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Game Review: Lollipop Chainsaw

Once again I found myself finishing a game before I’ve even did a First Impression.  Part of the reason behind it is because Lollipop Chainsaw is a pretty short game, but another part was because it was so bizarre that once I got into it I couldn’t put it down.  If you’re familiar with Suda 51’s previous works, you probably have some idea of what to expect.  Campiness, craziness & a bunch of other -nesses.  So how does this game fare?

Since when do chainsaws have hearts on them?

Since when do chainsaws have hearts on them?

In Lollipop Chainsaw you play as Juliet Starling, an eighteen-year-old blond cheerleader with a zombie-slaying family.  On her birthday, Juliet finds her school overrun with zombies.  She learns that one of the school’s outcasts, Swan, has broken the barrier between Earth & Rotten World (the game world’s equivalent of Hell), releasing a gas that turns people into zombies.  Swan also summons five Dark Purveyors to complete a ritual to spread the zombie curse to the entire town.  Juliet, along with her boyfriend Nick whom Juliet turned into a sentient talking head to save him from the zombie virus, has to work together with Juliet’s family to stop them.

No girl likes being groped by zombies

No girl likes being groped by zombies

The game has an arcadey, hack-&-slash feel to it.  The game scores you based on a variety of factors, such as time to complete a level, coins collected, damage dealt, etc.  Juliet has three main forms of attack.  Her pom-pom attacks are quick & do little damage, but are useful for stunning zombies.  She also has two chainsaw attacks, one high & one low.  As you decapitate zombies you earn medals & stars.  The medals are used to purchase power-ups, new combos, costumes & music.  Stars build up on a Sparkle Meter, which when full allows Juliet to go into Sparkle Mode & one-hit most enemies.  You can also pick up Nick Tickets that allow you to play Nick Roulette & have a chance to use a special attack with Nick.  The game itself is broken up into stages with a boss fight at the end.  There are also several mini-games such as Chainsaw Dash, a driving-esque course, Zombie Basketball, where you have to knock zombie heads into the basket, & Zombie Baseball, where you have to protect Nick while he runs around a baseball diamond.

Story: For me, the biggest draw of the story is the characters.  They are all so crazy, unique, colorful & loveable.  I was surprised at how much I liked Juliet as a character.  Sure, she’s your stereotypical ditzy cheerleader, but they don’t overplay that.  She comes across mostly as spunky & upbeat.  Sometimes ridiculously so.  Nick seems to be intended as the straight-man we’re supposed to relate to.  He points out all of the weirdness that’s going on around him which Juliet & her family seem immune to.  Juliet’s family also have distinct & crazy personalities.  But what really sells the characters for me is the way they interact.  Juliet & Nick have an almost constant running dialogue that always makes me laugh, usually from a dry comment Nick makes at Juliet’s bubbly dismissal of the strangeness going on.  The interactions with the family are also fun & shows that the family really cares about each other.  The bosses also have distinct personalities & exchanges with Juliet.  Also, although the story isn’t groundbreaking, the craziness makes it interesting & there are some parts that take a more serious tone.  One part I really liked was near the end where Nick gets mad at Juliet for cursing him to a life as a decapitated head.  It’s a nice moment of character development & gives some depth to Juliet & Nick’s relationship as they work through the dilemma.  My only complaint about the story is that they don’t give a lot of attention to Swan, the main villain.  You don’t even get to fight him.  But they do a pretty good job of fleshing him out & showing his motivation for cursing the school in the short time he’s on-screen.  Score: 5

So many sparkles...

So many sparkles…

Gameplay: My overall impression of the gameplay aspect is that it’s hit & miss.  The combat itself is okay.  They try to add variety by having different combos, but I found that you only needed a few to be able to take out the groups of zombies that you’re constantly faced with.  Switching between combos can feel stiff & sometimes Juliet takes too long to respond to your commands.  The mini-games are the worst offenders.  In particular, Zombie Baseball is awful, mainly due to how crappy the Chainsaw Blaster is.  I think it’s mostly a problem with the lock-on.  The game tells you to aim for the head, but if you get anywhere close to a zombie it automatically locks on to their body.  The lock-on itself seems a bit fiddly, often locking-on to empty air in the opposite direction of where the zombie actually is.  Some of the other mini-games fare better.  The combine section in Stage 3 & the retro sections in Stage 4 were a lot of fun.  The game also makes use of a lot of Quick-time Events.  As is usually the case, this involves a bit of trial & error, but usually the game gives you enough time to respond.  However, if you mess up it’s usually an instant game over, but at least the game has generous checkpoints & typically puts you right before the event.  The highlight of the game is the boss battles.  Each boss has their own crazy strategy & involves several stages.  But the strategies all come rather intuitively.  It might take you a couple of seconds to figure out what you’re supposed to be doing but you’ll get it.  So overall while the boss battles are well done & it has some inventive sections, the repetitive combat & frustrating mini-games drag it down.  Score: 3

Pop cultural zombies ahead!

Pop cultural zombies ahead!

Visuals & Audio: Both the graphics & soundtrack for Lollipop Chainsaw are top-notch.  The visuals draw heavily from comics.  Characters have strong outlines & are cell-shaded.  If you look closely you can see the pointillism-style from old comics.  The graphics have a nice flare to them, & watching rainbows & stars shoot out from zombies’ heads was oddly stimulating.  I  couldn’t help thinking that this is the mostly girly action game I’ve ever played.  The soundtrack is downright awesome.  It features a mix of punk, rock, retro & other licensed songs.  The best part is that you can customize your soundtrack.  Some of the contributing artists are Five Finger Death Punch, Akira Yamaoka, and Dead or Alive.  So in spite of the girly appearance & the fact that Hey Mickey plays when you go into Sparkle Mode, it has a pretty gritty soundtrack.  The only downside is that you can only have five tracks in your list.  The voice acting is pretty good as well, although Juliet’s high-pitched voice could grate on some people’s nerves.  Score: 5

Replayability: Moderate.  The game is pretty short.  It only has seven stages &, excluding the Prologue, they’re about an hour to complete the first time.  Once you complete a stage you can play it any time you want in both story & timed or ranked modes for a better score or more money to unlock stuff.  The game also has two endings & you have to save all of your classmates before fighting the final boss to get the good ending, so you may have to replay some levels but it isn’t too hard to get the good ending the first time around.  The only unlockables that I felt were worth it were some of the costumes, most of the best ones you can only get after beating the game.  So basically if you’re going to relay it it’ll be for the story & boss fights & not for the unlockables or scores.  Score: 3

Overall Score: 4

Final Word: Lollipop Chainsaw is a fun & quirky yet short & flawed ride.  If you like the hack-&-slash style, are a fan of Suda’s work or are just looking for a bit of mindless fun, I think it’s worth a rent.

– GamerDame

Title: Lollipop Chainsaw
Console: 360 & PS3
Rating: M
Developer: Grasshopper Manufacturer
Publishers: Kadokawa Games & Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Release Date: June 12, 2012

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Gaming News From Gamescom 2011

So gaming’s been a little slow for me the past few weeks.  I’ve actually spent most of my free-time sleeping.  But now it’s time to get back to what I love most: gaming & writing about it.  (Also, thanks to those who posted reviews.  They really helped me get motivated to write again.)

Last week Gamescom 2011 was going on in Europe.  For those of you unfamiliar with it, think of it as Europe’s E3.  Gaming companies showed off their latest works, & there was some more news on upcoming games.  There was too much going on for me to list everything, so I just picked the games that were of most interest to me.

Some of these are updates on games I was already looking forward to, but there was one new game that caught my interest.

Lollipop Chainsaw

  

 

Genre: Action, Developer: Grasshopper Manufacture, Publisher: Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment, Consoles: 360 & PS3

I just happened to come across this game while scanning through a list of titles from the convention & thought, “What the heck is this?”  But after reading that Suda 51 (behind No More Heroes) was the creative director behind the game, I decided to check out the trailer.  Lollipop Chainsaw is about a cheerleader named Juliet who fights zombies.  She uses a chainsaw combined with her acrobatics to slice & dice the undead.  Not much about the plot has been revealed, other than Juliet is fighting against zombies that have invaded her school, & that her chainsaw can be upgraded.  The trailer looks suitably quirky.  I hope more gets revealed soon before the release date some time in 2012.  Let’s just hope it doesn’t turn out to be another Onechanbara Bikini Samurai Squad.

Saints Row: The Third

Saints Row 2 should probably fall under Games I’m Embarrassed to Admit I Played, but only to non-gamers.  As much as I love playing the nice, diplomatic hero, sometimes it’s just fun to be a tough bad-ass & create havoc.  And Saints Row 2 catered to this.  SR3 looks to be every bit as fun as the 2nd (I never played the first).  Several changes to gameplay have been announced.  The biggest is that you no longer use Respect to unlock missions.  Instead, Respect acts as experience, allowing you to level up your character’s abilities.  Also, it appears you’ll have more options on how to complete missions, which will affect various aspects of the game.  You get a new city to play in as well, Steelport.  The basic plot is a lot like SR2.  After the second game, the Saints have become superstars.  But after a botched bank heist, the boss, Johnny Gatt & Shandi are kidnapped.  The leader of the Syndicate tells them he wants a piece of Stillwater.  He’ll let the Saints keep their gang, assuming they pay 66% of all income to him.  Of course this doesn’t fly with the Saints, & they end up crashing in Steelport, which is run by the Syndicate via three new gangs.  You have the daper European Morning Star, the Mexican Luchadores & the genius hacker Deckers.  The goal is to take over the city, & most likely Stillwater as well.  The opening gameplay video looks awesome & much more fun than SR2.  The only thing I hope they’ve changed in some recognition that there are female gamers who want to play as female characters.  Meaning not into the whole girl-on-girl thing.  The scenes where my female boss was watching female strippers really broke the immersion for me.  Regardless, I’m looking forward to when this comes out on November 15 of this year.

Soul Calibur V

I mentioned SCV when I wrote about E3, but more information has been revealed since then.  Several new & returning characters have been confirmed.  Returning characters include Mitsurugi, Tira, Ivy, Voldo, Hilde, Maxi, Nightmare & Siegfried.  Taki is also supposed to appear, but it’s unclear if she’s playable.  I figured fan favorite Ivy would be back, but I’m glad to see Hilde as well.  She’s one of the only female characters that actually looks like she’s ready to fight (News Flash guys: spandex & thongs don’t make for comfortable fighting attire).  Several new characters have been introduced as well.  Leixia is Xianghua’s daughter & weilds a Chinese sword.  Natsu is Taki’s disciple & uses two ninjato.  Patroklos & Pyrrha Alexandros are Sophitia’s children, both using their mother’s style of sword & shield.  Z.W.I.E uses a sword with three handles & a wolf.  The story, as in most fighting games, isn’t that important, but it has Patroklos as the main character.  I’m looking forward to this game.  Soul Calibur is my favorite fighting franchise, so I’m eager to see what changes have been made to gameplay.  No specific release date has been announced other than in March 2012.

Kingdom of Amalur: Reckoning

Another game I mentioned from E3, no real gameplay announcements have been made, but we did get an official release date of February 7 2012.  Also, the new trailer reveals a bit more about the plot.  From what I can gather from it, the game takes place in a world that depends heavily on fate.  The main enemy appears to be a man who wishes to use the “Well of Souls” to become immortal, & your character seems to have something to do with it.  According to the narration, you die & are reborn, thereby severing you from fate, giving you a choice over your “destiny.”  I’m really looking forward to this & hope it lives up to my expectations.

 Dragon’s Dogma

No new information as far as the gameplay or story, but a release date has been set for March 27 2012.

It seems like all the games I’m interested in come out after November.  Where will I find the time to play them all?

– GamerDame

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