Imagine Buffy the Vampire Slayer crossed with Night of the Living Dead viewed through a Japanese absurdist lens. The result is Lollipop Chainsaw from the mad house that developed memorable action titles such as No More Heroes series (Wii, Xbox 360, PS3), Killer 7 (PS2/Gamecube), and Shadow of the Damned (Xbox 360, PS3). Tokyo-based Grasshopper Manufacture brings their bizarre sensibilities to the inflated zombie genre, though with unique results.
An ace script from James Gunn (writer of Dawn of the Dead remake, Slither, and the upcoming Marvel project Guardians of the Galaxy) elevates Lollipop Chainsaw above ordinary action games. Gunn’s wacky writing pairs well with the consummate madness of Lollipop Chainsaw’s action.
Tara Strong (Powerpuff Girls, Harley Quinn in Batman: Arkham City) does a standout job voicing Juliet Starling, the heroine of this comic tale. Michael Rosenbaum (Smallville) plays the severed head of Juliet’s boyfriend, and his constant quips steal the show. Lollipop Chainsaw excels in zany zombie slaying.Juliet’s zombie-slaying family includes two deranged sisters and her Elvis-impersonating, demon-slaying father. Although there is the danger that its zombie-theme is overdone, the array of characters and bosses in Lollipop Chainsaw is pleasantly vibrant and original.
The gameplay is typical hack-and-slash fun. You have a low and high chainsaw attack and a dedicated pom-pom bash. Zombies are a bit more stubborn to kill than you would expect in a game titled Lollipop Chainsaw. The gameplay hook is simple and addictive: a higher score and more experience points are awarded with simultaneous zombie kills. What this boils down to is beating up groups of zombies until near-death, then executing the score in one, stylish blow.
The flow of knocking around zombies, bodyslamming them, flipping over them, and ultimately beheading them is a joy to watch unfold. Certain stylish moves fill a special meter that unleashes your best, powered-up cheerleader maneuvers, which result in a limited time of instantly felling zombies to the zany loop of Toni Basil’s perennial cheerleader jingle, “Mickey.”
Jimmy Urine of the electro-punk band Mindless Self Indulgence worked on the music tracks that play as you battle the ridiculous and imaginative bosses, and also has a cameo as a boss. The graphics are a little underwhelming, though perfectly serviceable. Characters and bosses are well modeled, but environments are simplistic and serve mostly as hallways of enemies. Whereas the script and audio design are pitched very over the top, the graphics fall short comparatively and could have benefited from a more exaggerated art style.
This is a sometimes disappointingly barren game in terms of content, though its charms more than make up for a lack of modes. The narrative unfolds at a brisk pace, and this makes Lollipop Chainsaw a short game. Expect less than six hours for a first time play, even on Hard difficulty wracked with plenty of deaths. There are numerous outfits and moves to unlock, but the main mode on offer here is slim.
The narrative is as creative as it vulgar, sometimes jaw-droppingly so, and is packed with references to zombie movies and silly pop culture jokes. This title is strictly for mature gamers only, and it wears its “mature” rating with pride. Despite overt upskirt-shots, cleavage jokes, and other similar raunchy material, Lollipop Chainsaw has some thoughtful humor hidden within and some deceptively deep gameplay mechanics. Lollipop Chainsaw will win you over with its charms, its colorful writing, and its cast. There is no other game quite like it.