Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Review: Lollipop Chainsaw

Lollipop Chainsaw is a game that's always been circling me, but never actually colliding. A good friend of mine gave it a high recommendation, saying it's funny and quick.

It's something of a hidden gem as well. While it sold over a million units, written by James Gunn, and had a huge marketing campaign, it slowly disappeared from mainstream conscious. It doesn't help the game is not sold digitally on PC, so the only way to play it is by finding a used copy.

The game actively wants to please the player. It constantly throws jokes, it throws creative set pieces, mini-games, secret spots, you think of it, and Lollipop Chainsaw is trying it.

What I appreciated is the variety of level and mini-game design. The two go hand-in-hand. Each level unlocks a new ability for Juliet and Nick, and the new ability is used throughout the following level. This pairs well with the upgrade trees, and future replayability to buy more moves with points.

The mini-games are relatively unique level to level. The arcade has several classic video game sections, the farm has several rail-gun-like section, the school has zombie basketball. After every two or three waves of zombie fighting, a new mini-game appears. Lollipop Chainsaw is never repetitive.

And the coolest things, I have to say, is that Lollipop Chainsaw feels like it was written by a writer. I know James Gunn wrote the script, and it feels like he did. An unfortunate reality of games is that artists and designers come up with the story during early development, and actual writers tend to come in much later in the process to stitch things together. Lollipop Chainsaw feels cohesive and coherent, like someone knew what they were doing, instead of some designers just winging it.

There are some sore spots. There are only a handful of levels, which means those few levels take a rather long length of time. This works at the game's detriment, as the jokes and the novelty of the level have a tendency to overstay their welcome.

The camera. This honestly feels like a PlayStation 2 game at times with how annoying the camera can be. While it's difficult for me to classify it as "bad", it will get in the way a few times every level.

Another issue is the game can act a little buggy with some of mini-games. For example, there is a portion of a level, about ten seconds in total, that has Juliet racing past a collapsing building. I steer Juliet to the ramp, she jumps off, she's on the other building with less than a second, but because her feet didn't touch the ground yet, the game read it that I was still on the previous building, which resulted in instant death. This happened about a dozen times until one try actually performed correctly. That's a lot of loading screens.

My final nitpick is the game gives the player a lot of options, but never really tells them what buttons do what, or what gameplay mechanics do what either. There is a fair bit of trial and error and experimenting.

If you like solid beat-em ups, looking for a genuinely funny game, and have six or so hours to spend, then look for a copy of Lollipop Chainsaw. It's still fun and worth a play through. And if you especially dig the game, multiple difficulties, challenges, and unlockables await. The game has a lot of heart and creativity, so don't pass it up if you get the chance.

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