Wednesday, June 20, 2012

(Less Than) Formal Review: Lollipop Chainsaw

"If Suda 51 made music, he'd create the most engrossing masterpiece ever, and then throw in a tacky 5 minute guitar solo"

(note: I have not finished Lollipop Chainsaw, so this is subject to change... perhaps)
        Killer7 is an incredible game. Flower, Sun, Rain is a wonderful narrative surrounded by a narratively consistent, if a bit agitating, puzzle gameplay. No More Heroes is a poignant meta-narrative (even if it's sort of a big "fuck you"), with a fun, simple combat system. Lollipop Chainsaw is a boring, immature horror-comedy on a tired premise and a tongue-through-cheek treatment of female personas.

      It's really a far extreme from Suda 51 games: games where the story, visual, and sound design are ABOVE top notch. Games that are so well presented and so substantial that it hurts. The problem with those games, however, is that the gameplay was either sterile, or just underdeveloped. It's not always a chore, Killer7 has enough feedback and weight to get yourself into the on rails adventure/shooting of the experience, and No More Heroes really was just downright fluid. On Suda's other hand, we get Lollipop Chainsaw, a game with TOO much style, and a game that actually seems to focus on gameplay, first and foremost.

     People have denounced Lollipop Chainsaw's combat, claiming that it doesn't flow until you have combos (just a note: when you get combos, the actual connections between the combos don't change. Saying it doesn't flow until you get combos is like saying it a game would flow well if every movement you made led to a cinematic presentation of that move, but i digress), or saying that it's just mindless and slow. Maybe this is just a problem with lower difficulties (you can't just button smash on hard, for sure), maybe this is just how some reviewers felt right to play the game, I'm not sure, but it's not an experience I share.

    The combat system is very simple, pretty much standard for action games, a button for weak attacks, button for strong attacks, button for "different attack" (in this, it's a low attack, meant to remove legs, a good strategy in this game), and one button is evade. The attacks are suitably satisfying, before you have combos, you have weak attacks, quick to start, quick to end, and you can immediately exit the combo into a strong attack or an evade (usually the better choice), you have strong attacks that are slow and usually dismember, etc. The evade is really the main mode of attack however, and it is where the most fluidity comes from. Evasions, unlike something like God of War, aren't just evasive, and early on they are more of a mode to chain your attacks. Lollipop Chainsaw has a surprising awareness of space, when it comes to combat. You have many enemies, with varying ranges of attacks, some can attack well, some just take a while to kill, some need to be killed as first priority, and the entire way you engage battles has to be focused on getting positioning. Using evasion to dropkick enemies away, or just getting the enemies you want ahead of you is really more important than actually attacking them. If you evade, get three hits, evade, etc, you have a relatively successful method for the majority of enemies. It makes the game very fast and flashy, jumping and leaping around like a... cheerleader, and homing in on enemies, knocking them silly and finishing. It's engaging, and it really suits the actual character of Juliet.

   Time to leave the combat be, however, as that's not what most people focus on. It's really not even what people care about, I mean, THIS IS SUDA XD. Suda does manage to show an incredible competence and confidence in everything else, this however... I'm just not sure about. The style is there, the punk aesthetic, the decent music (this soundtrack is sorely lacking Masafumi Takada, however), and just the general approach of the game is nice, aside from all of Suda's games, this really feels like it is a game resisting mainstream appeal, until we get to the seedy underbelly where I just can't help but be disappointed: the schlock humor.

    It's not really shock humor, it's just sort of the same cheeky teen perversion comedy we've heard from not only Suda, but half the comedic video games in existence, but even if this was in Suda's other games (it was), this is just where it goes to far. In other times, it had it's place, it made sense in No More Heroes series, here, it's just forced. The writing is actually nice and charming when it needs to be: Juliet really works as what everyone recalls as the popular high school hotteen, Nick is a great foil, similarly absentminded, but cautious of Juliet and their relationship of sorts, the rest of Juliet's family is actually were the best humor comes from, very nice stuff, but much of the game seems focused on the perversion of Juliet and well everything else in the game being an overt sex-symbol. Bosses talk about "Jizzing", journal-type entries on all the special zombies remark something about sexual perversions or other teen humor (retardation, potty jokes, etc.), there are always casual remarks about this sort of thing throughout the entire game. To be honest, I just want Suda to go all out and make a pinku-game, some sort of sexploitation under the veneer of a genuine narrative. Make a Jodorowsky-influenced game. Stop showing regard for tacky censorship and perversion if you're going to have that edge. It's a game that stops just short of the line in some parts, to conform, and crosses it at others, to "prove" that they don't care about conforming. Punk must just be on life support.

Yes, 4/5. As disappointed as I am when I frame it as a Suda game, it is really a joy to play. There are moments of tedium and aggravation, but I can really say I liked playing this.

No comments:

Post a Comment