It’s becoming apparent that certain game developers have managed to forge a reputation of unwarranted adoration. Somehow – even without a compelling lack of evidence – their supposed brilliance is placed on a pedestal of worship as their faithful disciples praise key aspects of their work such as creativity, individuality, and how their false idol’s games are so unique.
That’s not to say that renowned developers are immune to producing bad games. Even the mastermind Shigeru Miyamoto has made some noticeably recent blunders (Wii Music, I’m looking at you). But Suda 51’s latest title, Lollipop Chainsaw, is so bad, so broken, so stupidly and disgustingly generic that it’s made me question the integrity of his so-called “genius” entirely.
Sexy And You Know It
Lollipop Chainsaw begins in Juliet Starling’s bedroom (I know, I was expecting the shower, too), as we join the game’s female protagonist on the day of her 18th birthday.
She’s the typical cliche of every boy’s wet dream: a blonde bombshell with a smoking hot body who’s seemingly up for a bit of hanky-panky. Juliet’s also the head of the cheerleading squad; fetish boxes, consider yourself ticked.
But wait, surely we can make things even sexier? Of course we can. Juliet’s favourite food of choice is the humble lollipop. Juliet loves sucking on lollipops – probably slurping on them too – which apparently provides her with the perfect source of “energy”.
Running late for her birthday meet with boyfriend Nick Carlyle, Juliet’s surprised to find that her bustling High School isn’t overrun by the usual jocks, nerds and goths, but instead, zombies. I say surprised, but in all honesty, she’s not bothered one iota by the walking dead. You see, Juliet comes from a family of zombie hunters, so her idea of a good time isn’t snuggling in front of the TV in her PJ’s with a tub of Ben & Jerry’s. No, Juliet’s at her happiest when she’s ripping up zombies with her glitzy pink chainsaw.
The onus is subsequently placed on Juliet to slice, dice and pom-pom bash her way to her boyfriend and discover what the dick is going on. (Yes, “what the dick” is one of the many inventive and truly special phrases of Lollipop Chainsaw. You can expect more rib ticklers and raspers like that throughout.)
Juliet makes her way to Nick to find he’s been bitten by a pesky zombie and decides to perform drastic surgery. The end result? Nick is preserved as a head, something that he will continue to bitch and moan about the entire game. With Nick now hanging from the pert bottom of Juliet, what follows is 4 to 5 hours of a repetitive and mind-numbingly tedious campaign held together by an utterly uninspiring and completely unfunny story.
Lollipop Chainsaw’s vapid visuals and archaic, abysmal gameplay are immediately apparent. Each level follows the same layout as you make your way down a linear path whilst being continually peppered with dull mini-games, quick-time-events, boring boss battles and wholly unsatisfying combat throughout.
Lollipop Chainsaw’s combat system is simple. The four face buttons perform low and high chainsaw attacks, pom-pom bashes (used to make zombies groggy, which in turn, makes them easier to decapitate) and a dodge mechanic. You’ll spend most of your time smacking these buttons like a mindless, well, zombie, as the combat feels clunky, heavy and lacking of any sort of fluidity. More intricate combos can be unlocked – available to purchase with the coins you obtain from cutting up rotten flesh bags – however, with games like Devil May Cry, Bayonetta, God Of War all besting Lollipop’s sloppy and rudimentary mechanics, the stark gulf in quality continues to grind with every exasperating encounter.
Enemies feel cheap, with all the generic enemy types we’ve come to expect in attendance. The exploding type, the flying type, the heavy type and the projectile type; you name it, they’re here. Even the boss battles, an area which you’d hope to find some individuality and innovation, are just a series of predictable cycles which will present no trouble to even the most unskilled of players.
Throughout the game, Juliet receives weapon upgrades in the form of birthday presents from her family, but even seemingly basic controls such as aiming and firing feel awkward. Using “chainsaw rush” and the “blaster” should be a highlight from the decrepit combat system, but predictably, and sadly, they’re not.
To break up the decidedly poor combat, Suda 51 and his team of clever cats took the conscious decision of lacing the game with quick-time-events and mini-games. In essence, the game has a very arcade feel to it, with levels essentially split between one gimmick to the next.
Such mini-games include placing the head of Juliet’s now bodiless boyfriend, Nick, on a blue headless zombie, then pressing buttons until he performs a boring action such as opening a blocked route. Other uneventful mini-games include driving a combine harvester into a load of zombies, or killing a set amount of zombies in “zombie basketball”; just as dull and repetitive as the last. Juliet will also encounter hundreds of context sensitive areas throughout the game which will require you to do one of two things. Can you guess what they might be? Yes, a quick-time-event or…a mini-game! Fun, fun, fun…
I recorded eight, count them, eight breaks for load times in one typically dull and derisory level.
You’ll also encounter people to save during each level. Once again this is essentially another mini-game as you attempt to kill all the zombies before your helpless classmates die, with a reward provided should you manage to save them. If you fail to rescue them from the hungry zombies, they’ll transform into more powerful zombies which you’ll then have the displeasure of killing. It’s a joyous event.
Two, Four, Six, Eight, Who Do We Decapitate?
Even though the game is powered by Epic’s trusty Unreal 3 graphics engine, Lollipop Chainsaw manages to sink to all new lows in regards to texture pop-in, bland environmental details, persistent screen tear during cutscenes and, my personal favourite, intermittent, unexplainable load times. I recorded eight, count them, eight breaks for load times in one typically dull and derisory level. And when you end up staring at the same ugly and technically basic looking-game after each one, you do begin to wonder, what the hell does this game need to load?
The game’s use of checkpoints is also questionable. Sometimes you’ll start off where you’d expect, whilst others, particularly on Stage 1 if you fail to complete your first “place Nick’s head on a zombie” mini-game, the game has the audacity to make you start the whole level from the beginning, cutscenes and all. It’s infuriating to say the least.
Lollipop Chainsaw is horribly unoptimised with noticeable frame rate drops (astonishing considering the shoddy graphics). The overall presentation feels lazy in its design and cheap in its execution. What makes things even more baffling is that the game menus are actually rather pleasing on the eye, with a comic book style replacing the bland and frequently disappointing in-game and cinematic visuals. In 2012, to see such a cheaply designed game is unacceptable, with Lollipop Chainsaw’s basic visuals and slack performance bested by launch titles from 2006.
Silence In The Classroom!
The audio is a collection of licensed tracks such as ‘Hey Mickey’ by Toni Basil and ‘Lollipop’ by The Chordettes. The songs are relatively inoffensive but often not in-keeping with the game’s direction or level design, which most of the time is admittedly all over the place. Players are graciously granted the opportunity to purchase tracks to create their own playlist, but its hardly a tempting offer considering most of your coins will be spent on upgrades instead.
The character voiceovers are once again, mediocre. By the end of the game, you’ll be wishing Juliet preferred gobstoppers as opposed to lollipops because her incessant cheery, bubble-pop, bimbo chatter quickly begins to grate. Funnily enough, Nick’s sarcastic and unenthusiastic rebuttals do a good job at summing up how you feel when playing the game, with one particular line catching my eye.
Juliet: “It’s so much more fun killing zombies in rainbow colour!”
Nick: “Nahhh, it’s about the same.” – Too right, Nick, the absolute same; continuously terrible.
Stupidly, I had previously envisioned myself chuckling and laughing at the clever and witty one-liners that Juliet and her dangling head of a boyfriend would spout out before the game’s release. Needless to say, I failed to manage even a smirk in the end.
The dialog is crude, crass and childish. Maybe it’s just completely lost on me but I failed to find anything remotely funny. Perhaps if I underwent a lobotomy I may have found maybe one line of dialog mildly amusing, though even still, it’s highly unlikely.
If you’d seen any of the prior trailers of Lollipop Chainsaw, you’ll have noticed the strong focus on sex and mature themes. Sadly, perverts and loners will fail to find any masturbatory moments worth their time, (I’m obviously taking a guess here), as only a drunk, 12-year-old pubescent teen with an IQ of 20 would find any of the scenes in Lollipop Chainsaw arousing. And even then, you’d have to have an affection for polygon women, too.
If you’re able to muster the strength to return to Lollipop Chainsaw after completion, there are collectible lollipops to find, costumes to unlock, specific zombies to slay, upgrades to buy and a ranked mode to set scores on. But when you consider all of the points above, you’ll only be returning to Suda 51’s pitiful creation kicking and screaming.
As the game eventually came to a merciful end, it was prevalent throughout that Lollipop Chainsaw stank of a self-righteous arrogance and an unjustified idea of superiority. Even after finishing this review, I’m struggling to come to terms with just how much I hated this game and everything it represents. Instead of splashing the cash on countless advertising campaigns and lining the pockets of the admittedly beautiful Jessica Nigri, maybe the designers could have used some of their budget to create a half-decent romp. Instead, we were served up a trashy game with trashy values and one that isn’t worth anyone’s time.
Prefer moving pictures and sound? Then check out our video review here.
A review copy of Lollipop Chainsaw was provided courtesy of Warner Bros. Interactive. The game was reviewed on PlayStation 3.
Lollipop Chainsaw is certainly unique alright. Unique in the fact that it’s one of the worst games I’ve had the displeasure to play this generation. Horrible visuals, a boring story and monotonous gameplay will make the game’s arduous four hour campaign a haunting slog of misery and pain. But you know what hurts the most? The fact you don’t even get a proper look up Juliet’s skirt. What a rip-off.