Developer: Grasshopper Manufacture | Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment | Release Date: 2012 | Genre: 3rd Person Action / Hack & Slash| Website: Official Website
Lollipop Chainsaw opens with the protagonist, Juliet Starling, excitedly rushing out on her 18th birthday to meet up with her boyfriend, Nick. Not only is Juliet a cheerleader and the hottest girl in San Romera high-school, but she is also a zombie hunter like the rest of her family. Unfortunately, this is something that Nick finds out the hard way when a sudden zombie outbreak sees him getting bitten. However, Juliet isn’t quite ready to let go yet and one decapitation sprinkled with a magical ritual later poor Nick’s head is dangling from her waist. This gives him no choice except to come along for the ride as Juliet sets out to put a stop to the zombies that have taken over her town.
If the name didn’t already make it abundantly clear, Lollipop Chainsaw is not a game that takes itself very seriously. Cheerleaders and zombies are staples of the horror genre, but as we mentioned before, there is nothing ordinary about Juliet. Not only is she very proficient in slaying the undead, but she also carries around a pink chainsaw with her at all times. It is with this chainsaw that players get to hack and slash their way through the high school, farm, amusement arcade, cathedral, and other locations that make up the six levels of the game.
The game gleefully mixes comedy with horror, so as Juliet decapitates her undead enemies there tends to be plenty of glitter, sparkles, and rainbows mixed in with all the blood. Your primary objective is to kill all the zombies and defeat the six zombie overlords who serve as the bosses. The ordinary zombies consist of fellow students, farmers, firemen, and the police while the bosses are all themed around different musical genres. It’s not all just hacking and slashing either as the game also throws some mini-games into the mix to shake things up. These range from driving a combine harvester to playing zombie basketball. The amusement arcade level is also packed with retro style mini-games which riffs on classics such as Pac-Man and Elevator Action. Not all of these mini-games are a hit, but they rarely outstay their welcome. Even Nick gets the occasional chance to shine as Juliet can pop his head on a decapitated zombie body to get rid of certain obstacles. Later on, she even gets access to special “Nick Tickets” that allows her to use his head as a weapon in some way.
Although her primary means of attacking is her chainsaw, Juliet can also use your pom-poms to beat zombies into a daze.
This makes it easier to decapitate them in one-hit with the chainsaw, which is great for Sparkle Hunting. As the name suggests, Sparkle Hunting involves killing multiple zombies at the same time to earn platinum medals. These differ from the gold medals earned by killing ordinary zombies as they can be used to buy new costumes, music, and artwork. The gold medals are still very useful, though, as they can buy you upgrades for Juliet as well as new moves.
Initially, Juliet only has access to a limited number of moves, including high and low chainsaw attacks along with her pom-pom punches and a dodge. This can make the combat seem rather basic, but once players begin to unlock new moves it’s a whole new ballgame. After only a few new moves Juliet can be turned into a whirling dervish of death that is capable of slicing zombies from all directions. Her combos don’t feel quite as responsive as something like Devil May Cry or Bayonetta, but it is still possible to pull off very impressive moves. Killing enemies also fills up a special star meter, which when activated allows her to kill zombies in one hit and really rack up those platinum medals. After each level, the game ranks players on a number of things, and players can go back to try and better their scores, which adds some replay value. All the moves that players unlock are carried over, which also makes a new playthrough on a higher difficulty more fun.
Visually Lollipop Chainsaw is a good-looking game with plenty of variety when it comes to your enemies and surroundings. The bosses steal the show, though, as each one is more over the top than the last. None of them go down until Juliet has carved them up multiple times and, just when you think you’ve seen it all, someone turns their motorbike into a robotic elephant or you have to fight someone on top of a UFO. It is all completely over the top and insane but definitely makes the game more entertaining. Juliet also has some nice animations for the moves that she pulls off along with some gory finishers.
Lollipop Chainsaw more than delivers in the audio department with a great soundtrack and good voice acting. Since all the zombie bosses in the game are themed around specific musical styles it makes sense that so much care has been put into the soundtrack. The game features plenty of licensed tunes and it’s hard not to smile when Lollipop by the Chordettes begins to play during shopping or “Hey Mickey” by Toni Basil blasts through your speakers when using special moves. A lot of the banter between Juliet and Nick also had us laughing out loud at times. Nick is fully aware of how absurd things are and is also not too pleased about being reduced to a fashion accessory. The way in which Juliet and her whole family just roll with him being a disembodied head also makes for funny scenes.
Although the game is undeniably a lot of fun, it’s also a title that won’t appeal to everyone. We already mentioned that the controls are not quite as responsive as some of the bigger names in the genre and there were plenty of times where we accidentally activated a Nick Ticket because it’s mapped to the L3 button. In addition, the loading times are a little lengthy and the amount of swearing will also scare away some players. Just the fact that Juliet is a cheerleader in a skimpy outfit is enough to rub some people the wrong way, let alone the fact that she likes to suck on lollipops to regain health.
Overall, we had a lot of fun with Lollipop Chainsaw and wished there was more by the time that the credits rolled. The game does have a good or bad ending, with the former requiring Juliet to rescue every one of her classmates from the zombies, which is easier said than done. There are plenty of other reasons to play it again too if only to unlock all of the moves and costumes. While we could have done with some of the instant-death mini-games there’s no denying that Lollipop Chainsaw features a bit more variety than typical hack and slash games, plus it’s not every day you get to decapitate zombies in a shower of glitter and sparkles.