Shelves and Lollipops
The ritual of the shelving ritual is reserved for games that really disappoint. It's not always enough to simply evict a game from the disc drive in favour of something more pleasing - sometimes you need to go further and make a spectacle of your distaste. A disappointing game that is just put to one side can expect another opportunity to prove itself, with its continued presence on your coffee table proving that you are not fully committed in your disappointment. My ritual involves sealing the let-down back inside the correct case, saying a few derogatory words then returning it to the gaming shelves. To ensure absolute finality, it must be slotted alphabetically amongst completed titles, removing any need for future reshuffles and potential redemption. This lets the world know that I am done with the game in question and that it has exhausted all of its continues. With the exception of Demon's and Dark Souls, games do not bounce back from the ritual of the shelving ritual.
My first impressions of Lollipop Chainsaw were largely positive. I was eager to revel in its style, simplicity and humour, and was ready to forgive the usual Grasshopper frustrations. As the game progressed, issues began to grate and the charms of a Suda 51 production began to wear thin - I understand that he was not quite as hands on with LC as with previous projects, but that's still his name on the box. I gritted my teeth and endured zombie basketball and baseball - far less fun than it sounds - but by the time I’d reached the Arcade chapter it was clear that there was little point in persevering. On Tuesday night, I decided that enough was enough and gave Lollipop Chainsaw over to the ritual of the shelving ritual.
I first became aware of Suda 51 and Grasshopper Manufacture back in 2005 with Killer 7, but it wasn't until No More Heroes that I became a fan of creator and studio. NMH is an outstanding game, and I enjoyed what little I played of NMH2; there was also plenty to like about Shadows of the Damned, warts and all. I am used to Suda 51 placing emphasis on style over substance and have come to expect a certain lack of polish from his games, but they are always memorable and entertaining experiences, and therefore worth celebrating. Unfortunately, Lollipop Chainsaw has all the faults I’m accustomed to, but without the redeeming features. It is slow, repetitive in themes and combat and mind-numbingly dull. The demon bosses are crude in character and design, and few games have succeeded in making me cringe quite this much. Compulsory mini games, like end of level bosses, have been highlights of previous Suda 51 games, but here they are unwelcome distractions from a disappointing core. They may be visually and conceptually interesting, but in practice they do little more than frustrate.
It takes a lot for me to permanently shelve a game, especially if I have already invested a couple of hours into it. Fallout 3 is the perfect example of a shelving game. I tried it on the recommendation of others, but got so sick and tired of the glitches and repetition that I packed it in after five or six tortuous hours. I cut Mirror's Edge short as it wasn’t good enough to justify the motion sickness, despite my already being two thirds of the way into the game. I was nearing the end Gears of War 2 when I reached the limit of how much grey, brown and climbing-inside-of-massive-things I could stand, and stuck with Halo 3 long enough to say that the series is definitely not for me.
Final Fantasy X-2 was a huge blow at a time when I worshiped at the feet of Square, back in the days when the wait between FFs was truly excruciating. I'd had it pre-ordered for months, along with an expensive strategy guide, but that didn't stop me from throwing in the towel after a few of hours. I was disgusted that my favourite franchise had taken a turn for the Charlie’s Angels, and still refuse to give it a second chance. I lasted about five hours with XIII-2 last year, before remembering that I should never play a Final Fantasy with a -2 in the title. Demon's Souls and Dark Souls are unique in that they are repeat offenders, bouncing back from multiple shelvings only to be scrapped ever more furiously. The ritual of the shelving ritual has helped me maintain some sort of control over this troublesome twosome, making me feel like I'm in charge even when I know that they’ll just keep coming back, like the demons reborn that pester me between bonfires.
It’s highly unlikely that Lollipop Chainsaw will undergo any such resurrection. My disappointment was so complete that I thought my enthusiasm for Suda 51 would never be the same, that is until I saw the first trailer for his latest game, Killer is Dead. I can’t help but get excited for a mix of Killer 7 and No More Heroes, featuring the voice of Kazuma Kiryu! My short memory and inability to hold a grudge aside, Lollipop Chainsaw deserved its shelving and there’s little chance it will ever emerge from its plastic and plywood grave.