Lollipops and chainsaws don’t usually go well together; one brings up gleeful imageries of cute, childish things, while the other is a tool of destruction, gore and violence (I’ll let you figure out which one is which). This campy combination between the cute and the gory is exactly what makes Lollipop Chainsaw the weird and somewhat unique experience that it is, not to mention the fact that you play a blonde cheerleader with skimpy uniform who decapitates zombies using a massive pink chainsaw. Obviously, Lollipop Chainsaw isn’t a very serious game, nor should it be; however, that doesn’t mean the game evades some serious problems.

Juliet’s 18th birthday isn’t going all that great. Some lunatic has unleashed a curse on her high school, turning most of the students into shambling zombies and releasing powerful magical beings to terrorize the city. On top of that, her boyfriend Nick has been reduced to a talking head, dangling helplessly off her belt. Luckily for Juliet, she comes from a long line of professional zombie hunters, so with the help of her chainsaw, pom-poms and loving family she tries to restore order to the land. That’s really all there is to it; Lollipop Chainsaw’s story isn’t a lot more than an excuse for Juliet to run around in her cheerleader uniform and kill hundreds of zombies. It isn’t the story that makes the game interesting as much as it is the characters and their interaction with each other. Listening to Juliet trash-talking during a boss-fight or dropping an F bomb at inappropriate times, or seeing how Nick reacts to his new way of life is really entertaining, in an immature kind of way. Basically, it’s Lollipop Chainsaw’s setting, and not the plot, that does a lot to save the game from being another repetitive hack-and-slash.

The driving force behind Lollipop Chainsaw is the contrast between Juliet’s cute and lovable behavior, and the horrible reality of a zombie apocalypse. Seeing this young blonde swinging a pink chainsaw through a zombie’s cranium, while sparkles and rainbows fly everywhere, is probably one of the most bizarre and hilarious sights you’ll witness in a while. The whole game is built around this dichotomy in Juliet’s personality: on one side she acts like a love-struck teenager, talking about her and Nick’s future together and giggling quite a bit, while on the other she uses such foul language befitting a very disgruntled sailor.

To say Lollipop Chainsaw is a lewd game is a big understatement. As expected from a Suda 51 game, there are some very sexual themes and punk-rock subculture references strewn throughout it. It’s not rare for some random student that Juliet just rescued from being zombie chaw to comment about the size of her bosom, or going as far as to flat out say he is going to think of her while pleasuring himself later. This in-your-face dirty humor, combined with some very disturbing moments (like Juliet’s pole-dance of murder), is a make-or-break kinda deal: either you love it, or you can’t stand it.

Whereas the setting and style of the game are original and enjoyable, the same cannot be said about the gameplay. Lollipop Chainsaw can somehow make the action of decapitating zombies a chore, especially if the player is interested in accumulating as many points as possible. To earn points and currency, it’s not enough to simply kill zombies; they have to be killed simultaneously. There are a few ways to do that, but none are very exciting or fun, unless the player really enjoys racking up those points (and would like to see his name on the online leaderboards). The combat itself is quite derivative and repetitive, and lacks the depth of similar hack-and-slashers. Sure, Juliet can learn new, more powerful moves, but the truth is the combat boils down to mashing the face buttons until everything around is dead (well, dead-er). It’s a real shame that the gameplay can’t live up to the game’s unique premise.

Lollipop Chainsaw does try to spice things up a bit from time to time with assorted mini-games and activities. While not all of them are well thought out, there are more than a few moments that break the monotony of the combat. Be it driving a huge combine over a crop of zombies, getting sucked into an arcade machine or covering Nick while he attempts to complete a homerun on the school’s baseball field, these distractions are much more creative than the game’s core combat system, and are indeed more fun to play. Speaking of creativity, one of the best parts of Lollipop Chainsaw has to be the boss-fights. Well, not so such the fights as the bosses themselves. Each of the uber-zombies is based on a different genre of rock music, ranging from punk, to psychedelic and even black metal, which makes them look and act completely different. Each fight is based on the boss’ musical orientation and the specific level he is in, and while they are not so tough, they sure look really nice and inventive.

Even though the combat isn’t all that great, Lollipop Chainsaw still feels like an intense action title – mostly thanks to its amazing soundtrack. Each stage has its own playlist that really sets the right tune and pace, and even though there are quite a few genres influencing the game’s score, every song fits perfectly with the game’s wonderfully bizarre settings. Just like the game’s clashing moments of ghoulish violence and cutesy cheerleading, the soundtrack too suffers from split personality: Apart from the hard rock tunes that accompany Juliet’s journey of death and rainbows, there are also sugary pop melodies that brighten up any gloomy environment, and make the task of slicing up zombies much more tolerable and funny.

Lollipop Chainsaw is an original, if a bit unbalanced, experience for all those who can appreciate its campy over the top style and design, and the explicit and childish humor. Unfortunately, the game doesn’t really cut it as an action title. The combat is pretty shallow and repetitive, so if you are looking for the next Bayonetta, you are barking up the wrong tree. All in all, Lollipop Chainsaw is a fun hack-and-slasher that is worth playing if only for its great soundtrack and weird cast of characters. It may not be the great action game you were hoping for, but it sure is sweeter than any candy on a stick.


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