Monday, 16 July 2012

Lollipop Chainsaw

“Lollipop Chainsaw tackles the controversial issues of sex and gender the only way Suda51 knows how, with a rainbow coloured chainsaw. A fun and engaging story drives this otherwise generic hack ‘n’ slash experience.”

Suda51, a name that brings tears of joy to the gaming community. Goichi Suda has been responsible for a series of iconic games including Killer7, No More Heroes, Shadows of the Damned and now Lollipop Chainsaw. With an iconic over-the-top and flamboyant style, gamers all around the world are at the very least, intrigued to see what games produced by this man have to offer. Lollipop Chainsaw is a hack ’n’ slash game that questions social and gendered stereotypes, all amidst a zombie outbreak. Fun can be had here, but Suda51’s usual magnificent touch is somewhat lacking with stale combat mechanics and occasional cringe-worthy dialogue and narrative. Nevertheless, a wonderful artistic design and a lovable lead heroine makes this a game worth checking out.

Lollipop Chainsaw begins by tantalizingly introducing you to a just turned 18-year-old Juliet - a quirky, louder than life, somewhat stereotypical blonde bombshell. What you won’t be expecting however is Juliet’s ancestry revolves around monster slaying, pretty cool huh? Just like her absolutely awesome father, Juliet takes it upon herself to rid her home of a zombie infestation that unfortunately consumes her boyfriend Nick too, which gives Juliet all the reason to cut his head off and clip it to her hip and bring him back to life with magic.

The brunt of Lollipop Chainsaw’s controversy comes of course from the over-abundance of sexual imagery and references. Deciding whether Suda51’s script is clever or downright crude is really a personal opinion here, as I’ve heard nothing but mixed opinions on the matter. Playing through Lollipop Chainsaw I felt the blatant jibes at Juliet’s physical appearance, sex and sexuality leaned more toward the amusing then stupid, especially in the latter half of the game. If you consider that Juliet stands tall as a strong heroine amidst such carnage and that the game never really pushes the idea of girls aspiring to be like Juliet, then overall the controversial context is handled relatively well here.

Politics aside, let’s talk a little bit about the game mechanics backing this hack ‘n’ slash experience. A wonderful design lights up your screen as hearts appear, stars explode and rainbows glisten during each and every decapitation. Juliet’s two main weapons include a set of pom-poms and a rainbow themed chainsaw, which she knows how to use with deadly precision. Simple controls allow you to stun enemies and then finish them off in gruesome ways using that awesome chainsaw of hers. There’s nothing particularly challenging on the normal difficulty setting but when ramped up gangs of zombies can prove a nuisance especially while you try and save innocent bystanders. Combos and new unlockable moves help keep things feeling relatively fresh throughout Lollipop Chainsaw and fantastic pacing in what the game has you doing ensures that you won’t be mindlessly hacking through zombies for prolonged periods of time.

While Lollipop Chainsaw has some great moments in the campaign and an assortment of entertaining bosses, the overall length is disappointing. Clocking in at under 6 hours and with no real reason to replay the story other than for high scores on the leaderboard, you’ll find yourself somewhat disappointing of a lack of end-game content (much like in Suda51’s Shadows of the Damned). If you want to unlock all the other combos and stuff you missed then there is something here for you, but I was hoping for a little bit more content.

Lollipop Chainsaw also disappoints occasionally on a technical level. Flimsy and inconsistent camera issues make some battles a scramble and the collision system isn’t as precise as one would hope for an action game. This hinders what I would have labeled as a decent and enjoyable hack ‘n’ slash experience. The story is entertaining and the characters are fun to engage with, it’s just a shame that the gameplay doesn’t really hold up to the same quality. So if you’re looking for something a little different and quirky then it’s worth checking out Lollipop Chainsaw. Even though this isn’t Suda51’s best work by a long shot, it still has his trademark charm and wit that makes it a fun game.

6.5 | Gameplay |
Lollipop Chainsaw isn’t the deepest video game experience by any stretch but it does a commendable job in ensuring there’s more to it than merely button bashing. An assortment of enemies, cool combos and changes in the games’ pacing keeps you on your toes and avoids repetition and monotony. As a result you’ll get an enjoyable, albeit slightly bland hack ‘n’ slash experience that’s all too easy on the normal difficulty setting, so ramp it up!

9.0 | Presentation |
Lollipop Chainsaw certainly impresses in this department. A fantastic visual style intertwined with classic pop music like ‘You Spin Me Right Round (Like A Record)’ all help bring you into this crazy universe where Juliet hacks her way through groups of zombies. The gender and sexual themes are presented through humour but actually send out a positive message, even though the game can be a little crude sometimes.

6.0 | Replay Value |
You can go back and play on harder difficulty settings, fight for high scores and unlock all the combos and special stuff you missed. So there is stuff to do but don’t think you’ll get any actual extra content in the five hour campaign on your second play-through.

7.0 | Final Thoughts |
Lollipop Chainsaw deserves credit for an entertaining story, amusing dialogue and quirky charm. Juliet’s brash character is portrayed as a strong heroin and the ideas of gender inequality are handled very well in this pun on the conventional improperly dressed female video game character. I was very impressed with how these issues were handled and played with by Suda51. The same level of praise can’t be given to Lollipop Chainsaw’s gameplay mechanics, which are fun but lack any real depth and are hindered by technical issues with the camera and collision detection. If you can look past those issues, then Lollipop Chainsaw will serve up an enjoyable time.

Igor Kharin.

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