The video-games industry has seen a tremendous change over the last decade. But it costs a lot more to develop a video-game these days.
This has made it tougher for original ideas to come to life. Grasshopper Manufacture is one of the exceptions in an industry obsessed with yearly offerings of the same franchise.
The team has focused on developing unique experiences, such as No More Heroes, that has earned it a dedicated fan base all over the world. The latest gamble comes in the form of Lollipop Chainsaw – a video-game that takes a twisted bite out of that delicious American dream.
Lollipop Chainsaw is definitely not the typical zombie apocalypse experience. Its main character is high school student/cheerleader Juliet Starling, who just happens to also moonlight as a zombie hunter.
Juliet’s main concern is getting to school on time, so she can continue to swoon over her handsome boyfriend Nick. But soon enough, she finds herself having to cut her undead classmates to pieces, which she does with a smile. One of the highlights in every Grasshopper title is the dialogue, and the same applies to Lollipop Chainsaw.
The dialogue in Lollipop Chainsaw is likely to make some people blush. There’s literally no limit to the range of vulgar terms used.
Those that don’t take life so seriously will certainly laugh at some of the weird sex terms found in the dialogue, and also in other sections – such as the profiles in the zombie album. The enemies in particular are often shouting profanities at Juliet.
Some may take this as offensive or degrading, but Juliet herself often retaliates with witty comebacks. In fact she does a fantastic job of handling the extreme situations that she is faced with.
Anyone that attended public school in a big city will know where some of the inspiration behind Lollipop Chainsaw came from. There’s also a few references to the state of modern pop culture, with social websites like Facebook and famous figures like Katy Perry being mentioned.
It’s certainly interesting to see how these are included in a zombie apocalypse setting. Those able to handle the tongue in cheek humour are in for a rather unique journey.
The story itself is interesting enough to warrant playing to the end. Various cameos from Juliet’s unusual family members make for some fantastic interactions.
It’s also great to see how Juliet’s relationship with Nick changes throughout the course of the story. Admittedly there isn’t a lot to get through, considering that it will take about four to six hours to finish Lollipop Chainsaw. But it all ends in a manner that leaves the player feeling satisfied with the ending.
It would have been a lot worse to make it go on for longer – just for the sake of it. There’s certainly nothing worse than being made to replay stages, just to give the illusion that a video-game takes many hours to complete.
Lollipop Chainsaw avoids this and sticks to its philosophy of enjoyable shorter stages , that leaves a sweet after taste, just like after sucking on a delicious lollipop.
There’s a lot of information to process when it comes to the fighting mechanics. On a basic level, it consists of chainsaw and cheerleader themed attacks. These work best when used in various combinations, which will trigger devastating attacks.
Some of these are only usable after being purchased from the in-game “Chop2Shop.com” online shopping website. The shop accepts zombie coins that Juliet earns from defeating zombies. It’s a cunning way to make sure players replay stages, so they can earn more coins, and use them towards the various available items.
The superb fighting mechanics ensure that zombie hunting is never a chore. The various combination attacks are easy to pull off.
It’s made even better because special effects, like rainbows or hearts, appear after successfully finishing zombies off with these attacks. Defeating three or more zombies at once activates “Zombie Sparkle Hunting”. It’s not easy to activate it, but it will reward players with silver zombie coins.
New gimmicks such as the extremely handy chainsaw blaster, which acts as a gun, work great too. Even the bodiless Nick is put to good use by means of various attacks, that use up special tickets. His head is also attached to a zombie’s body, so he can help Juliet get through certain sections.
It’s rather difficult to not laugh in such moments, since Juliet is happily cheering in the background, while the player is pressing buttons in succession to guide poor Nick. There’s a lot more to the fighting mechanics that players will most likely enjoy. Each boss is influenced by a music genre and it will take some skill to defeat each of them. It’s deeply satisfying to continue hacking away at these bosses, until they literally fall to pieces.
The inclusion of unique mini-game inspired by typically American sports is a highlight. A baseball themed mini-game is not only fun, but reminiscent of the Sega Saturn classic, Three Dirty Dwarves.
Just remember to switch the chainsaw blaster’s aim to manual, since it will make it far more enjoyable. There’s a couple of quick time events that pop up during certain sections of each stage. These aren’t overly complicated, but failing even one button prompt will most likely lead to instant death.
It feels harsh to get an instant game over, but fortunately there are plenty of checkpoints, which ensure that not a lot of progress is lost.
Visually Lollipop Chainsaw is not on the same level as other ultra realistic video-games. But it more than makes up for it with lots of fascinating environments to explore.
Some of the later stages even take place in fantastic locations such as a building full of arcade video-games. It’s wrong to spoil every surprise, so it’s best to just say that Lollipop Chainsaw is filled with many memorable moments.
There’s a ranking mode that makes it possible to compete in three types of online leader-boards. These provide a welcome challenge for those that have cleared the main story mode.
Each ranking mode focuses on a different aspect, such as finishing a stage with the fastest time. There are a lot of collectibles to find in each stage, such as the lollipops that Juliet loves so much.
It’s highly addictive to try and collect everything. Specially as some of it requires playing through on Hard or Very Hard difficulties. Anyone playing through on Easy or Normal shouldn’t struggle much.
However, the stages become much tougher on harder difficulties, since more enemies will appear, and they take longer to kill. These optional extras ensure that there is some additional content for anyone that wants more; while it will not frustrate players that just want to play through the main story mode.
The soundtrack is an eclectic selection of various styles ranging from rock to cheesy 80s pop music. Some of the music choices for certain sections will most likely result in the player laughing.
It’s such a surreal choice of music for those particular sections, that it will feel almost like a dream. It’s even possible to pick the music being played for most sections in each stage.
This is definitely one of the best video-game soundtracks in a long time. It’s mostly due to the fact that so many of the music tracks are from licensed artists or bands.
But even the music tracks created specifically for Lollipop Chainsaw are a fantastic addition to the experience.
Lollipop Chainsaw is one of those experiences that will not appeal to everyone. Anyone that takes life too seriously or is constantly on the lookout for a reason to complain, is going to have a field day with Lollipop Chainsaw.
However, anyone that is able to handle the explicit dialogue will find that it’s a pretty surreal take on the state of current pop culture. Playing through is reminiscent of a time when the best part of a video-game was playing it.
Lollipop Chainsaw is yet another Grasshopper Manufacture masterpiece that doesn’t last long, but is worth every moment spent chopping up zombies with the charismatic Juliet.