics it more than makes up for with beauty. The art style of the game fits well with its over-the-top storyline. It added to the overall fun of decapitating zombies amidst a backdrop of rainbows, sparkles, and stars.
The soundtrack comes from the minds of Jimmy Urine of Mindless Self Indulgence and Akira Yamaoka of Silent Hill fame. It features an eclectic mix of upbeat rock songs that stand in sharp contrast to the gore happening onscreen. Unleash Juliet’s star power—a brief powered up mode—to rip zombies to shreds while Toni Basil’s “Hey Mickey” pounds your eardrums with some sweet satisfaction.
Besides from the soundtrack the audio work is great in its clarity. Grasshopper Manufacture teamed up with James Gunn on the story and pulled some notable voice actors as well such as Tara Strong (Harley Quinn in Batman: Arkham City), Michael Rosenbaum (Lex Luther in Smallville), and a few other stars from hit shows. Most of the dialogue in the game is either funny or amusing. The banter between Juliet and Nick is golden, especially as Nick begins to come to terms with the true nature of his plight. The only other lines of dialogue you get are from the zombies, Juliet’s classmates, and her family—who I wish had more to offer, as they seem like fun characters. Also, while on the subject I must warn that this game is crass. I mean, on the first boss battle the word “cocksucker” is literally thrown at Juliet and there are more derogatory terms where that came from. It didn’t bother me, but those who are sensitive to the language may have a problem with it.
This game only takes about 6 hours to beat on the initial playthrough. Though there are reasons to come back and give it another go. For instance, the game has two endings: a good one and a bad one. In addition, you can try to collect all of the trophies, mp3s (you can create your own zombie slaying soundtrack, costumes, zombie profiles (which are hilarious) and hidden lollipops. The game is without a head-to-head multiplayer. However, there is also a ranking mode where you can compete to be on a leaderboard for a score, time or medal count. This at least warrants a few more playthroughs. Though you may get the urge to just kill zombies to a badass soundtrack as I do from time-to-time.