Lollipop Chainsaw (PS3)

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When first hearing about Lollipop Chainsaw sometime last year it immediately garnered my attention with its offbeat presentation and unique sense of style. A chainsaw-wielding cheerleader decapitating zombies against a background of stars and rainbows? Did I really just see that? I assume many people had the same initial reaction which I’m sure was part of the design from the beginning.

Lollipop Chainsaw follows the story of Juliet Starling, a zombie hunter who is trying to figure out why her home town, set in California, is being overrun by the undead. As the action unfolds you will progress through a total of seven stages which comprises a brief prologue followed by six additional levels. Each of these stages will take anywhere from 20 to 60 minutes to complete during the initial play through, for a completion time of around six to eight hours total. That isn’t very long, but we’ll come back to that later.

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One thing I can’t go on without saying is how absolutely hilarious Lollipop Chainsaw is. The random comments Juliet makes will crack you up and the occasional quips delivered by her boyfriend Nick, a severed head attached to Juliet’s waist like some sort of trinket, will remain with you for a long time. That is, if you don’t mind a hearty helping of vulgarity – there’s not much, if anything, held back here in terms of foul language. The writing at times seems like it could have been written by a juvenile delinquent.

This is part of the appeal of Lollipop Chainsaw if you can take a joke, which would be a good thing if you play it because at no point in time does it ever take itself seriously. There’s even a Trophy (and Achievement) for peeking up Juliet’s skirt, if you can believe that.

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The gameplay of Lollipop Chainsaw feels like something out of an arcade game. The controls start off simply with three attack buttons and a jump button, which include a pom-pom based cheer move attack that can be used to weaken your enemies before finishing them off with either a high or low chainsaw attack. As the game progresses you will unlock several combos that are simple to execute and very effective. You’ll also gain new abilities as you complete each stage, gradually adding new weapons such as the ‘Chainsaw Blaster,’ which basically works as a high-powered shotgun and is great for ranged attacks, adding a bit of variety to the action.

You’ll be rewarded for your zombie-slaying efforts in the form of gold and platinum medals. These can be spent at shops located throughout Lollipop Chainsaw’s stages to purchase attribute upgrades, unlock new moves, or even to purchase one of the over 20 alternate costumes. Multiple playthroughs will be necessary in order to fully max out Juliet’s stats and wardrobe, which is another factor that will help to add replay value to this short title.

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In terms of audio, Lollipop Chainsaw’s soundtrack is one of the best you’ll find in a videogame. There are a good number of licensed tracks and the original music by Akira Yamoaka fits the action perfectly. There’s an emphasis on metal and rock, but all of the game’s bosses reflect personas of varying musical genres and range from punk rock and heavy metal, to funk music and psychedelic hippie stuff. It all comes together surprisingly well.

Graphically, Lollipop Chainsaw doesn’t do anything to blow your socks off. There is a comic book style approach to the storytelling and this transcends into the visuals. It’s not a bad looking game, but it’s hardly pushing the limitations of the hardware. There are plenty of vibrant colours (stars and rainbows) that are visually pleasing and a nice reward for decapitating multiple zombies at once.

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Lollipop Chainsaw is not for everyone, that’s for sure. I think the game would be better received if it were sold at a cheaper price, too – paying full retail for a game this short will only attract a very select audience and offering it at a slightly lower price would help to take some of the edge off. There are things that could have been done to make the game longer, such as more stages or being able to play as one of Juliet’s family members, but I feel as though this would have taken away from the game that the developers wanted to make.

Even though I loved my time with Lollipop Chainsaw and will continue to play it for a while, I can’t say that I’ll want to come back to it six months from now. It’s one of those things that’s great while it lasts but when it’s over, it’s over and you’re ready to move on to something else.

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That being said, Lollipop Chainsaw is a blast to play through. There’s simply not another game like it out there and I love it for being unique and standing out from the crowd. The music is great and the arcade style action is pure fun. The fact that the game can be completed in a day or two doesn’t bother me too much, either.