I love me some Suda51. There are few people you can point to in the world of video games as an auteur, and he’s one of them. Lollipop Chainsaw is no exception. It sports all the stylistic hallmarks of one of his games: kitschy pop culture influences, a love for exploitation cinema, and an almost parodic love of punk rock iconography. The gameplay is unmistakably his, too, full of fast, mashy combat and mini-games.
There are two big differences here, though: one good, one bad. First, the good: Lollipop Chainsaw shows that Suda’s figured out how to curb his impulses to focus on story gags and gameplay digressions at the expense of pacing. This game moves quickly and doesn’t get stuck in a mire of long sidequests or insanely tacked-on minigames. So, you know, hooray.
The second is not so great: something about this game’s story feels a little too simple, smoothed out, and sophomoric. Sophomoric is nothing new. That’s been his wheelhouse for a very long time. But here it seemed to fall a little flat, almost as though he’s lost track of whether he’s doing it for the sake of parody or if he’s actually immature. The story feeling a little too simple can most likely be attributed to James Gunn. Charged with adapting Suda’s sensibilities in a way that could accessible for a more American audience, Gunn opted to go the “hilarious one-liner” and “let me, as a character, draw attention to how weird what I’m doing is” route and ends up making things a bit too cutesy.
Something I wish I’d mentioned in my video review: the game is short. Like, 6-8 hours short. That’s never been a turn-off for me. I’ve always felt like a game should be exactly as long as it needs to be to deliver the experience it’s trying to deliver. There’s nothing I hate more than a game that feels overly padded just to “add value.” I know that some others will have problems with it, though, so I wish I’d brought it up.
Later today I’ll be posting this week’s episode of New Challenger. Kotaku’s Tina Amini and I compared notes on our two reviews and talked a bit more about when Lollipop Chainsaw lies in the ranking of Suda51′s work.