Oh Lolly, You’re So Fine, You’re So Fine You Blow My Mind
I’ve played a few games with unrealistic female heroes before — my teenage years were spent playing the first five Tomb Raider games — but Lollipop Chainsaw was the first to make me actively want to take a shower. I consciously avoided talking about the game while female co-workers were in the room for fear someone would overhear and think I was a pervert. After all, the game is literally about a bubbly, buxom, blonde cheerleader — on her 18th birthday, no less — in a skimpy outfit using a rainbow-colored chainsaw to slice her way through her zombie-infested high school with the help of her decapitated boyfriend. I didn’t want to get a reputation.
So why did I choose to play the game then? Suda51, the designer, has a reputation for oddball games that buck convention — No More Heroes and Killer7 are the most well-known — and I didn’t want to play just another lame FPS. Lollipop Chainsaw has a style and sense of humor all its own, and it’s hard to hate a game that doesn’t take itself seriously in the slightest. Sure, it’s got a few major issues that keep me from fully endorsing it, but about 1/3 of the way through the game, I felt a strange Stockholm syndrome taking hold of me as I shut my brain off and just learned to enjoy the pretty colors and crazy side-games.
The game never settles for sane, and it rides the crazy train as far as it will go. Juliet rides a stripper pole, plays zombie basketball (slice off their heads and hurl them into the basket!), and fights such colorful bosses as a funk zombie who speaks only in autotune and flies a UFO, and a Viking zombie (riding a flying longboat) who turns into a giant disembodied head. When you enter “Sparkle Hunter” mode (when your kill meter gets high enough, you can insta-decapitate enemies for a short time), the soundtrack immediately turns into “Mickey” by Toni Basil. Your chainsaw also functions, over time, as a cell phone, machine gun, turbo charger and cannon. Look, you will either enjoy the weird, campy atmosphere, or you will find the joke wears thin and loathe the game.
The gameplay is the typical fighting game conventions — high attack, low attack, stun attack, dodge. Every area is typically the same — fight a horde of zombies, move on to the next area, repeat until you get to the boss fight. The game does a decent job of switching up the action with mini-games before it gets too boring, but once you’ve mastered the art of zombie killing, it doesn’t dramatically change much. The game mixes and matches genres — the fourth level, in particular, is a well-done homage to retro video games — but while the first half is slaying-heavy, the second half feels more like the game wants to be a shooter, because once you get the gun attachment for your chainsaw, that’s pretty much the answer to every boss fight and puzzle from then on. The game also doesn’t let you save yourself, instead of relying on an autosave function that is occasionally finicky. At one point I turned off the game after a save point, only to learn when I booted it back up that it had been the wrong kind of save point and I would have to start the level over again.
There’s a much bigger problem, though, that keeps me from recommending buying this game: It’s too darn short. I completed the game in about 6-7 hours, and the game tries to extend its shelf life by offering more unlockables if you play through again, as well as an online leaderboard and a new ending if you get a much higher score. But there’s just not enough content to justify buying it as a new release unless you’re really into the game, and I can’t wholeheartedly recommend that unless you rent it first to see if you like it. Suda51 has created something weird and distinctive in terms of game style — although I won’t wade into the ongoing Internet debate about the game’s objectification — but functioning as a game, it’s mostly hack, slash, shoot, and it’s too short to justify spending $60.
Final verdict: Lollipop Chainsaw is fun and weird, but might be off-putting to some. Zombie hunting is broken up by creative mini-games, but can get a little repetitive, and the game is too short for its price tag.
Lollipop Chainsaw provided by Gaming Generations.
Benton Sartore is a copy editor for the Wausau Daily Herald. He’s had “Mickey” stuck in his head ever since he started this game, please make it stop. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.