Lollipop Chainsaw (ロリポップチェーンソー Roripoppu Chēn Sō) is a comedy horror action hack and slash video game developed by Grasshopper Manufacture for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 video game consoles. It features Juliet Starling (voiced by Tara Strong), a cheerleader zombie hunter fighting zombies in a fictional California high school. A collaboration between game designer Suda51 and filmmaker James Gunn, the game was published by Kadokawa Games and Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment and was released on June 12, 2012 in North America, June 14, 2012 in Japan and June 15, 2012 in Europe.
|Engine||Unreal Engine 3|
|Platform(s)||PlayStation 3, Xbox 360|
|Genre(s)||Action, hack and slash|
Lollipop Chainsaw is a hack and slash video game in which players play as Juliet as she fights through hordes of zombies. Juliet can use melee attack, dodges and high and low attacks with her chainsaw. Zombies can be beaten into a groggy state, during which they can instantly be killed with a chainsaw attack. Gold medals can be earned by defeating zombies, smashing objects and rescuing classmates. These medals can be spent at Chop2Shop.zom stores found throughout each level where Juliet can purchase new moves and combos, as well as items that can increase her stats. Sparkle Hunting is achieved when Juliet kills three or more zombies simultaneously or in quick succession and rewards platinum medals that can be spent on other goodies such as unlockable costumes, music and artwork. As the game progresses, Juliet will also receive the Chainsaw Dash, which allows her to charge with her chainsaw and fly off ramps, and the Chainsaw Blaster, a long range weapon used for blasting enemies and obstacles. Throughout the game, Juliet can also collect lollipops which allow her to recover health. The maximum number of lollipops Juliet can hold depends on the difficulty setting. Juliet will die if she loses all her health or fails certain scenarios, though in the case of the former, Juliet may be able to come back to life by winning a roulette spin.
Throughout her journey, Juliet is accompanied by her boyfriend, Nick, who is a disembodied head hanging from her waist. At certain points in the game, Nick's head can be attached to a decapitated zombie's body, during which the player will rhythmically press buttons in order to have him move about and clear the way for Juliet. By obtaining 'Nick Tickets', Juliet can activate the 'Nick Roulette' in which various moves can be performed using Nick's head, such as a bombarding attack or making masses of zombies groggy. By filling up her star meter by defeating zombies, Juliet can activate a special state which powers up her chainsaw for a limited period, allowing her to easily defeat zombies and obtain Sparkle Hunting more easily.
On Juliet Starling's (voiced by Tara Strong in English and Eri Kitamura/Yōko Hikasa in Japanese) 18th birthday, she goes to San Romero High School park to meet her boyfriend, Nick Carlyle (voiced by Michael Rosenbaum in English and Kenichi Suzumura in Japanese) who is going to meet her family for the first time. Unfortunately, a zombie outbreak has occurred, which leads to Juliet fighting off hordes of undead on her way to meet Nick. When she arrives, she discovers Nick fighting off a zombie which was trying to eat her, and so Nick is bitten in her place. Realizing he will become a zombie, Juliet decides she must decapitate him to save him.
When he comes to, Nick discovers he is somehow still alive, despite being a severed head, and so Juliet reveals to him that she is a zombie hunter, and that she performed a magical ritual on him which keeps his soul from being turned into a zombie and retaining his humanity, thus explaining his continued existence as a severed head. Juliet attaches Nick's head to her belt, and she fights hordes of zombies on her way to meet her tutor, Morikawa (voiced by Bruce Locke in English and Bin Shimada in Japanese). Once they are united, Morikawa explains the situation, and explains that the Universe is divided into three realms: Earth, the Land Beyond Words, and the Rotten World, an infernal realm where demons and zombies reside. Morikawa tells Juliet and Nick that somebody has cracked open a portal between Earth and the Rotten World by a combination of black magic and explosives, and Morikawa sets out to find the culprit. Juliet reunites again with Morikawa after fighting zombies intent on blowing her to oblivion, and finds the person responsible for the outbreak, an evil goth named Swan (voiced by Sean Gunn in English and Nobuhiko Okamoto in Japanese) but she cannot prevent him from summoning five intelligent zombies (Dark Purveyors) to the world, which are stereotypes of different aspects of music centered on themes of rock and roll. Morikawa attempts to stop Swan from unleashing the zombie overlords but he is mortally wounded.
Swan sends the first zombie overlord, Zed (voiced by Jimmy Urine in English and Shintaro Asanuma in Japanese), after her, but she kills him in a fight and sends him back to the Rotten World. Zed, however, chants an incantation before he dies. Morikawa tells her to purify the school and kill the four remaining zombie overlords before dying. Juliet hunts down the overlords, while receiving advice from her sisters Cordelia Starling (voiced by Linda Cardellini in English and Mayumi Asano in Japanese), the elder one, and Rosalind Starling (voiced by Kimberly Brooks in English and Mariya Ise in Japanese), the younger sister. Juliet continues exploring the school and fighting zombies, and encounters Vikke, the second zombie overlord summoned by Swan, whom she duels onboard his airborne longship and sends him back to Rotten World. As the ship crashes, Vikke also chants the same Latin phrase Zed spoke. The longship crashes into the O'Bannon Farm. Juliet is attacked mentally by nightmares projected from Mariska, the zombie Queen of Psychedelia, but Juliet eventually shakes off the nightmares and faces Mariska herself, defeating her and sending her back to Rotten World. As she dies, Mariska congratulates Nick and Juliet, showing her disturbing mental state by giving them the finger when she congratulates them, then she chants the same Latin phrase the other two zombie overlords spoke before she disintegrates. Juliet's father, Gideon, arrives and takes her back to the city, where Juliet, Nick and Gideon infiltrate the Fulci Fun Center upon realizing it is full of gamer zombies. Josey, the zombie overlord in charge of the center, summons Juliet to his lair atop the building, and in a duel, Juliet also defeats him. Josey also chants the Latin phrase to execute his own life for his King's plan. Finally with one zombie overlord left, Juliet's family all team up to infiltrate an unfinished Cathedral in the heart of the city, where the final overlord, Lewis Legend, lurks. Upon accessing his lair, Swan taunts Juliet about Lewis being more than a match for her; ultimately, though, the situation is reversed. Just like all the other overlords upon their deaths, Lewis utters a Latin chant.
Swan appears and applauds Juliet for her work and reveals the cruel fact that she was a pawn in his game, and he allowed all the zombie overlords to die so the true zombie lord could be returned to this world. Swan also tells Juliet that it was she, and all the other students at the school, that made him into a monster through torture and bullying. (However, the flashbacks shown imply that Swan might have had feelings for Juliet and that her relationship with Nick pushed him further over the edge.) Essentially, the zombie outbreak was his act of vengeance against the school's students, and society in general for making him an outcast. Juliet tries to reason with him, but Swan, indifferent towards any attempt to get him to see the error of his ways, shoots his head off to finish the ritual and is absorbed along with the rest of the undead into a black vortex, which solidifies into the zombie of all zombies: Killabilly, whom Juliet is forced to fight.
Juliet battles Killabilly and is contacted by the ghost of Morikawa, who gives her advice along with Nick. Halfway through the fight, Gideon drives his motorcycle packed with explosives into the maw of Killabilly, and is seemingly destroyed. Juliet mourns her father, but Nick and Morikawa encourage her to enter the mouth of Killabilly before he regenerates. Juliet complies and lands in the demon's stomach, where, in his heart, she encounters Swan's headless corpse. She learns she must put Nick's head on top of Swan's body to make Killabilly explode into nothing, and tearfully does so after expressing her love for Nick. Nick tells her he loves her, and sacrifices himself for humanity. Killabilly explodes, and in a near-death experience Nick learns from Morikawa's ghost that it has been decided Nick's honour grants him new life, with a new body, but there will be a "mix-up" on the resurrection. Nick learns this means he gets Morikawa's body, which is far shorter than his previous one, but neither he nor Juliet really care. Eventually, it is revealed Gideon did survive the explosion, and together the Starling family make their way home in return for Juliet's birthday, which can be a positive or negative experience depending on how the game has been played.
Should the player save all available classmates during the course of the game, Juliet's birthday will go swimmingly and Nick will present his present of a box of luxury lollipops to Juliet. If the player allows one or more classmates to die, however, Juliet's mother will act strangely and turn around to reveal she has been zombified.
Before its announcement in July 2011, Lollipop Chainsaw was first mentioned as an unnamed game featuring "stylish action" in an October 2010 article on 1UP.com detailing Kadokawa Shoten's partnership with Grasshopper and Prope. Suda described it as featuring "really extreme twists" and being very funny. He declared that he thinks the game will be "a really big title in the worldwide market." Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment published the game outside Japan and filmmaker James Gunn had a hand in developing the game's story and characters. Gunn has said that many of the people he works with in his films and other projects are also working on Lollipop Chainsaw.
For the characters, the illustrator NekoshowguN (she is known for her previous works on music games GuitarFreaks and DrumMania) designed the characters for Lollipop Chainsaw and the chainsaw that Juliet Starling uses. On February 1, 2012, it was announced that Jimmy Urine from the electro-punk band Mindless Self Indulgence would compose the music for the boss segments. He also provided the voice for Zed, a punk-rock themed boss. On March 6, 2012, it was announced that one of the DLC available for the game will consist of different costumes for Juliet based on five different characters from four anime series: Rei Miyamoto and Saeko Busujima from Highschool of the Dead, Shiro from Deadman Wonderland, Manyū Chifusa from Manyū Hiken-chō and Haruna from Is This a Zombie?. These costumes can also be bought in the in-game shop.
A special Lollipop Chainsaw Valentine Edition was released for Valentine's Day on February 14, 2013 in Japan. The re-release features additional content, including a "perfect unlock code", limited edition sleeve, and two bonus DVDs. The Happy Valentine Disc has PC items such as a desktop clock, wallpapers and a library of trailers; the Premium Movie Disc contains in-game movies and a Valentine's Day comic.
In Japan, the game received generally positive reviews upon release. Famitsu gave the game scores of 9 out of 10 from four reviewers, adding up to a total aggregate score of 36 out of 40. Dengeki PlayStation magazine had four reviewers giving the game scores of 75, 90, 90, and 80, averaging out to 83.75 out of 100.
IGN praised the look and feel of the game, but criticized its gameplay, calling it "Bland, slow, and unsatisfying." Game Informer said, "The premise is exciting and imaginative, but the gameplay execution has too many holes to embrace completely." GameSpot praised the game's jokes, gameplay excursions and boss battles, but criticized its crudeness, control and camera quirks and combat. Destructoid praised the combat of the Xbox 360 version, calling it "intuitive, solid, and made to raise a smile". Jim Sterling, reviews-editor for Destructoid and the reviewer for said console version, named it as one of his favorite games of 2012. 1UP.com commented that the same console version "feels just as empty and image-focused as the latest Tim Burton production". GameZone called the same console version "one of the most unique experiences I've ever got my hands on" and praised its combat, but criticized the camera, commenting that it's "obstructing the action when by a wall, and it would take a few seconds to recover and let me see the action again".
The Daily Telegraph gave the Xbox 360 version a score of three-and-a-half stars out of five and said, "Erratic, smart, puerile, limited but never less than a lot of fun, Lollipop Chainsaw is something of an endearing mess. Too often its satirical tone can run into trouble, and Grasshopper's hyperactive approach to game design can infuriate as much as it impresses. But Lollipop Chainsaw's quirky edge and strong writing carries it through those shakier moments, leaving a candy-coated video game in possession of a sharp bite." 411Mania gave the PlayStation 3 version 6.5 out of 10, saying, "It’s a shame that there isn’t a lot of steak to go along with the tremendous sizzle of Lollipop Chainsaw. The opening cutscene is fantastic, doing a great job of introducing you to the world of Lollipop Chainsaw and making you laugh. The world is so creative and fun to be in that it’s really unfortunate the gameplay is so mediocre. If you were to rate this game based off the combat alone this game would be rather terrible, but it’s everything else in Lollipop Chainsaw that makes it a passable experience and worth checking out." Digital Spy gave the Xbox 360 version three stars out of five, calling it "silly, short-lived fun that won't appeal to everybody, but shouldn't fail to leave a lasting impression on players who stick with it to the end." The Escapist also gave said console version three stars out of five, saying, "While it's difficult to ignore the surface appeal of an oddball title like Lollipop Chainsaw, what are merely workable mechanics and some overused humor can't keep the experience afloat." However, The Digital Fix gave the same console version a score of five out of ten, saying, "While Lollipop Chainsaw could be seen as a tongue-in-cheek commentary on American hedonism, it arguably goes well past parody into the realm of uncomfortable skin-fest. Even worse, for all its excess it is just plain boring."
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