Review

Lollipop Chainsaw

Who Do We Appreciate?

Lollipop Chainsaw pays homage to pop music, exploitation, and teenage romance.

By Gus Mastrapa • June 13, 2012

When Mario met Bowser’s kids in Super Mario Bros. 3, he encountered and bested enemies named after musicians like Iggy Pop and Wendy O. Williams of The Plasmatics. Goichi Suda, better known as Suda 51, stretches the conceit of rock stars as video game bosses as far as it will go in the sexy, strange new action game Lollipop Chainsaw. Here, a mopey goth modeled after Marilyn Manson takes over his high school, starts a zombie plague, and unleashes musically inclined demons like a black-metal viking and a psychedelic, sitar-playing hippie to hasten the world’s destruction. The only thing between this jerk and his dark aims is a cheerleader with a gas-powered gardening tool.

It’s easy to dismiss Lollipop Chainsaw as sexist, knuckle-dragging exploitation. But to do so would be to miss out on one of the strangest games to hit consoles since the last time a Suda 51 joint graced a GameStop. Suda 51 makes games heavily steeped in pop culture. Last years’ Shadows Of The Damned was an homage to The Evil Dead II as filtered through Resident Evil 4. Lollipop Chainsaw casts “Oops!…I Did It Again” Britney Spears in a hack-and-slash knockoff of the 1992 Buffy The Vampire Slayer movie.

Lollipop Chainsaw

The game’s lead, Juliet Starling, is a leggy drink of Diet Coke who wields pom-poms and chainsaw like Bayonetta with a learner’s permit. Pushing Juliet’s buttons sends the zombie killer into a dance routine that melds acrobatic cheers, deadly swordplay, and pro-wrestling brutality into a gonzo martial art. Turns out that Juliet comes from a family of zombie killers—her sister Cordelia (voiced by Freaks And Geeks star Linda Cardellini) is a sneering badass with a sniper rifle. And her father (Hung’s Gregg Henry) is a square-jawed All-American who looks like an Elvis man.

Juliet is poised to reveal her family secret to her sweetheart, Nick, when the undead shit hits the fan. The dude catches a zombie bite and is doomed, but Juliet manages to save his life with magic and some amateur surgery, decapitating the guy and hanging his noggin from her skirt like a key-chain fob. The pair embark on an increasingly bizarre quest to eradicate the shambling brain-eaters and the pop music bosses who control them. The pairing is clever—playing to the emasculation seen in Russ Meyer pictures. It makes sense that much of the game’s writing was done by James Gunn—a graduate of the cult indie studio Troma who regularly mixes profanity and gore.

Lollipop Chainsaw doesn’t beat the player over the head with notions of strong female leads. Those thoughts probably don’t even congeal in this game’s addled consciousness. The game is more concerned with irreverently mashing up its trash cinema, hip music, and geek gaming references into something you’ve never seen before. It succeeds thanks to style and sheer audacity.

Juliet’s already off-the-wall fighting style is juiced by cartoon flourishes. The arcs of her chainsaw leave behind rainbow trails. Dismembered enemies spew sparkles from their wounds and leave behind coins, stars, and heart-shaped explosions rather than gouts of blood. Suda 51, serving as “creative director” rather than lead designer on this effort, imbues Lollipop Chainsaw’s combat with the visual and audio racket of a Las Vegas casino. The effect is mesmerizing and somewhat numbing but wholly original.

Lollipop Chainsaw

Lollipop Chainsaw never settles into a rut. Rather, Suda 51 staves off boredom with left turns and one-off mini games that change the way you play and then take a bow just as the novelty wears off. One of these switch-ups occurs when scaling the tower of a keyboard-wielding funk master. Every floor of his video game arcade puts Juliet in a recreation of an old-school game like Pac-Man or Pong. Among the dozens of referential moments like this in the game, some are there to accentuate the drama. Others, like the bit where Juliet drives a combine to harvest the zombies in a wheat field—as Dead Or Alive’s “You Spin Me Round (Like A Record)” plays in the background—are there simply to put a smile on your face.

This isn’t what you’d call a brainy game. But Suda 51 and James Gunn have given their noisy celebration of music, titillation, and gore a heart. During their quest, Juliet and her mook of a boyfriend, Nick, have their ups and downs. The lovers face more than a few jerks who would tear down everything these crazy kids want to build. But when all the chips are on the table, and it comes time for the pair to declare their affection for each other, it’s believable. Don’t mistake over-the-top bluster and childish profanity for insincerity. Whether its an affection for pop culture or the hormonal feelings of two crazy kids, Lollipop Chainsaw is really all about love.

Lollipop Chainsaw
Developer: Grasshopper Manufacture
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Reviewed on: Xbox 360
Price: $60
Rating: M

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  • JosephHilgard

    That’s a lot of words about everything but the gameplay, Gus!  Is it challenging?  Is it rewarding? Is it fun? Pop culture is just dressing – how’s the meat?

    • http://gameological.com/author/johnteti/ John Teti

      It’s a lot of words about things that the critic was struck by and cared about. Different people have different ideas about what constitutes the “meat” of a given work. The site embraces that individual subjectivity, and the result will often be a review that doesn’t answer all of your questions, which are perfectly reasonable, of course. We prefer heartfelt depth to assiduous breadth — especially since we write with the knowledge that there will be hundreds of people offering their own perspectives on the game, so one review doesn’t have to “do it all.”

      • Cornell_University

        NEEDS MORE MEAT

        • Cornell_University

          OR PIZZA

        • Aurora Boreanaz

          Where’s the Beef?

      • ShitMcFuckensteinAVC

        Personally, I love the approach that the reviewers on this site are taking. If I want grades or wonky discussion of game mechanics I can go to literally any other game site on the web.

        • KidvanDanzig

          If I wanted to read game reviews that have nothing to do with gameplay, I’d read Killscreen. But no one should read Killscreen. They liked Duke Nukem Forever.

      • http://twitter.com/marlowespade Chris Holly

         That’s exactly why I like reviews from sites like this and Qt3. I’d much rather have a personal opinion from a reviewer, so I can have a perspective on how a game strikes a specific person and gauge my dis/interest accordingly.

        Much better than the reviews from the other big sites which are (as someone better than me put it) “elongated instruction manuals”.

        • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

           Expecting every game review here to elaborate on the mechanics would be like expecting every film and television review on the AVClub to linger on the cinematography.

    • KidvanDanzig

      Suda 51 has never made anything that’s been fun to play for more than an hour or two. Doesn’t sound like this breaks his streak.

      • http://www.facebook.com/KraigBrachman Kraig Brachman

        Well I would have to agree that mechanics take a back seat to the world and characters that Suda 51 creates, I think that the biggest carrot for Suda 51 games are to see what is around that next corner. No More Heroes captured my hart not with amazing combat, or open world exploration, but with interesting characters, laugh out loud moments, and always being surprised.

  • Aurora Boreanaz

    The music alone might make me try this one out.

    Okay, I admit it…the cheerleader outfit and zombies already had me interested.  But the musical aspect puts it over the line from “meh, maybe” to “okay, sure!”

    • doyourealize

      This has pretty much been on my must-buy list (or at least must-play) since I found out Suda 51 was releasing a game with a cheerleader as a main character. Glad to see it’s good, too.

    • AHyperkineticLagomorph

      Honestly, I was put off when I first saw this. Great, cheap fan service and blood.

      And then I saw it was made by Suda51. That alone changed my mind. His games ALWAYS have a “that’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard” premise/story but manage to imbue it with enough heart and soul, for lack of a more empirical term, to make the games stand out.

  • http://www.facebook.com/bensalazar Ben Dunbar

    I like this column cause it contextualizes games as cultural artifacts and not strictly “kill/get the widget” but this is heavily lacking on whether the game’s core mechanics are actually fun. Suda has no problem making cool and interesting worlds and characters but the superstructure tends to be…creaky.

    • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

      It seems like the reviewer focused on what he felt were the most important parts of the experience of playing the game, the tone, the writing, the pastiche, etc.

      While the discussion of the tone, writing, and concept of the game doesn’t directly mention the gameplay, I think we can infer that if the gameplay severely adversely affected the experience of those aspects of the game, they’d be mentioned. It sounds like the gameplay is at the very least unobtrusive, which gives it a leg up over many other Suda games.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=16831741 Eric J. Baker

        Absolutely the most important parts of the experience of playing the game. Except, you know, the playing the game part.

        • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

           I wouldn’t say one is more important than the other, any more than you can say form trumps content in any other medium. You’d forgive a film review for focusing on the narrative and tone over the cinematography when the film warrants it, you should be able to accept a game review that focuses on those aspects over mechanics.

        • Gavvo

           To Girard

          Are you retarded? Would you say form trumps content in chess, or in hockey? What makes a game a game is the gameplay, it’s unacceptable to make a review that doesn’t  tell me a single thing about what it’s like to actually play the game. Is it a platformer, a god of war clone, a schmup, I honestly don’t know from reading this review. The only thing I know about this game is that that it has a girl with a chainsaw, and she hits enemies, and there are pop-culture references.

        • stakkalee

          @bakana42:disqus You, sir, truly are one of the leading assholes of this site!

          Sorry, I just rewatched Blazing Saddles last night and that line’s been stuck in my head.

        • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

          @Gavvo:disqus : Calling someone “retarded” is a type of invective used by people with bad arguments, who are also often adolescent boys on the Internet. That kind of shit may fly in YouTube comments, but it’s pretty glaringly obnoxious and inappropriate around these parts.

          I don’t think games are magically a more formally defined medium than any other. Yes, you have games like Tetris and Chess which are wholly abstract, and almost completely defined by mechanics. But not all games, especially video games, are like that.

          Reviews of film, painting, and other artworks will bring up formal concerns if they are a.) obviously the priority of the work (like an Ab-Ex painting or a particularly stylish or experimental film) b.) exceptional and thus worthy of note (this could be either exceptionally great or exceptionally bad).

          That the mechanics aren’t touched on is an indication that this is a game more beholden artistically to the history of trash cinema than the history of gameplay innovation (i.e. the formal elements aren’t the priority of the work, the tone and content are, point ‘a’ above), and that the mechanics are nothing to write home about but also not obtrusive (i.e. they’re not exceptional or worthy of note, point ‘b’ above). I find the omission as informative as any exploration of those mechanics would be.

        • http://gameological.com/author/johnteti/ John Teti

          You know what, give me a break with this shit, at long last. If you don’t think this review talks about Gus’ experience of playing the game, you’re not paying attention. I’m so tired of reading comments on gaming websites from miserable, self-important dicks who define “gameplay” as “the shit I wanted to talk about.”

          And this from a person who expounds, with passion and insight, further down in the comment threads about objectification, gender, and race. How dare you talk about these things that are apparently meaningful to you? Why aren’t you talking about the GAMEPLAY — you know, the MOST IMPORTANT stuff? How can you expect me to care about your insights on gender politics when you haven’t even talked about what happens when you push the X button?

          Oh, I see, because the stuff you care about is fascinating, but the stuff that Gus cares about “isn’t gameplay” by your lights and is therefore deficient. Well, sorry, but the privilege of discussing the stuff you’re passionate about is not one that’s reserved solely for your sparkling intellect.

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1320596433 Matt Gerardi

          Michael Abbott wrote a really wonderful piece last year that kind of changed how I think about games. If you’re convinced “gameplay” is the primary facet of a game that should be evaluated than I really hope you read this. Actually, everyone should read it! 

          I present “Games Aren’t Clocks” by Michael Abbott.: http://www.brainygamer.com/the_brainy_gamer/2011/09/games-arent-clocks.html

        • George_Liquor

           Woah!

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=16831741 Eric J. Baker

          @JohnTeti:disqus Haha, glad I could be called a miserable self-important dick. You’re seriously mistaken if you think I define gameplay as just the “shit I want to talk about.” My comments about the sexist nature of the female protagonist are one aspect I thought should be addressed head on instead of excused. I’m allowed to single that out BECAUSE I’M LEAVING COMMENTS ON AN INTERNET SITE. The author of this review IS A PROFESSIONAL GAME CRITIC. Do you know the difference between the two? You’re acting an awful lot like the former, even though you’re really the latter.

          I actually really liked how much he talked about the game as a self-aware entry into the video game canon. But if you don’t tell me what the main actions I perform in a game are, how I interact with it, how on the fucking earth am I supposed to get a complete impression of the game? It’d be like writing a Skyward Sword review and spending a lot of time talking about the music, the art style, the characters, and the story (all extremely important things, and all given less than their due by most critics), but not mentioning a thing about the motion controlled sword combat. And if you don’t think that’s an essential element to talk about, you seriously need to reevaluate your approach to game critique. I don’t need the review to be a glorified instruction manual, but you have to spend more time on the physical gameplay than this review did. 

          I’m sorry I didn’t get to write all of that in my other comment, which was admittedly a bit mean. But it was a comment to a point someone else made, which is why I didn’t feel the need to expound upon my philosophy of gaming criticism, I was just agreeing with a point someone else made. But no, good job assuming what I believe and calling me a self-important dick. I hope it made you feel better about yourself. Grrr, you insulted someone on the internet! Good job!

        • http://profile.yahoo.com/TKMJ6RJLFJZC2F2RUIRLSL3B5Y Kevbo

          I don’t have a problem with a review focusing on elements besides gameplay mechanics, but I still want some mention of them. The article implies that this is a game that emphasizes atmosphere over gameplay, and that the gameplay is probably simple and unobtrusive, but I think it’s reasonable to expect a little more concrete information. Is there any exploration, or do you just follow an easily understandable set path? Do the acrobatic moves take skill to master, or is it one of those games that feels like it’s going on autopilot a lot of the time? Is it long? Short? Are there any secrets to find? I think these things at least deserve to be mentioned. They can be peripheral, but I want them stated flat out.

          (I apologize if any of them were, and I missed them.)

          P.S. Don’t take this as a major criticism. I still like Gameological Society’s personalized approach better than the paint-by-numbers approach of many sites. I just think in this article, maybe they should shift the balance a little more towards making sure to cover certain points that people find important.

        • Aaron Riccio

          @facebook-1320596433:disqus : Thanks for the link to that essay — as you can see by my post here (about “El-Shaddai”), I’d been thinking along similar lines. But while I’d agree that video games shouldn’t be judged so highly on gameplay (true aesthetics cannot be valued highly enough — which is why all the cribbing and plagiaristic masturbation in “Lollipop Chainsaw” irritates me), I’d compromise by saying that if the core gameplay isn’t solid, maybe we should call them something OTHER than games. Maybe we just call them Interactives, a type of medium that crosses between passive watching and active playing?

    • KidvanDanzig

      Noooo you don’t understand if they talk about the gameplay then they’re just like everyone else so WHY BOTHER huh?

  • caspiancomic

    I know there was a lot of shit talked about this game yesterday, particularly by yours truly, but I’m glad to see that in spite of itself, the finished game doesn’t feel exploitative.  Although I’m still dubious about this game (possibly due to my own obsessive killjoyism) this review does a lot to tame my concerns that this was going to be a sugary juvenile romp with pretensions of ironic satire.

    • ToddG

      I’m having more trouble letting go of that apprehension, honestly.  I just can’t see how a game with that main character in 2012 can be anything other than exploitative.  Though I can’t tell whether that second paragraph is meant to tell me it’s not sexist/exploitative, or that it is, but also worthwhile for other reasons.

    • Fyodor Douchetoevsky

      Yeah, I didn’t really mean to call out this game specifically, as I really know very little about it. I’m still not comfortable with it, and I read that there’s an achievement for maneuvering the camera to get an upskirt shot of your character. Even if that’s tongue in cheek or whatever, it doesn’t excuse it for being awful and sexist. “It’s just a joke!” only gets you so far.

      • Aaron Riccio

        Ironically, I’ve found that achievement really difficult to get. I don’t know what that says about my own inexperience with voyeurism or if perhaps the designers had included an impossible achievement meant to basically meta-slap the more exploitative people watching at home — Quentin Tarantino would be so jealous — but given the general laziness of the finished product (I just finished it with the “Good Ending” a few hours ago), I’m inclined to think that the people who really love this game are reading a bit too much into it. (No offense to Gus: I could totally understand renting this. But buying it?)

      • ryanthestormout

        Yeah, I bought the game yesterday and it’s definitely exploitative, but that’s mainly because it shares its DNA with (as mentioned in the review) Russ Meyer and Troma. I’m not saying that makes it excusable or anything like that. Everybody’s going to have their own reactions to that sort of thing and I’m certainly not going to load it up in front of my girlfriend or anything. But there’s a sort of quaint 1950′s dynamic at odds with the whole 1980′s video nasties presentation that makes the whole thing somewhat endearing. Even that upskirt achievement is interesting because it’s really difficult to get. I tried once or twice because “Hey, achievement,” and I quit because the game puts a lot of work into making you feel gross for going after it, you perverted little point grubber you. I feel like there’s also a sense that Suda51 knew that some players were going to try that anyway, so he threw in a quick little “gotcha.”

        Also, it’s nice to see a game where the male characters are actually actively marginalized and the female characters have their femininity reinforced in ways other than how male characters respond to them. In a lot of ways this game seems more progressive than, say, the upcoming Tomb Raider reboot. Which actively bothers me.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kevin-Johnson/501651 Kevin Johnson

    I didn’t read the review just yet, but is there a chance you guys may address the bizarre week it has been for women and gaming? Between this game, the Lara Croft thing, the maybe-banning of booth girls at E3, and the whole kickstater kerfuffle, I think this would be an amazing place to read about it.

    • ToddG

      That’s what the Out This Week comments are for!

      In all seriousness, I would also be quite interested in an official Gameological piece on the subject.

      • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

         The next Digest will be called “The Sausagefest” and feature John Teti, Drew Toal, and Gus Mastrapa eating kielbasa as they discuss the plight of women in gaming.

        • Aaron Riccio

          How deliciously emasculating.

    • caspiancomic

       I third that motion, the penny has been in the air for weeks and months now, and this week especially there’s basically been too much shit to ignore. I’d love to see some kind of official piece on the state of women in gaming.

      • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

         I would love to hear this site’s take on it, as well as the comments any such story – this is one of the few sites where I could imagine both being really illuminating and interesting (though I do get the feeling the commentariat here is a narrow, very male, sliver of the AVClub’s commentariat, which is a bit of a shame if true, but may be a presumption on my part).

        And between Ellie, Elise, and Samantha, this place has a masthead indicating that the issue could be discussed with some degree of concreteness, familiarity and personal experience.

      • Effigy_Power

         Personally I am always scared of these discussions, since they are almost exclusively fought between the “womenz is things” camp and the “GamurGrrrlzYay” tribe.
        Both of which can suck a bag of hammers for all I care.

        But hey, the GS hasn’t had it’s turn yet and I am fairly confident I wouldn’t have to click it away in exasperation, knowing how Teti feels about both extremes.

    • Boonehams

      Don’t forget the recent trailer for Hitman: Absolution that the gamemaker had to apologize for.

      • HobbesMkii

         I don’t know why. Even the Vatican is calling nuns out for their liberal sexual nature. Clearly that trailer was simply a reflection of prevailing trends in modern Brides of Christ.

      • Fluka

        If by apologize, you mean shrugged and said “It wasn’t supposed to be sexist!”

  • http://twitter.com/Triphibian Gus Mastrapa

    I try not to bog my reviews down with too much mechanical stuff, but I’d say that the game is suitably complex and that the fighting really bears itself out in “hard” — on the normal difficulty you can get a way with kind of fighting as you will, but I found that the harder mode required you to master certain moves, use crowd control, etc. There’s also a reward system for high level play — you get more coins for upgrades, etc. when you kill the zombies simultaneously. So if you want new stuff you have to try to game the game a little. It ain’t Bayonetta, but I hated Bayonetta so there’s that.

    • hastapura

      I hated Bayonetta – first off, SCREW YOU, and second, why? The combat or…everything else?

      • http://twitter.com/Triphibian Gus Mastrapa

        I aired a lot of my feelings about Bayonetta over here: 
        http://www.wired.com/gamelife/2010/01/bayonetta-style/

        I’ll stick my neck out further and say that’s why I disliked Vanquish too. Though I actually finished Vanquish so I guess I liked that a little better. I REALLY WANT to like Platinum’s games but very rarely do.

        • hastapura

          I don’t wanna start a Bayonetta debate, so all I will say is that “Gainax” is not an anime, but a studio. Take that!

          Also hated Vanquish

        • ToddG

          Thanks for indulging us.  I agree with everything you wrote there that wasn’t about the gameplay, and can totally understand your stance and reaction.  But I just loved the actual playing of the game to such an extent that to call Bayonetta anything less than my favorite game of that year would feel disingenuous.

        • Aaron Riccio

          The only Platinum game I didn’t like was MadWorld, and I liked that about as much as Lollipop Chainsaw. The thing you’re talking about though, “gaming the system” — that’s what actually frustrated me most about Lollipop Chainsaw. Given how reckless just about everything in the game is, from haphazard level design to the random attitudes of characters, and the hodgepodge of enemies and their for the most part one-dimensional attacks (they are zombies, after all), the fact that the game all but forces you to play “strategically” to actually earn upgrades (corral, stun, and then Sparkle Hunt a group of zombies, no matter how long and tedious this process is), well, that’s silly. I switched to Normal in a hurry.

    • ToddG

      I, too, would like to respectfully request that you elaborate on your hatred for Bayonetta.

    • doyourealize

      I couldn’t get far in Bayonetta, either. I felt like I was hitting the same button over and over again, and the over the top acting and awful story turned me off. As a lot of people have stated here, your review focussed more on style and feel than gameplay, and I think that’s important for a game like this. I loved Shadows of the Damned, but the gameplay was nothing special. Games like these need something else to keep you coming back. Bayonetta didn’t have that for me. It seems like Lollipop will.

      • ToddG

        Interesting.  I could not stop playing Bayonetta; the gameplay was just so addictive to me.  It would be fair to say that the combo system had more the appearance of variety than functional variety, but I found the controls to be so precise and responsive, and the challenge and difficulty curve were just right.  As I’ve mentioned here before, it was absolutely my favorite game of 2010, despite the fact that I skipped every cutscene after like the 45 minute mark, if I even got that far.  I just enjoyed the core gameplay that much.  But, yeah, if that doesn’t work for you, there is nothing else at all to keep you coming back.

      • Aaron Riccio

        Odd; if anything, I had the opposite reaction. I have yet to see what everybody loves about Lollipop Chainsaw, whereas Shadows of the Damned is a game I’d go back and play, probably over the over-the-shoulder Resident Evils. (I’m psyched about RE6, though.) I found the diversity of level design, monsters, and hectic attitude of the game to be quite enjoyable, whereas Lollipop Chainsaw pretty much exhausts everything it can do in Prologue and first boss fight, with the exception of Level 4′s arcade.

        • doyourealize

          Sorry if I was confusing, but I haven’t played LC yet. I was just referencing the reviewer’s opinion of the game. I was talking about Bayonetta when I mentioned games that don’t have me wanting to move forward.

          Also, I would love to play SotD again. I was looking for a cheap copy at GameStop just the other day. My point was, despite gameplay (which was good, just not anything special or new), SotD is something that made me keep coming back.

        • ryanthestormout

          As a guy who actually bought it and is probably three hours or so into it, I’d say the reason I’m enjoying the game so much is because it’s… interesting. It’s, like, really interesting. It’s got this great presentation that carries the game, even when the action gets repetitive. It’s a beat-em-up with a lot of really cool window dressing. For me, personally, and for a lot of others it seems, personality goes a long, long way.

  • ShitMcFuckensteinAVC

    Speaking of Rock Star bosses did anyone else think that the villain of Skyward Sword was based on David Bowie?

    • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

      He was mostly another instance of the ubiquitous evil, silver-haired androgyne that you find in Japanese media all over the place.

      His fabulous Harlequin unitard could maybe obliquely evoke Bowie’s Pierrot getup from Ashes to Ashes, though…

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Anthony-John-Agnello/1362601810 Anthony John Agnello

    You know, as big of fan of Suda 51 as I am, I was kind of dreading Lollipop. It looked like the guy was just going through the motions. Gaudy, satirical violence? Abundance of pop references? A sexy lead decapitating people? That’s paint by numbers Goichi. You sell it though, Gus. That there’s a molten core of genuine good vibes in this game rather than just glib post-modernity is a huge relief. 

    • http://www.avclub.com/users/ghaleonq,4597/ GhaleonQ

      With the exception of an over-the-top wrestling game to recall his Fire Pro Wrestling/Human days, this actually seems like the apotheosis of Suda to me.  This might be the 1st game of his I wholeheartedly enjoy. Where some see the Goichi Suda checklist, I see him putting the pieces together properly for once.

      All of his other games are tainted by him trying to say something.  Better to embrace his flair and stupidity (feigned, to be clear).

      • KidvanDanzig

        Wait, what was Shadows of the Damned trying to say?

        • http://www.avclub.com/users/ghaleonq,4597/ GhaleonQ

          That’s a Shinji Mikami game, clearly.

          If it wasnt, I’d say, “That Suda likes funny names.”

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=16831741 Eric J. Baker

        I disagree. Killer7 and No More Heroes are EASILY his two best games, and those are built around Suda51 having a message. It gives what would otherwise be generic, repetitive gameplay a fresh feeling and purpose. When he loses the message, I lose interest, because, really, I’ve played his games a thousand times before. I’m looking for a new angle on them.

        • AHyperkineticLagomorph

           I loved No More Heroes to death, but I’ve never been able to discern what, exactly, the message is. I’m very certain it has to do with excessive, gratuitous violence being a horrible thing, but I’m not really sure if it’s supposed to be a tongue-planted-firmly-in-cheek style spoof on over-the-top violence or a more angry “Take that!” against the types of players who actually enjoy the game and look up to people like Travis Touchdown.

          I mean, is Travis supposed to be sort of sympathetic or just pathetic? The tone seems to change over the course of the game, so I’m never quite sure.

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=16831741 Eric J. Baker

          @AHyperkineticLagomorph
          Well, message was a poor choice of words for me. The whole game felt to me like a massive parody to/homage of the action gaming genre. It was very postmodern in many ways, the way it was self-aware of the genre and intentionally worked within it to sort of make commentary on it. I was willing to put up with the lame minimum wage jobs because it seemed like Suda51 was mocking other action games that try to force in different kinds of gameplay, like fetch quests, racing segments, etc. And Suda51 absolutely seems like the kind of guy to intentionally make parts of his game boring to reinforce the theme. Sort of like how Jackson Pollack paintings are ugly, but they’re really his statement about the meaning and purpose of art.

        • AHyperkineticLagomorph

           Oh no, I completely agree with you. My problem is I’m never quite sure if he INTENDS for X to be Y or if Suda51 just has this psychological warfare going on with me. “Wait, this isn’t fun. Unless… He INTENDED this part to suck.” “When someone calls Travis a loser, are they talking to him, the character, or to me THROUGH the character.”

          It’s almost like… well, if I can compare it to an anime, FLCL. It’s part parody, part statement, and part “we just threw this in there because we think it’s awesome” and trying to figure out which part is which is a task that requires multiple viewings.

          Which is, in all honestly, pretty awesome.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=16831741 Eric J. Baker

      I feel the exact same way. It feels like when Tim Burton gets bogged down and loses motivation and just puts out another movie with his trademarked style branded to it (a la Alice in Wonderland), as opposed to when his style has felt very earnest and fresh because he put a lot of heart into it (a la Big Fish, Beetlejuice, Edward Scissor Hands, etc).

      Killer7 and No More Heroes are two excellent, excellent games. But since No More Heroes 2 I feel like you’re right, he’s just going through the motions.I disagree that Gus sells it, though.

    • hastapura

      This review might oversell Suda’s involvement a bit; he didn’t direct the game per se, as far as I can tell. The review even calls him the “creative director” but continues to credit him with every aspect of the game’s design.

  • http://twitter.com/GasparLewis Adam

    “It’s easy to dismiss Lollipop Chainsaw as sexist, knuckle-dragging exploitation. But to do so would be to miss out on one of the strangest games to hit consoles since the last time a Suda 51 joint graced a GameStop.”

    “The game’s lead, Juliet Starling, is a leggy drink of Diet Coke who wields pom-poms and chainsaw like Bayonetta with a learner’s permit.”

    Forgive the lack of eloquence but: buh?

    • Fyodor Douchetoevsky

      I think he’s saying that it is sexist, knuckle dragging exploitation, but there’s also a bit more to it than that. Honestly this kind of game, even with a “but it’s tongue in cheek! They KNOW that it’s sexist and explooitative!” seems like it’s just perpetuating the kind of sexism that’s already rampant in games. Like “haha, this is stupid and awful of us, but here it is anyway.” 

      • http://twitter.com/GasparLewis Adam

        That definitely explains the design and presentation choices of the game, and having watched someone play through a good chunk of the game, I totally agree. 

        But for the writer of those sentences in a review of that game, isn’t that a little tone-deaf?

      • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

        Though re-reading the line, Gus’s apology for it doesn’t say it absolves itself through winking irony, in fact he doesn’t seem to contradict the fact that it is sexist, knuckle-dragging, etc. What he seems to contend is that it is so strange that it is still worth experiencing.

        Kind of like how a Bosch painting is all about how anyone who doesn’t go to church is going to undergo insane eternal torture, and that is an abhorrent attitude for an artist or artwork to contain, but the work is just so singularly weird that it has aesthetic worth, even if it doesn’t redeem itself.

        • Fyodor Douchetoevsky

          That’s how I interpreted it as well. I meant to comment on that in my other comment. Oopsies.

    • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

      Your ‘buh’ is a bit harder for me to understand than either of those quotes. What exactly is your problem with them? Do you not understand them? Do you disagree with them? Do you think they contradict each other? We’re here to help.

      • http://twitter.com/GasparLewis Adam

        Buh! Buh buh, buh-buh BUH buh.

        (See abuhve.)

    • caspiancomic

       Without wishing to condone or condemn Gus’ tone or the decisions he made in this review, I would just like to say that the phrase “leggy drink of Diet Coke” is pretty excellent. This Gus boy has a future in this line of work!

  • Jakeymon

    Oh come now. It’s hard for me to get worked up about a (real? fictitious?) up skirt achievement when from time immemorial we’ve been teased with perfect musculature (Duke Nukem) and extreme levels of martial competence (Lu Bu) that no man could hope to meet IRL. How many times have I stood in front of the mirror muttering self hating phrases like “why can’t I have what Master Chief has” or thinking “why can’t I get to the gym as much as CJ does?”, only to collapse in tears and self loathing? If Lollipop offers the occasional masturbatory snippet here and there, but counterbalances it with rainbow chainsaws, doesn’t that put it at, say, the same level as ME2′s Omega nightclub sequence (which was similarly counterbalanced by… what were those things called? Kilrathi?)

    • ToddG

      Well, except the achievement (which is real) is specifically REWARDING the player for objectifying the character, in the most blatant and tasteless way imaginable.  That is a new low, something I hadn’t thought possible.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=16831741 Eric J. Baker

      That’s not how objectification works. Looking up the skirt of a scantily clad cheerleader is a male fantasy. Being an expert martial artist warrior with rippling muscles is ALSO a male fantasy.

      This isn’t about creating an impossible standard of beauty for women. Hell, it’s not even created for women in the first place. It’s about reducing women’s status through objectifying them, literally turning them into objects for male amusement by reducing them to components (legs, boobs, ass, etc). It doesn’t work the way you describe with depictions of males in video games because these are all characters created by males for male consumption.

    • stakkalee

      First off, it’s a real achievement in the game; it’s called the “I Swear! I Did It By Mistake!” (hur hur) achievement. Secondly, it’s not a masturbatory aide, it’s a video game; if someone wants cheerleader porn they should go search for cheerleader porn – I guarantee it’ll be better fap material than this game. Third, as a few people have already said, the objectification of women and the objectification of men in video games (and most other pop culture) are two different animals, but are both done as male fantasy fulfillment.

    • Jakeymon

      A new low?  So it’s worse than ‘RapeLay?’  C’mon guys.  Slow down.

      Look, I get what all three of you are saying, but again, I don’t see the big deal.  Achievements already exist rewarding us for getting headshots and making multiple kills with a single grenade (or shot, or whatever); these are certainly less prurient, but are they truly any less horrifying if you think about them long enough?  Put another way, if we accept that playing games that revolve around killing is fun, then really why get upset about an upskirt achievement?

      • ToddG

        Well, ok, I am guilty of using some hyperbole, and certainly we can debate whether video game violence is distasteful or even harmful in the same way we can debate whether LC’s treatment of women is.  But i don’t see a contradiction in anyone having differing views on the two topics, or even having different views on their respective severities.

      • stakkalee

        The glorification of violence is very prevalent in our culture, especially in video games, but we’re talking about sexism and objectification, a different (but not wholly unrelated) subject.

        The achievements you mention tie into the gameplay in some way, whereas the specific LC achievement we’re talking about is simply, and only, about objectifying the very avatar you the player is using.  It would be like getting an achievement for fragging yourself.

        But more generally, there’s no similarity between discussions of the appropriateness of violence and the appropriateness of sexism, because there ARE no logical arguments in favor of sexism, unless you want to argue that maintenance of private power and privilege is inherently good, but that’s not a ‘logical’ argument per se.

        The ultimate point is we need to call this stuff out.  No one’s trying to censor Suda, no one’s trying to say you can’t try to make a game that skewers sexism. What we’re saying is that we should expect more from people, always.  Making a game where the protagonist runs around in a skimpy cheerleader outfit, where the player is rewarded for “accidentally” getting an upskirt shot, is a shitty thing to do.  Maybe it was meant ironically, or satirically, but the problem is that, in most cases, ironic sexism is still sexism. I don’t know Suda, he may be a die-hard second wave feminist, and LC might be one of the finest trolls ever made (it’s not), but I can only react to it as it’s presented – the artist’s intent can inform my reading of his work, but it doesn’t get to overrule my own emotional reaction to his work.

        I know I’m going on, but I want to reiterate – we as fans need to call this shit out.  We need to expect more from people.  If we have any desire to put an end to these various -isms that continue to afflict our culture the only way we’re going to do that is by speaking up.  On the big stuff.  On the small stuff.  On everything.

        • Fyodor Douchetoevsky

          If I had a dollar for every time some asshole on the internet used the “It’s just a JOKE” defense after calling them out on bigotry or whatever, i would have a lot of dollars.

      • Fluka

        It’s possible to be irritated by multiple magnitudes of things.  It’s possible to be offended by Rapelay, or, you know, the plight of women in Afghanistan, while still criticizing smaller magnitudes of sexism.

        Honestly, the stuff in this kind of game makes me tired and frustrated more than offended at this point.  The character design, the uskirt achievement, etc. all serve to pretty much scream “This game is not for you!” to lots of women (including myself).  So that message is really, to a certain extent, going to override reviews like this which say that the game is worthwhile.  Do game designers really have no interest in making their products even remotely marketable to half the population?  (A question which seems, on the internet, to lead to lots of circular arguing about “But only men play videogames, so that’s why they only market to them!”)

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=16831741 Eric J. Baker

          Nail on the head.

        • Effigy_Power

          -attempts to burns bra in agreement, realizes it’s a $50 one, fetches cheaper one, burns that-

          That’s not mockery, btw, I am absolutely in agreement, and it’s a point that’s not brought up frequently. Sexism in games is fairly unanimously directed against women and often enough sparks discussion about unfair treatment and objectification, which is great, but the point that games like that might be off-putting for women is rarely spoken of.
          Not only that, I have to also contend with the stereotype that as a lesbian I am not affected by this, since upskirts and boob-shots ought to be just up by street. Well, they’re not. Society as a whole seems to have precious little interest in figuring out what women want, but to an even larger degree, it has to realize that lesbians are not men in drag. Male fantasy as such is fairly often incompatible with lesbian fantasy.

        • dreadguacamole

          Heh. I was simply going to say “I think my wife might have enjoyed this game, but that achievement would have driven her to seek out the developer and throttle him”.
           You put it a lot more eloquently.

        • AHyperkineticLagomorph

          I tried to write a long piece here on how LC is a Japanese game, and Japanese culture is, as far as my uneducated mind understands, somewhat misogynistic. Not that Western cultures aren’t, but I mean even by comparison.

          The point I’m trying to make is that changing the prevailing attitude towards women in games would not only require a change in an entire culture, but a change in SEVERAL cultures.

          There are, of course, exceptions. I can think of several Japanese studios that have more positive portrayals of women. There are some big names there trying to change things, but culture never changes quickly or easily.

        • Effigy_Power

           That Japanese culture is inherently more sexist is certainly true, but we can’t allow this to be an excuse, since we don’t let other countries off the hook for similar schools of thought.
          I wonder if forcing women into Burkas would be somewhat less seen as evil if the Taliban had made a load of kickass video games…
          (That’s hyperbole of course, but you see what I am saying, right?)

        • AHyperkineticLagomorph

          I didn’t mean to imply that the misogyny in a lot of Japanese media is somehow okay because it’s so ingrained, or that we should ignore it because many people there seem to view it as either normal or a good thing.

          It’s just that trying to change an ancient cultural tradition, no matter how wrong, is like trying to move a mountain. If mountains could kick and scream and complain that you’re ruining everything.

          There is hope, what with highly respected people pushing for a more equal society, but at the same time the problem often lies with the fact that changing an ingrained cultural idea means trying to change the minds of the types of people who post comments on YouTube.

        • TaumpyTearrs

          Late to the debate, i was busy being evicted.

          Just wanted to ask whether my lady’s opinion counts in any of this. She cares much less about feminism/sexism/objectification than I do. I often enjoy these games/movies but I am left pondering moral implications and effect on society etc. She does not.

          She enjoys: violence, boobs, dick jokes, fan service and simple gameplay. I like to think she is a uniquely awesome individual, but I honestly can’t believe she is the only woman on earth with these interests. This game seems even more up her alley than mine (and i love James Gunn and Suda 51). 

          Sometimes she frustrates my somewhat liberal/artsy ass. We watched the film Drive the other day, and she spent the whole time complaining it was boring until it got to the gruesome violence. I thought it was a beautifully made film, she thought the relationship between Gosling and the mother/child was  stupid and lame.

          Not everyone thinks like a English major/film critic/game scholar. I often do, but my girl cares about explosions, laughs, and titillation. Is her viewpoint inherently wrong? I know if a guy said some of the things she does they would be called misogynist, but she has the same low opinion of men and women.

        • http://www.backloggery.com/colliewest Colliewest

          Even later to the debate but I just move slowly. What about the fact that this game is about a Cheerleader? I mean, what is more sexist than a specific role designed for women in which they get to work long hours for no pay so that they can be objectified while they cheer on the uber rich menfolk doing the actual important stuff of throwing a ball around and falling on each other?

          The whole Cheerleader thing exists to put young women in skimpy outfits so men can try to look up their skirts while they yell about how great their team is. 

          And what’s the best way to address that? Have some clunky “Hey Cheerleaders are people too and don’t like to be objectified!” dialogue or call out the player? (I mean personally I’d prefer it if she turned to camera and said “Didn’t you get this shit out of your system pushing Lara into corners on Tomb Raider 1? Stop fucking around we’ve got to save the world here.”, but you’ve got to start somewhere.)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=16831741 Eric J. Baker

    If this game featured a protagonist in black face and glorified that era of pop culture, no one would excuse as an irreverent mash up of trash cinema and music, they would correctly decry it as racist. Would you say about that game that it doesn’t beat us over the head with notions of a strong African-American lead? Why is it any different for an absurdly stereotyped, objectified female character? 

    I’m gonna go ahead a answer my own question, it isn’t any different. So how about we not make excuses for it? You can point out that you like the pop culture atmosphere and gameplay but still point out its backwards depiction of a female protagonist. (Although you only spent part of one paragraph even talking about the actual gameplay.)The game looks fun, sort of like a 3D Zombies Ate My Neighbors. But it’s just another sign of how far gender understanding has to go, especially in video games, if every single review isn’t at least mentioning the problems with this image of a woman. You don’t have to go all activist and boycott Grasshopper Manufacture, just identify it as the problem it is. 

    • http://www.avclub.com/users/ghaleonq,4597/ GhaleonQ

      You’re right in that it did just happen (well, not blackface, but what people now seem to define as blackface) in Mad World’s The Black Baron and people complained, but I think it would be totally legitimate to defend it as an artistic decision.

      Like it or not, it is “punk,” whether it comes from Takeshi Kitano or Goichi Suda.  Being in bad taste doesn’t necessarily make something offensive, I think.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=16831741 Eric J. Baker

        It’s not so much offensive as it is damaging. Images of women like this contribute to a culture of misogyny and sexism. Just being in bad taste would be something gag worthy but not necessarily harmful, like vomit or something. This, and other games like it (and movies, books, TV shows, magazines, ads, etc), are lowering the status of women. I don’t care if it’s bad or good taste, it’s a destructive media image.

      • Effigy_Power

         You’re not incorrect there, but for me personally the problem isn’t the actual act of sexism here, but the sangfroid with which it is used.
        I am pretty certain that at no point the developers sat in a meeting discussing if this sort of depiction might offend someone or is inappropriate in general. I am pretty certain however that any act of “unusual” violence or racism would spark a pause to consider if such things are really necessary for entertainment (at least I’d like to think so).

        I am also aware that, at least when judged by its gaming and popular culture, the whole aspect of sexism and objectification in Japan seems to be less of an issue, but that doesn’t make it any better than sexism and misogyny in Afghanistan.

    • hastapura

      Word. I’d like to see the day when a game actually overplays a strong female lead.

      • Aaron Riccio

        For a moment, I read this as you saying “I would like to see the day when a game actually overpays a strong female lead.” Yeah, I’ll bet the creators of this game didn’t pay Juliet Starling nearly enough . . . damn those exploitative designers!

    • Shain Eighmey

      To be honest, this game is the kind of stuff that makes me embarrassed to be a “Gamer”. When people hear “Oh I play games.” they never think SimCity, Total War, or Portal, they think crap like this, Mass Effect’s alien sex, and running people over in GTA. 

      We’re badly publicized…

  • Aaron Riccio

    As I played through “Lollipop Chainsaw,” my mind kept flickering over to “El-Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron.” Despite both playing poorly, at least I make an argument of the latter as art. What would I argue that “Lollipop Chainsaw” was? Really silly, flaccid porn? I’d rather play “Slaughterhouse.”

    • TaumpyTearrs

      To add some more context to my comment above, my lady LOVED Splatterhouse. I enjoyed it also, but not quite as much.

    • Brian Stewart

      It’s pop art. Any other description demeans you.

  • Brian Stewart

    I dig the game for all the reasons listed above but it’s not that much fun to play in a mechanical sense. The worst offender by far is the auto-lock targeting for the “boomer” gun function. Just try getting through that baseball sequence with auto-target on. So? I hear you say… just turn it off. Well, it still kind of sucks and on top of that it randomly enters auto target mode for certain sequences. Hard mode also blows because it ruins the feeling that you wield a chainsaw when it takes 30 blows to fell even a low level zombie grunt.

  • http://twitter.com/DaniellaAnne Dani Mailing*

    I like fun, weird, sexy games as much as the next person. I can appreciate satire and irony. The games I pick always have playable female characters because I’m a woman and its fun to play someone I relate to.

    This game wasn’t even fun – lame playability, suuuper repetitious gameplay, weird control scheme. But I gave it a shot – 3hours of play and had to turn it off. I was stuck on a boss and he kept yelling “whore”, “slut” and “bitch”. It was making me feel like shit, and I am a grown woman – I seriously can’t imagine a girl playing this game and thinking that no matter how much of a badass zombie hunter you are, someone is still going to call you a slut and try to look up your skirt.

    Totally lame game.