Lollipop Chainsaw Playtest: A Journey Into The Bizarre

By Kris . June 16, 2012 . 4:38pm

Lollipop Chainsaw feels like it came out of the early 90s. Try to imagine that’s a good thing. Everything about it, from the music, to the constant score counter ticking away in the corner, to the way it plays feels like an arcade beat-em-up had a baby with a mixtape-carrying Walkman after they went out to a horror-comedy in the vein of Peter Jackson’s Dead Alive.


It’s important to go into Lollipop Chainsaw with this in mind, because the combat doesn’t feel contemporary. Despite the fact that the game has three attack buttons (X is speedy pom-pom attacks, Y is regular attacks, and A is low chainsaw attacks for cutting legs off or dealing with zombies crawling along the ground) Lollipop Chainsaw isn’t a stylish action game in the same vein as Bayonetta or Devil May Cry.


Instead, it’s a score-based beat-em-up, more along the lines of Streets of Rage. You enter an area and kill everyone until you’ve maxed your “Kill Zombie” meter and the next area opens up, trying to build up as many points as you can along the way. While the distinction between the two sounds nominal, it’s important not to go into the game expecting combat on par with the likes of Ninja Gaiden. While there are a few tricks you can use to make combat feel more fluid, like utilizing the B button as a dodge that can cancel your attacks and put you directly behind enemy zombies, the combat still feels a bit jerky. This stiffness is remedied somewhat as you buy more combos, there are still points where it feels as though the game is simply ignoring your inputs in order for Juliet to pose after a pom-pom attack or put her chainsaw back into its neutral position if you don’t have an enemy to dodge over.


In the midst of all of your zombie killing, you’re constantly building up your score. An easy way to do so is “Sparkle Hunting,” a sparkling, rainbow filled point and coin bonus engaged by decapitating three or more enemies with a single swing. The easiest way to set one of these up is to stun enemies with cheer attacks (often by drop-kicking them into walls by using X in the air). Stunned enemies can be killed with a single hit from the chainsaw, so lining them up for wide-reaching chainsaw attacks will lead to tons of Sparkle Hunting bonuses. The more Sparkle Hunting bonuses you get, the more quickly you build up both gold and (rare) platinum Zombie Medals. Gold medals let you buy new attacks and upgrades from the ingame shops, and platinums will allow you to buy new costumes, art, and songs.


Mixing things up are the minigames, which can get pretty weird. By the end of the game you’ll have played zombie baseball (by shooting zombies with a chainsaw upgrade as they try to attack Nick as he rounds the bases while attached to a zombie’s body), run over zombies with a combine harvester while “You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)” plays, and even participate in a tribute to Elevator Action (sadly, no crushing enemies under your elevator). While some of these can get annoying (and lead to cheap deaths, which ultimately lower your score at the end of the stage), they generally serve as fun little changes of pace.


While fun, to me, the gameplay isn’t really the heart of Lollipop Chainsaw. Instead, the game is fueled by its style and charm, due in large part to writer James Gunn. I’m hesitant to extol its virtues, since I’m sure some people would be completely repulsed by it, but I absolutely loved how it managed to be simultaneously profane and lighthearted.


Juliet’s personality does a lot to establish the tone of the game. She’s basically a slightly more ditzy female version of Dante from Devil May Cry. She’s killed tons of supernatural creatures over the years, makes wisecracks while fighting off hoards of zombies, and is constantly positive despite the fact that the world is going to hell around her. She loves her job, and I thought her character was well summed-up by one of her one-liners after slicing up some zombie cheerleaders: “Okay, that was sad killing my friends, but also SO FUN!”


Nick, Juliet’s quickly-decapitated boyfriend, is the perfect straight man to Juliet’s constant positivity. Aside from his constant fear over the things that Juliet just accepts as normal (like flying zombies propelled by blood that sprays from their severed legs), he’s both a supportive boyfriend and cynical about his new status as Juliet’s keychain. It’s curious that in a game with a protagonist that looks like Juliet, Nick’s the one who is literally “objectified,” constantly used as a toy by Juliet’s sisters. However, it’s his rapport with Juliet that makes Nick such a fun character.


The following was one of my favorite exchanges between the two:

“What’s your favorite color, Nick?”

“Blue. No, green!”

“Awesome, I love learning more about you!”

“…I fucked up, it’s yellow.”


Everything bleeds this bizarre attitude. Zombies and people will spout out random (often disconcertingly obscene) nonsense ranging from “I’m fat as fuck!” to “Wash your hands.” Every tutorial is categorized under “How to Cook Zombie”. Each “boss of zombie rock” has to be cut in half MULTIPLE times, and will mock you as you do it, sometimes putting themselves back together, and sometimes changing shape. Between the attitude, the music, and the beat-em-up scoring mechanics, Lollipop Chainsaw just feels like it hearkens back to the days where games didn’t take themselves as seriously. The days where coins spewed out of downed enemies, and people would disappear into thin air after you’ve saved them (think Metal Slug).


This sort of charm extends into gameplay as well. For instance, killing enough zombies will allow you to fill a meter in the lower-left corner of the screen. When it’s full, pressing RT will activate a super mode of sorts where Juliet will start glowing, all zombies can be decapitated with a single swing of the chainsaw, and Toni Basil’s “Mickey” will start playing for no particular reason. When I was cutting through multiple enemies and getting Sparkle Hunting bonuses while terrible 80s pop is played in the background, any gripes I had with the stiff combat or frustrating minigames kind of melted away.


Food for Thought:

1. If you cut the legs off of a cheerleader zombie, she will walk on her hands to attack you.


2. The soundtrack is absolutely fantastic, with each stage seeing Akira Yamaoka take on a different genre. My personal favorite soundtrack was the first stage’s due to Yamaoka’s take on punk and the fact that the beginning of the stage uses Sleigh Bells’ “Riot Rhythm.” If you don’t like the level you’re playing’s soundtrack, you can actually hop into the pause menu and change your five-song playlist with a combination of songs you’ve heard and songs you’ve purchased with platinum zombie medals.


3. The dialogue is full of references to horror films and pop culture. It’s a little odd to have the characters referencing Katy Perry and Facebook, but they’re generally funny and are the only ties Lollipop Chainsaw has to reality. At one point, Gunn even has the characters make fun of the idea of running zombies, a subtle nod to his controversial choice in his script for the 2004 Dawn of the Dead remake.


4. While I can’t make it out, the rainbow trail that follows Juliet’s chainsaw has letters in it. It looks like “Hello” to me.

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  • FitzpatrickPhillips

    Fantastic freaking game. Like the playtest says, the humor, charm and style are the heart of the game and super well done. I was a “tad” disappointed that the combat wasn’t as in depth but I wasn’t expecting it. SOR is my favorite beat’em series and this is a well addition to my favs.

    Now all Suda has to do is release the Deadman Wonderland outfit and it’ll be perfect for me…

    • DemonicX

      Release? Wait..I thought all the costumes were already in the game?

      • FitzpatrickPhillips

        I thought they were DLC?

        • In the US and EU releases at least, all the anime and Japanese premium outfits are in the game already, available after you beat it.

          • KuroiKen

            In Japanese version they’re already in the game as well. As soon as you finish the game they open at the shop.

          • FitzpatrickPhillips

            AWWWH SNAP! :D

  • ZEROthefirst

    IMO the game is not worth the $60 price tag, it’s more of a feel free to rent it at your own leisure. The game’s fanservice and stupid fun, again this is my opinion and regardless I implore anyone interested in this game to rent it before you decide you want to spend $60.

    • I agree Completely. I don’t regret buying it at launch for various reasons, but it is in no way a $60 game.

    • Paradox me

      It’s only $45 on Amazon at the moment, though I won’t bite until it’s $30 or less.

    • thaKingRocka

      I think the problem with a rental for this game is that people will not stick with it. It has the problem of taking too long to really work well. You need to upgrade some combos and skills for the game to be really enjoyed. It’s a fault in the game design.

      I bought it for $45 from Amazon, and I would be just as happy had I paid 60. It’s a damn good game, and with some tweaks, it could be top-notch.

  • popyea

    okay, that settles it. I’ll play this game somehow.

  • Darkrise

    One of the best games I’ve ever played this year, though I do agree with the game not worth the $60 price tag, it’s just too short but still fun. I don’t regret pre-ordering it and I’m still not bored of it.

  • Göran Isacson

    Huh. So a game as simple mechanically as the street-punching beat-em-ups of yore, with a whole lot of modern graphical stylings and raunchy language. Funnu enough, the simplicity of it’s fighting system really does make it sound like your typical, awesomely stupid cult-horror movie: the chainsaw just needs to cut stuff up and wasting time on elaborate combos would just detract from the things the film-maker REALLY wants to show you. If, say Devil May Cry is a kung fu movie where the focus really is on displaying as many jawdroppingly amazing combos and elegant battles as possible, this is a gore-horror movie that isn’t really interested in what technique is used to kill the people in the movie- what’s important is that they DIE in over the top ways.

    • LynxAmali


      This is actually the best comment I’ve seen to describe this game.
      It’s pretty accurate.

  • Easily one of my favorite games of the year, I’ve already played through it 4 times.

  • Hoshi星

    I’d like a sequel please. Music is fantasic. Dialogue is crazily funny. Gameplay is simple and great. I love you Suda51/James Gun/Kadokawa/Grasshopper

  • SirRichard

    Definitely picking it up, I’ve been hearing pretty good things about it and Amazon have sliced £10 off it right out of the gate. That’s not very encouraging for its performance in sales, but I’m not complaining.

  • Cameron Ward

    i just recently beat this game and i really enjoyed it. i think at times Juliet could move a bit better, but overall, it was a blast

  • z_merquise

    I just beaten the punk-rock boss and on my way to the Viking-metal boss.

    So far, I really enjoy the game and like the previous Grasshopper games, gameplay is fun but not as polished as you expect but the characters, music, writing and presentation make up for it.

  • TheDarkEmpress

    Simply put this game is awesome. The combat is clunky only at first until you unlock some more moves, and then stringing becomes alot more fluid. These kind of games aren’t made to appeal to the masses….they’re treats for the dedicated fans. Anyone that’s liked one of Suda’s works will inevitably like every single one previous and thereafter. He has a very unique style and for some people it just works. I praise games like this…everyone tries to compare them to something and that’s where they make their mistakes…they say the game falls short when it comes to being a full-blown action game…who said that was the intent in the first place? And comparing a game like this or any “action” game to the likes of Bayonetta is a little unfair in my opinion…

  • Nemesis_Dawn

    This is the first game I’ve ever beaten the first day I had it and not been disappointed with it, at all. Such an awesome fun fun game. And the music is great. Hearing Arch Enemy’s “Nemesis” playing in the same game with Human League and Toni Basil is just mind blowing. I really hope it’s successful enough for a sequel or even a spin-off where you get to play as her sisters or her dad.

    • malek86

      “This is the first game I’ve ever beaten the first day I had it”

      This… does not sound like a good thing, at least in terms of length.

      • Nemesis_Dawn

        You can beat the game in probably 5 or 6 hours on normal, but the replay value is insanely high. Not only are there a ton of costumes and artwork to unlock, there’s also new enemies and items that only show up on the harder difficulties. Plus, you only are allowed ONE healing item on the Very Hard difficulty, so it’s worth a purchase if you’re either someone who likes to replay games you’ve already beaten or a trophy/achievement whore like myself.

  • smallfeathers

    I assume ‘Mickey’ plays because anyone who loves the movie ‘Bring It On’ will associate it with cheerleaders – all of the actors run around singing it during the ending credits of the movie.

    • Nemesis_Dawn

      “Mickey” actually had a video, back in the 80’s with the singer dressed as a cheerleader. I doubt the reference has anything to do with “Bring It On.” In fact, it’s presence in that movie is a reference to the 80’s video.

    • gouramiagogo

      Holy crap, are you like 12?  Or am I old for knowing that there was a music video for Mickey?

      • smallfeathers

        The song was released thirty years ago! I am younger than thirty.

  • Aoshi00

    Nice to hear so many good things about the game like the humor and charm. I hope it’s fun enough to go thru it at least 3 times to hear Tara Strong, KitaEri, and Hikasa Youko, unless you could just watch the cutscenes later.. plus unlocking costumes and such..

    Still waiting for my Premium Ed.. for those who could order from Amazon, it’s only $45 instead of $60, pre-order even came w/ a costume..

    • z_merquise

      Do you got the Asian version (Region 3)? I was looking for an R3 version of the game because I read somewhere that R3 copy of the game had English and Japanese languages. Not sure if that’s confirmed.

      Our country here only had Region 1 (US ver.) available so thats what I got.

      • MAO

        I don’t know about the Asian version, but I bought the Japanese (Region 2) Premium Edition for PS3, and I can confirm that it contains both Japanese and English language. However, in order to play with Japanese text and voices, you have to set the system language to Japanese first.

      • Aoshi00

        I only pre-ordered the Jpn 360 ver.. The Asian ver. should be identical to the Jpn ver most of the time. So if like MAO said, it should have both Jpn & Eng. text & voices depending on your PS3’s language setting (not sure if that’s the case for 360 as well). If that’s the case, I don’t think you could hear the Jpn audio while reading Eng. text, since text and audio go hand in hand, rather than option from in-game menu.

        I can’t wait, would’ve been playing it alrdy if I ordered from Amz US lol.

        BTW, the Jpn 360 ver. of No More Heroes 360 had dual audio but only Jpn text (while the subsequent PS3 Red Zone Ed. didn’t even have Jpn audio), so I didn’t even expect the Jpn ver of Lollipop Chainsaw would have Eng text at all..

  • Mrgrgr and Unacceptable World

    Street of Rage??? With a pom pom cheerleader holding chainsaw??? Suda51???
    I am so going to own this game lol.(Not to mention………… Deadman Wonderland Shiro costume,^^^^^^^)

  • MAO

    I just received this game yesterday. So far I’m enjoying it very much! As everyone has mentioned, the music and the crazy dialog are great. The gameplay is simple yet fun. I like the fact you’re allowed to replay the levels you’ve completed and collect zombie medals. The game only gets better as you purchase new combos and powerups for Juliet, making her a much more potent zombie killing machine. What I don’t like though is the instant game over when you fail in certain QTEs. Also, the loading is rather long.

  • Spider-Man

    She’s more like a ditzy version of DMC3/4 Dante.

    Waiting for the game’s price to go down since I do not have enough money due to all these damn games being released. 2012 will be the end of my wallet.

  • KHSoraKeyBlade

    I’ve already beat it and it was so much fun. I wouldn’t go as far as to say it is better than No More Heroes but damn it is real fun. I loved the humour and especially the colourful rainbows everywhere when you sparkle hunt 3 or more zombies xD

  • LustEnvy

    “the gameplay isn’t really the heart of Lollipop Chainsaw”

    In other words, the gameplay is mediocre as hell. Thanks, I’ll pass. I already knew this game was gonna be crappy gameplay-wise.

    • Nemesis_Dawn

      Translation: “I don’t have to actually play something to know I don’t like it.”

      • LustEnvy

        I’ve played all the other Suda games, and they were all crap to me. Just reading up and watching the gameplay tells me plenty.

        Like you have to play every game to know you will/won’t like it.

        The article admits that the gameplay isn’t it’s strong point. I’m playing games. If gameplay isn’t up to snuff, I want nothing to do with it.

        It’s a typical Suda game. Lots of style, but lackluster gameplay. I’ll never understand Suda’s popularity, at least for games. They should make anime or movies instead.

  • KuroiKen

    A pretty much accurate review, though, it’s a little more “black” on the game then needed. It’s not that bad.
    And the starting line that the game is “like it came out of early 90s” looked like an accusation or something. I, personally, like games of 90s(from the start to the end) much more than current games. More and more I’m playing those old games, instead of playing something new. Even now they feel so fresh…

    If I have to say something about Lollipop Chainsaw as a game, I’ll have to say – it’s fun, but very short. Then again, it’s AT LEAST longer(about 12 hours of gameplay on slow pace and normal mode) than current shooting games made by westerners(6 hours of gameplay, yeah). Suda did make it look pretty original(well, not considering so much references to old movies and everything else), with those rainbows and a chainsaw wielding girl in pink clothes.
    Also, the japanese voice acting for the game is immensly better than english one(that’s why I bought the japanese premium edition of the game, of course). There are two voices for Juliet, and of the two I think Kitamura Eri’s voice is the best fitting one for her.

    • Nemesis_Dawn

      First, I don’t see how you could get 12 hours out of your first playthrough unless you were going back to levels and grinding for combos. I beat it in about 5 or 6 hours.

      Second, the English voice acting is what makes the game as awesome as it is. Every single voice is perfect. She’s a blond American. It makes no sense for her to be speaking Japanese. Eh. I guess people prefer what they prefer, but I do NOT understand how anyone could not love the English voices…

  • imaguni

    I’ve been loving the game so far, I’ve just completed Stage 3. It is a TON of fun and hilarious and the music is great. The biggest surprise was the objectification of Nick, to be honest. I was expecting Juliet to be the biggest target as far as objectification goes and I feel that the game makes quite a few jabs at the audience the game seems like it was supposed to attract: drooling hormonal dudes of all ages. Kind of a “joke’s on you” sort of thing

    Surprised by the repetitive comments. It… is a hack and slash game, after all, and the game has a variety of ways to allow you to get to the zombies. So far, I haven’t had any major difficulties beyond a few frustrations with Zombie Baseball but I haven’t been bored once..

  • Learii

    what the L1,L2,R1 and R2 for? (ps3 buttons btw)

  • darkfox1

    Love the Fist Of The North Star reference in the first stage lol was well played.

  • Repede91

    Finished it today and immediately went back for another play through. This is what I wanted from Shadows of the Damned, that game just wasn`t Suda (or Mikami) enough for me. I would love to see Lollipop get a sequel, NMH2 improved on the first one in many areas.

  • It’s been a while that I re-play a video game for a second time as soon as finishing it. But, I’m having a blast playing the game and watching the cut scenes while being dressed as Haruna. :)

  • Valtiel Ikari

    Everything in the article makes me want this more, I love old school beat em up (I manege to download Street of Rage Remake full before sega demanded to bring the links down), the world need more of this type of games!

  • Brimfyre

    Reminds me a lot of the good Evil Dead game that came out on PS2, except not as boring after a while.

    It’s been a while since I’ve had a game that is this hard to put down. It really doesn’t do anything new, but I love playing it and can’t stop.

  • isfuturebright

    Whoever played Shadows of the Damned and is now playing this. How they compare to eachother? I found SotD to be desapointing (simple combat and story). Is this any better?

  • The rainbow trail actually says “Juliet” if you look closely. Totally something a girly-girl would do to one of her favorite things.

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