There are people out there who don’t really get video games. They have a very negative view based on the idea that gamers are all Gollum-like socially inadequate young men, obsessed with violence and with a very misogynist attitude to women. I am sure there are already many gamers, both male and female, reading this rolling their eyes and tutting that people could have such misconceptions. There are certainly many games out there that can be paraded in defence of our beloved consoles proving how wrong and out of touch such stereotypes are. However, if there was ever a game that you wouldn’t want to bring up in that debate it is Lollipop Chainsaw.
You play as Juliet Starling, a pneumatic bimbo-all-American-valley-girl-cheerleader. She has a skimpy croptop and miniskirt costume and loves shoes, shopping and her boyfriend Nick. But Juliet is not what she seems. No, our heroine is part of a zombie hunting family who have been defending the world from the undead hordes for generations.
Juliet is on her way to San Romero High School (nice zombie-lore name-check there) to meet Nick when the zombie apocalypse begins. Fortunately, Juliet has her trusty bejazzled chainsaw with her and before you know it she is determinedly hacking and slashing her way to make her date. The opening levels set the tongue in cheek tone nicely and also provide a crash course in zombie slicing that soon gets the player up to speed. By the time Juliet meets Nick you’ll be more than adept at lopping limbs and spilling the scarlet. Unfortunately, when she gets to Nick it’s too late, he’s already been bitten. Juliet does the only sensible thing and cuts off his uninfected head to keep it alive until a new body can be found. From this moment on Juliet wears her boyfriend’s head hanging bouncing on her arse from a hook on her belt. Nick isn’t just decoration though. Every now and then he can be attached to a headless zombie and used in a remote control styley to help Juliet out by smashing stuff up and opening up new areas.
It might be a zombie game but this isn’t about scares, instead it is played for cheap laughs all the way. Juliet and actually-headless Nick keep up their air-headed banter all the way and while it can become tiresome there are some genuinely laugh-out-loud moments too. The smut level is pretty high as well with Juliet’s sex-symbol design played to the maximum. ‘Can you please stop looking up my skirt?’ she pouts after flashing a screenful of gusset.
The game looks absolutely lovely with a glossy comic book feel. The levels are well designed, varied and fun. There are visits to the school, the baseball stadium, a ranch and a derelict cathedral to name just a few. Each one has its own selection of zombies that need to be dismembered. There are straightforward enemies that don’t take too much to get rid of, then there are more advanced ones with life bars that require more specific tactics to defeat. On top of that there are giant bosses waiting at the end of each level that really do take a lot of beating and have an annoying habit of pulling their severed limbs back together just when you think you’ve finally killed them. These are inventively surreal, the first is a giant heavy metal style Viking drummer who flies into battle in a huge longship, and they just get madder from there.
Combat is easy to master. Juliet can pummel her enemies with her pom-poms and carve them up with her chainsaw. Upgrades for combination attacks can be exchanged for the medals and stars she earns for each kill. It’s also Juliet’s birthday and her family turn up regularly to improve her arsenal with some cool new toys. The upgrades and extra moves are welcome but don’t massively alter the gameplay which means that things do sometimes get a bit repetitive. Fortunately the game designers have tackled this by including a range of mini-games within each level. These are varied in quality. One or two are a bit tedious but most are enjoyable distractions and a couple are absolutely inspired. A game at the stadium, for example, is based on baseball with Juliet pitching at zombies while Nick’s head tries to get his borrowed zombie body to complete home runs. Later, at the ranch, Juliet commandeers a combine harvester to mow down the undead hordes in droves.
The main game isn’t that massive but the levels are plenty of fun. At the end of each stage your performance is graded which makes having another go pretty tempting. You can always try out new power-ups and try to beat your last score. There’s plenty of collectible content as well. You can exchange your medals for new moves, health, strength etc as well as buying new skimpy outfits for Juliet to look pretty in. You can buy MP3 tracks to create your own custom soundtrack and collect lots of cool development art for your gallery. You can check out your collection by visiting Juliet’s room where you can also access her voice mail. At various points in the game Juliet’s phone rings but she’s usually too busy to answer it what with all the face-munching zombies to deal with. Well, if you feel the urge to find out who it was and what they wanted you can – not that it helps very much – if you’re lucky it might be a useful tactical tip from dad but it’s just as likely to be some vacuous drivel about shopping from her mum. Still, some of it is so daft it’s bound to raise a grin.
Lollipop Chainsaw certainly isn’t subtle and your girlfriend/wife/mum (insert significant female here) isn’t going to be impressed watching you play it. It doesn’t push any great gaming boundaries and gets repetitive in places. However, it is plenty of fun in a big silly grin sort of way and there’s more than enough in the mini games, collectibles and record score challenges to give it lots of replay value and make it well worth the fairly modest asking price.
Reviewed on PS3, Xbox 360