Starting up Lollipop Chainsaw, I’m greeted with erotic camera pans of Juliet Starling in bed. “Welcome to my bedroom! Don’t think any funny business is going to happen just because I invited you up here!” her voice-over tells me, as Juliet wakes up and the camera angles get even more suggestive. But don’t worry – it just so happens to be Juliet’s 18th birthday, so the casual shot up her skirt is A-OK! Also, Juliet loves lollipops, even though they make her “sooo FAT!”
Later in the game, I’m decapitating five zombies at once while the screen floods with sparkling rainbows. Toni Basil’s “Mickey!” blares in the background as I jump and kick a group of zombies, smashing them into the wall for another fireworks display. For a moment, Lollipop Chainsaw stops threatening to “shove a baseball bat up my ass” and turns into pure, sugar-coated fun. But only for a moment.
Lollipop Chainsaw is an unnecessary juxtaposition of silly fun and disgusting sexism. When not flying through the air and decapitating zombie hordes, Juliet is exposed to nasty insults I’ve never heard before. It’s like the team at Grasshopper dug through the absolute worst message board postings, mining for filthy word-nuggets to use in the game, and then discussed the pros and cons of each in a meeting titled “What Can We Threaten to Do to Juliet?”
It doesn’t help that the main protagonist is the least interesting character in Lollipop Chainsaw by a thin margin. Juliet is a stereotypical Barbie doll. Jokes go over her head, she’s loud and a bit annoying, and she doesn’t show any real emotion until the final scenes of the game. Thankfully, Juliet’s personality is somewhat salvaged during interactions with her boyfriend, Nick. Due to the sudden zombie apocalypse, Nick is now nothing but a severed head, forced to accompany Juliet throughout her adventure. Nick is the exact opposite of Juliet – he’s a bit pessimistic about the whole missing-a-body situation, would rather be stuffed in a mailbox, and responds with a curt “whatever” when Juliet tries to explain magic.
Once I muted the TV and turned off the subtitles, I was able to focus on the parts that make Lollipop Chainsaw so much fun. Juliet can straight-up bash zombies with her chainsaw, whittling down their health, or she can first stun enemies with pom-pon punches, allowing for one-hit decapitations. It starts out slow and repetitive, but gets exciting and varied once combo moves are introduced. Killing zombies boosts Juliet’s super meter, which, when activated, switches the music from generic pop rock to “Mickey” and turns all hits into sparkly decapitations. Fights in Lollipop Chainsaw are the videogame equivalent of rocking out in your car to Katy Perry’s “California Gurls” without a care in the world.
It all gets a bit messy once Juliet receives a gun attachment for her chainsaw, though. The gun has a tendency to auto-lock on the wrong targets, making segments that rely on the weapon frustrating. It’s a shame, because Juliet’s acrobatics and melee attacks are so spot-on, and I expected the gunplay to match.
Despite it’s frequent videogame equivalent of a sugar-high, Lollipop Chainsaw‘s brutal, sexist insults and imagery just as frequently manage to yank a player right out of that fun. I tried tuning it out, but the game insisted on shoving it down my throat. There’s a lot of fun to be had with Lollipop Chainsaw‘s combat, but many will have a hard time stomaching all the unnecessary filth that comes with it.
Review based on Xbox 360 release.