If I were to tell you the general story of Lollipop Chainsaw, would you buy into it? Juliet Starling is an 18-year-old high school cheerleader by day and member of a zombie hunting family by night. Wielding a heart decorated chainsaw and accompanied by her recently decapitated boyfriend Nick, she must save her classmates from a deadly ritual that has infested her town of San Romero with the undead.
Still with me?
Grasshopper Manufacture games tend to throw logic to the wind and deal primarily in stylish hyper action In No More Heroes you play as Travis Touchdown, a slacker who finds a laser sword and decides to become the number one assassin. In Shadows of the Damned you are demon hunter Garcia Hotspur, who must rescue his ultra-hot girlfriend from demons armed with a talking pistol that shoots bone bullets called the boner. If there is a button to press, Suda51 and Grasshopper Manufacture certainly love slamming their fists on it.
As I mentioned in my brief inclusion of Lollipop Chainsaw as part of my Four in February challenge, I have a contentious relationship with Grasshopper Manufacture. I find their games conceptually amazing, aesthetically captivating and deeply original. But often they are so incredibly difficult to grind through. Not for sheer difficulty’s sake, but for almost a lack of effort. No More Heroes was one of the best uses of the Wii’s motion controls, except the entire world not relating to dueling assassins was barren of life, making every miniscule event a chore just to get through. Shadows of the Damned, while benefiting from the steady hand of Shinji Mikami to craft a demon world, was met with sluggish controls in a game that should have been more reaction and twitch based.
Lollipop Chainsaw, in many ways, continues that trend. But I would gamble in saying that the grind is done so purposefully. You take Juliet from a low-level pom-pom punching cheerleader with only a few chainsaw attacks and grind through the game in true hack-n-slash style, earning experience to learn new skills along the way. Sure you are moving from room to room in your high school or cleaning up zombies at the arcade, but with each kill, each little bit of extra coins to shop with is a more stylish combo waiting to be unleashed.
The first time I played Lollipop Chainsaw, I complained about how tedious everything seemed. But as I got better and my skill improved, I found myself having fun stringing together combos against enemies that required specific strategies to defeat. When I finally beat the game, I was earning A ranks on the levels, rescuing all my classmates and making sure my family weren’t turned into zombies.
The combat in Lollipop Chainsaw was only part of the reason for my embracing of the game. Grasshopper Manufacture created a bevy of fantastic zombie-demon bosses (all with a specific musical style) to cut up. In typical Grasshopper style, they went all out on the boss battles, requiring Juliet to not only completely cut them in half, but to do so multiple times. It is incredibly violent and not for those disinterested that stylize gore, but I will never forget the first time a boss took his nearly cut in half body, and reattached it to begin a second barrage of attacks against me.
Grasshopper Manufacture clearly understood how much skill it would require to improve at Lollipop Chainsaw. Much like a speedy hack-n-slash like Devil May Cry or Ninja Gaiden, Lollipop Chainsaw is all about mastering all of your combat abilities. This is evident in the inclusion of ranking mode, which grades you based on your combat efficiency and speed. The game even opens up further the more you play with new enemies popping up to fill your zombie hunting cookbook with new entries.
If there is any one thing I can say about Lollipop Chainsaw, is that it is absolutely unabashed about what it is. It knows it is hyper sexual (mostly in the wrong way), it knows it is extremely violent (and everybody loves killing zombies) and it knows that it be extremely rewarding for those that embrace it. It may not be for everyone, but oh is it worth it.
Possibly the best all-around game Grasshopper Manufacture has created, Lollipop Chainsaw is proud to be what it is and serves as a reminder for gamers to not take things too seriously every time.