Personal Lollipop Chainsaw Review

24 06 2012

This will serve as my personal review of Lollipop Chainsaw, this will not be a play by play review but will be my opinions and impressions of the game. Let this serve as a partial spoiler alert.

I followed Lollipop Chainsaw with mild interest while it was in development, after it released and I started reading reviews I instantly knew that I would have to try this game and form my own opinion. I say that because generally speaking in the game industry, video game reviews are pretty streamlined. However for Lollipop Chainsaw consistently received a wide range of reviews across the entire spectrum, from awesome to terrible. What that says to me is the content is either controversial, or the game only speaks or appeals to a very specific audience.

Upon loading the game up I was greeted with this screen which almost immediately told me I was going to enjoy my experience.

The game presents you with an artistic comic style representation with rock music blasting. Obviously I knew this game was going to be something I would enjoy. Upon starting the game it doesn’t waste any time launching you into killing zombies, but you soon realize this game is not to be taken seriously. You play as the heroine Juliet Starling. The game immediately asks a complete suspension of disbelief when you do a cheerleader flip over a crashing bus and whip out pink and jeweled chainsaw and start engaging zombies at your high school.

While this isn’t a problem since the games theme is obviously a grind house and comic stylized zombie slayer it immediately finds a nice pace. However halfway through the game it starts to lose it’s focus and it almost feels like the game has clashing themes it’s pushing at you. Fortunately the game recovers from this and gets back to the original themes, but I’ll get to that in a bit.

First lets talk about the most important element other than the story and theme, and that’s the combat. The combat starts simple hack and slash, and well unfortunately ends simple. Your basic mechanics are stunning the zombies with pom pom strikes which weakens them and then you attempt to one shot them with a high or low chainsaw strike. Which if done correctly results in a cut scene of Juliet decapitating zombies with rainbows/stars/girlie colors blasting all over the place in a giant euphoric explosion, that somehow seems to work just fine.

While this is fun and instantly gratifying the combat I feel was a missed opportunity, you can unlock more moves but they are neither complicated or particularly fancy. You literally stick to the one-two-punch method the entire game. It almost feels as if they spent the majority of the time in developing the themes and everything else except for the combat, which almost feels like an afterthought. Don’t get me wrong, the game play is enjoyable, however I feel it could have been developed into a lot more.

Speaking of unlocking things, the game does a fair job of creating replay ability but having a good amount of content that can be purchased. Things like music/concept art/moves/outfits, however the price for a lot of them seem to be a bit steep, as if they were trying to create more longevity out of the game by making the player do at least more than a few plays through to purchase the majority of the content. This isn’t terribly bad however since the story is relatively short by comparison to hack and slash games.

As I said before this is mainly a review about my impressions and some comments on the game in general, so I won’t do a play by play on all of the bosses. I do however want to briefly comment on a few of them. My favorite boss fight was Zed, and this is mainly due to the fact that I think he was creatively designed. All of the boss fights pretty much conform to the predictable three phase fight, but during Zeds fight he will literally hurl words at you that you have to dodge. This is a creative and artistically refreshing concept of an engagement.

The downside to the boss fights is when your about half way through and the game seems to stumble with the general theme. You end up fighting a pimp boss in an arcade where the game switches to a retro 2D style presentation. While this is artistically pretty cool I feel it clashes with the games main grind house style theme. It’s almost as if the designers just tossed in every great idea they had… even if they didn’t play nice with each other. To solidify my point, you end up fighting this Pimp zombie boss on top of a UFO zooming through….. either the void or a bad acid trip.. wasn’t entirely sure.

Fortunately the game recovers from this break in immersion and gets back to the original themes pretty quickly. The last boss encounter I will comment on is the end game sequence fight. I won’t go into specifics but the fight felt incredibly buggy at certain points, nothing game breaking but definitely noticeable. This might have only bugged me, (see what I did there?), because professionally I work in Q/A game testing and these things tend to stand out to me, needless to say the last fight feels somewhat rushed and unfinished at points, but I digress.

On to my final portion that I’ll comment on and that’s the character dialogue between Juliet her boyfriend nick (who ends up a magical head on your belt) and Juliet’s family.

One of the saving graces is that the voice acting and dialogue between Juliet and Nick are pretty well crafted. Nick will comment on things going on in your surroundings, usually resulting in a lot of comedy relief. Nick also plays an integral roll to the story from start to finish. About halfway through the story Juliet’s family makes a sudden appearance (being fellow zombie slayers). This feels awkward at first because the majority of the game you have been flying solo, with only vague references to your two sisters an father. It almost feels like a different game when they start showing up and are actively engaged in the narrative and game play. Perhaps later I will go into detail on Juliet’s family and the specific boss fights after a couple more plays through.

For now I will sum this up since it’s just an initial impressions review. I feel that Lollipop Chainsaw is well worth the $60 and will provide you with a fun and unique experience. That being said I feel there were a lot of missed opportunities and some much needed polishing that could have been done. Though overall the thing Lollipop Chainsaw does best is breaks from traditional thinking and creates an experience that doesn’t particularly conform to any mold. Which in a day and age of cookie cutter games being made for the most part, it’s a refreshing take on a traditional hack and slash type title. (Yes I’m classifying this game by a mechanic and I know some of you will rage about that)

As I perform a few more plays through I will re-approach this review with fresh commentary, but for now suffice to say Lollipop Chainsaw will leave you somewhat bewildered, thrilled, and sitting on your couch saying wtf just happened?

Review Continued…..

So as I promised, I would be performing more plays through the game. I still stand by my general review of the story and gameplay. However, after starting a second play through the game seems to start to shine a lot more. Significant differences are in unlocking a few new moves that have exponentially increased the combat enjoyment, and capability. Also if your not intimidated by the female figure, some of the costumes the player can unlock are rather….. how shall we say, interesting?

Before I comment fully on the clothing additions, first let me start off by saying, to fend off any possible hardcore ‘feminist movement’ attackers, that I fully enjoy a strong female character in a video game without being blatantly a stereo typical sex symbol and an object of the so called “male gaze”. However, as I’ve already previously stated in this review, this is NOT a game to be taken seriously, above all else this is just a game pure and simple, not an attempt at an art piece. I’m not a 15 yr old sex craved pubescent teenager and I don’t need pandering too, as some might argue against this game. I can however, enjoy depictions of the female body and I can take this game for exactly what it is, nothing more. As the old sayings go, if you don’t like it just turn the channel. Also if you don’t like this kind of thing in our game industry, DON’T buy it because the only way for change is to speak with your dollar. That’s all I’m going to say on that because I’m getting into another topic, which I’ll attempt to address later in a different post.

Disclaimer out of the way, the costumes do add a nice flare to the gameplay. While some of them are somewhat outrageously ridiculous, the fact that every costume is fully caste in every cut scene helps add to the enjoyment. Using a different outfit almost feels like your playing a different character, obviously your still playing Juliet with Nicks head attached to your belt but it definitely adds to the replay ability.

I’ll close this update with adding that the levels do alternate slightly on the varying difficulty modes. The player will experience a somewhat different mix up of zombies and sequences, also the collector lollipops are moved to different locations. So in recap my second play through on hard mode is turning out to be much more enjoyable than my initial play through. I will keep you updated with further updates as I have time! For additional descriptions of what each costume means (there are way more than in the pictures above) check the website below. As always, feel free to comment.

References:

Zeidler, B. (2012, May 10th). Juliet’s extra costumes. Retrieved from http://www.destructoid.com/juliet-s-extra-costumes-unlockable-in-lollipop-chainsaw-227252.phtml

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Problems with Diablo 3

16 06 2012

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I like everyone else ( or at least the majority) have played Diablo 3. While I must say that my first couple of plays through I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, after some time something started to bother me and I had to figure it out. So this post will serve the purpose of attempting to explain what I feel bothers me about Diablo 3.

I think it took me a couple of times through to discover what it was, mainly because the game play itself is very satisfying. It’s easy to get distracted in viscerally slaying thousands of hell spawn and their ilk. After two times through it started to dawn on me that I didn’t particularly care for how the story was executed. Not to say that I think the general concept is terrible, it’s just that the game tries to make you care about Leah and her story. While it is a pivotal aspect to the story, the way it’s executed is, well how do you say it… too in your face. No matter what character the player chooses to play with or what the player does it’s always the same thing, “follow Leah because she’s the star of this campaign and not you”.

In my opinion the player does not necessarily have to be the focal point of the story, however if you don’t have any character development with whomever the player is playing as, over time or immediately it will break the player immersion or the “suspense of disbelief” as many designers would refer to it as. Ultimately on some psychological level when we play a game in some aspect it’s about us, we are living that fantasy life, we are slaying that dragon, we are rescuing the damsel in distress! However in Diablo 3 you show up as whatever character class you pick, like “Hey I’m here to save the day!”… with no explanation of why you’re there and for what purpose, or any real back story on your character. Almost as if “Player X arrives to New Tristram = True, then only Que Leah Story = FOREVER”. Even in the cinematic cut scenes, all you get is some sketch of your player saying “Hey we are going to the next act to slay some baddies!”, then guess what… QUE THE LEAH STORY with ridiculously awesome graphics and we’ll talk about her and not you!

Now let me say I’ve played Diablo since it’s inception and that being said I think I’m well versed enough to say what I’m saying, however if there are books (which I’m sure there are) explaining the story behind these characters you play….. THAT’S NOT GOOD ENOUGH. So hold the fanboy rage if I’m supposed to have read some comic/book to get all the story elements I want. When your produce a AAA title such as this and you have the financial power that Blizzard/Activision does, then there’s no excuse for such a weak story execution. It’s almost as if they expected, and designed the game around, the idea that farming for ‘epic loot’ indefinitely would satiate the mass majority, and maybe it will for some or a lot. However in my opinion I feel that a good amount of people will quickly become bored with the concept of endlessly farming hell spawn for that next big piece to drop. Obviously from a design standpoint they created it with the mathematical purpose of you’ll never get all the best pieces, even if you play 24/7 there will always be that next thing for you to get.

So before I get off my soapbox about the story elements in closing I hope they come out with expansions that elaborate on the story aspect, for me, and for what I feel would be a lot of people, creating some narrative and plot line where the player actually starts to relate to the character would increase the longevity of the game. Instead right now I feel like a lab animal in a Skinner box just tapping that button for the next stimulation.





E3 shenanigans….

11 06 2012

E3 Hatred and our Industry:

Unless you have been living under a rock for the last couple of weeks you have inevitably heard or read something about this years E3 event. That being said you’ve probably read some rather nasty and disgruntled posts/articles regarding E3.  While I do agree with some of the things being said on Kotaku and Gamasutra about E3 being outdated and a horrible representation of the industry we have come to know and love, I think there’s one crucial fact we are forgetting.

Well lets make that a couple of facts to be precise. First and foremost E3 is really an advertisement on steroids, it’s for the consumer NOT for the developer. So attempt to control your angst when your inundated with dub step and trailers showcasing only the popular genres/titles. Now before you blow up my post with your undying love, yes I’m being facetious, keep in mind I’m not defending E3 or saying what it SHOULD be. I’m just saying what it is today and I’m going to attempt to reason out why it’s the way it is right now, or at least why this year it felt so…. bland.

I think it’s healthy to keep in mind that as we all know our industry is a very unique one and ALWAYS in a constant state of flux. That being said it’s become very apparent to me, and anyone that has read any history, that if the industry doesn’t change radically then it’s headed for another crash. Perhaps not as big as the burning ship wreck that was the 80’s crash but similar. Fortunately the major players in the industry recognize this, for the most part, and after this console generation they know they have to change or risk dying. I think that’s why E3 was a major disappointment for most this year. I feel it symbolizes the industry as a whole holding its breath for whats to come.

The heavyweights or waiting to see what the other will do and at the same time attempting to redesign their approach to the home console almost entirely. Since for a long time people expected Sony and Microsoft to announce their next generation hardware at this years E3, that was the hype and expectation for a long time. Since that didn’t happen they attempted to fill the void with other things, obviously less interesting. That partially might explain why E3 this year felt outdated and almost irrelevant to just about everyone, except the “lizard brain 13 yr olds” (as a lot of posts so lovingly put it). Personally I feel it’s just the calm before the storm, if the timeline holds true to the forecast of 2013 being the announcement or release of all the new hardware.

I think right now is the time to really evaluate what would be the most successful business model for the next console generation and give Sony/Microsoft (Nintendo will do as they want, successful or not), our collective feedback. Like or hate either or all of them you have to admit that if they collectively fail the next go round we could be here to witness an industry crash that personally I’d rather really avoid and not witness.

I also think the indie “scene” and the publisher heavy weights really need to stop acting like children and learn to work together for the betterment of our beloved industry. That however is a completely different topic so I won’t go off on a tangent and I’ll save that for another post.

In closing E3 was a massive signal flare that the industry as we know it is on the brink of a game changing evolution. We as consumers and industry professionals need to embrace the change and help propagate it’s success. If your a dinosaur in your thinking and hold yourself back, and others, you need to re-evaluate yourself and our industry. Sit back and honestly ask yourself, are you helping our future or are you a detriment? In a nutshell change is inevitable so if you cannot embrace that, please do everyone a favor and remove yourself from the equation.





New adventure….

11 06 2012

This shall be my first post!

So starting a new blog I think should have a little information about the writer and the purpose of the blog, so this first posting will contain a little bit of information about me and my purpose here.

To start things off I currently work in Q/A performing game testing for Microsoft here in Redmond Washington. I’m also currently attending Full Sail University Online for a BS in Game Design. So following that information my purpose here is to express my opinions and observations on games future/past/present, and industry events.

I don’t profess to be an expert authority however I do feel well educated and experienced enough to publish my opinions. One day when enough people are reading this blog it will get some quality feedback. I’m a firm believer in the method of writing down your opinions and feelings while sharing them with other people, it helps you grow and most importantly sometimes it helps show you when your wrong about something.

I hope you enjoy your stay and will return to take part in my adventure of exploring topics and reviewing video games. If you have quality feedback and wish to comment with something worthwhile to say please do, especially if you want to challenge my opinion!