[Review] - Lollipop Chainsaw, On PS3

Courtesy of WarnerBros Interactive
Until the beginning of this month, the last new release game I'd played was Ghostbusters on the PS2, which I think was also one of the last games released on the PS2. Until this month, I'd never played a current generation video game. The intention was to buy the PS3, buy Lego Batman 2, and have a happy couple weeks playing through (a speed which guaranties that game reviews will be few and far between). Instead, I ended up with a copy of Lollipop Chainsaw in my console, and a couple weeks became a couple days, as I hacked, sawed and pom-pommed my way through a manageable zombie uprising.

And I had a blast doing so. The game won't win any awards for artistic integrity, but it both owns and subverts the genre and style it has been made in, with ever loving nods and winks all around. It will get an audience based on mammaries alone, but it deserves an audience who will play it because it's fun and engaging. But at first glance, most anyone will think will be boobs.

Hit the jump for the review.

The first thing that struck me about the game was how virginal it was. You'd expect, considering the image above, and the marketing for the game, that it is yet another in a long line of games meant to excite the adolescent boys, desperate for the slightest hint of sexual suggestion, to then go running off to their bunks during the load screens. It's a big club, with the likes of Bayonetta, Lara Croft, Heavenly Sword, Tekken, Grand Theft Auto, Mortal Kombat, and pretty much every game with a female character in it. In the virtual world, men are built like brick shit houses, and the women like clotheslines with sand bags strapped to it, and barely any clothes. You know, the 'Modern Ideal'.

And yes, Juliet, the protagonist, is no different. I can't imagine doing all those somersaults and back flips would help her clearly present back problems, and she wears clothes that most strippers would consider risque. But aside from a few quick gags at the beginning, and the various fan-wanking costumes you can purchase throughout the game, sex goes largely unmentioned. When it does, it isn't salacious, it's lamentably. Juliet never solicits, and at one point basically condemns, which was refreshing. The villains don't rely on it as a mark against her (though the game does continue Batman: Arkham City's trend of using bitch aggressively), and the only other human characters in the game are her immediate family. It's like a exploitation film that draws you in with a gratuitous trailer, then fails to actually exploit anything. Her stripper pole moves, so prominent in the marketing, are so infrequently able to be used, I actually forgot about them.

And that good. Because it means, despite the number of panty shots and random pans across her buttock or chest, the game concentrates on other areas to be exploitative. The dialogue is filthy, especially from the undead, who not only can talk, but seem really bitter. The violence is cranked to eleven, with Juliet's proximity to the camera the only deciding factor in how much of the screen gets splattered in blood. It's basically an eighties horror movie with a fifties sensibility. If Leave It To Beaver met Evil Dead.

The story is from James Gunn, who wrote both Scooby-Doo movies, so minus points there, but also directed  Nathon Fillion in Slither, and was once married to the office's Jenna Fischer, so plus points on those. It's essentially Buffy, if Harmony were the slayer, and she had body image issues (seriously, the random comments about how fat she was were the most off putting thing about the entire game, but I suppose it was a commentary on how the modern culture effects teenage girls, even if they already look like a porn star). She comes from a family of zombie hunters, so when her school is overtaken, she produces a chainsaw from hammer space and is ready to roll. At no point is she not in complete control, or doubts her abilities even for a second. So confident is she, that they dispense of the Giles character in the first sequence, letting Juliet take control for the rest of the show.

I think the biggest disappointment, for me, came from the family, as they each get introduced, but are never used. I was interested in them, but the game isn't, and moves on pretty quickly. In the final stage,much is made of the family looking out for you, but as far as I could tell, they never actually do anything of note outside of cut scenes. Would it have killed them to add in side missions for the sisters? Have the sniper have to pick off zombies as Juliet makes her way to the church? Have Rosalind clear a path with a bus? If the developers are looking for a sequel idea, I'd start there. Maybe make it a Team Fortress 2 sort of thing, with the Starlings on a family vacation, and each family member with a particular set of skills. Juliet has her chainsaw, so that's close combat; Cordelia has a sniper rifle, so that's range; Rosalind the vehicles, and Gideon the muscle and explosives. It's all there, they just have to apply it correctly.

The game play is a standard hack and slash sort of game, with frustratingly basic controls. Two slashes, one punch, one jump and later on a gun mode that targets and fires. So simple in fact that in hoard sequences, you spend most of the time jumping like a jack rabbit, hoping the zombies won't land a punch, and knock you on your ass, because it takes forever to get back up, and because there is no dodge or block. That Nick's head can be used as a weapon is not a new idea, but it's not used here to maximum effect. You need special cards to use him, and even then it only starts Super Mario Bros 3 style mini game which can result in you not getting Nick's help at all. I played the entire game, and I think only used Nick twice, both times when prompted to learn how. Want to see how a game incorporates a sidekick as a weapon, look at the fantastically fun Evil Dead: Regeneration, and how Ash can use Sam.

The worst part of the game play is how little of it there is, constantly being interrupted by quick time events and cut scenes. The developers were clearly in love with the story, but it breaks up the game play on a regular basis. The world is not just linear, it's heavily directed, with arrows bludgeoning the way for you, only to have your own skills as a player forsaken in favour of a quick time event which removes all sense of pacing and of relevance for certain skills in game. You never get a sense that Juliet is a gymnast because you never have to develop her in the way; if something is taller then a person, just hit O when directed and the game does it for you. I'd have much rather built up those skills myself. And the occasional ability to stick Nick's head on a headless body is a wasted opportunity, nothing more then a Dance Dance for your fingers. Could they not have included side missions for Nick where he can accomplish something other then walking towards a barrier and waiting for the game to do the work? Timed events are too much to ask for? Something with a bit of a challenge behind it?

The game isn't the clearest when it comes to directions. Early on, it tells you to check the phone when it rings, and ring it does, often. But there is no indication how to answer it (turns out, you can't. You have to go into a sub menu off the title screen and listen to voice mails there). For certain skills, you end up button mashing until you accidentally engage an ability. And I was three quarters of the way through the game before I realised how to change Juliet's standard cheerleader costume into any of the ones I unlocked (none of which, other then the giant rabbit costume, are anything other then needlessly sexual or shout outs to other games. For my money, only the Ash DLC is worth it).

But it is engaging. So engaging, I powered through it in a couple days. Maybe that means it's just a short game, and I know some people aren't fans of those. But for me, the story was fun, the characters engaging and I wanted to keep playing. Games like this can become boring and repetitive when it's just 'walk in, kill hoard of zombie, rinse repeat', but Lollipop Chainsaw never feels like that. It shakes things up with each sequence, introduces new elements to keep you amused (farm combine anyone?), and never takes itself too seriously. The cast, what few there are, are fantastic. Tara Strong, one of the most talented voice actors in the industry today, does a great job as the airheaded, but sincere Juliet. But the stand out is Michael Rosenbaum as the bodiless Nick, who spends the entire game bitching and moaning about his situation. His comments are rarely repetitive, or at least not noticeably so, and he provides excellent levity throughout.

Yeah, and I got the 'bad' ending, because I scored so low on the damned baseball level. Ass.
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About MR. Clark

Adopting the descriptor of "successfully unpublished author", MR. Clark began writing things on the internet in 2012, which he believed to be an entirely reputable and civilized place to find and deliver information. He regrets much.

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