Zombies, ghouls and evil spell casters probably make you think of survival horror games, but Lollipop Chainsaw is different; quite different. You play as Juliet Starling, a sexy high school cheerleader running around in her skimpy cheerleading outfit, carrying a huge chainsaw in her gym bag! On her birthday, something happens at school and the students start turning into zombies.
The “why” is something you have to discover. After all, it’s not every day that you awaken to the growls and groans of mindless, bloodthirsty ghouls. Just as she enters the school gates, she is rushed by zombies, whom she manages to dispatch effortlessly, but her boyfriend, Nick, promptly gets bitten which. Naturally, Juliet cuts off his head, performs a magical ritual to keep the head alive and talking, and hangs him on her hips. As it turns out, Juliet’s family is in the business of Zombie hunting.
Your main weapons are your chainsaw and your pom-poms. Chainsaw attacks will slice and dice zombies, while the pom-poms serve to stun them, making them easier to decapitate. As you progress, your chainsaw will get upgrades like a rocket booster and a blaster. Chainsaws have two kinds of attacks – the normal attack and the low attack. The low attack chops off the legs, making it quite useful in situations where you are surrounded by a horde. The combos are not very fluid though and those expecting the Ninja Gaiden or God of War levels will find themselves staring at Juliet standing still for a second or so after she has finished her drill. This also makes it a little difficult when trying to pull off a combo and then dodge incoming attacks immediately after.
Decapitating zombies will earn you medals. Decapitating them in fun ways, like shoving the chainsaw up a zombie’s rear end and then cutting it in half will earn you even more medals. They can be used to purchase upgrades like more health, more strength, new combos and new costumes. Heck, you can even purchase new MP3s in case you get bored of the in-game music. As you kill, a power meter will fill up, which, on activation, will turn Juliet into a glowy-sparkly cheerleader and lets you kill zombies in one blow. It also has the unfortunate effect of turning on the special track “Hey, Mickey” by Lolly. Did I mention that Juliet eats lollipops to regain health?
The game makes heavy use of quick time events, but not in combat, thankfully. The QTEs are mainly to access new paths, get bonus medals and dodge projectiles like out of control buses, cars and even helicopters, since the drivers are either dead or zombified. Your chainsaw and blasters are used to open blocked paths. At designated places, a shop will appear, and at the end of each stage, you of course, have a boss. To be honest, the boss battles are one of the best I have ever seen. All the bosses are rock and roll super zombies. Imagine fighting a guitarist who throws speakers at you, or the Auto-Tune-loving vocalist who brings Pacman and other classic arcade games back to life. It’s good to see developers try new things.
You’re probably wondering what Nick the Headless is doing all this time? Mostly, he just whines about how this is the worst day of his life, the sheer insanity of charging into a crowd of zombies, and unsuccessfully trying to chase flies sitting on his nose. At points, there will be bodies of headless zombies lying around, and since Nick doesn’t have a body, it makes them perfect partners. Once Juliet attaches Nick’s head to a body, a QTE mini game will start, where you have to move the Nick-zombie hybrid to its destination while Juliet breaks into a cheer.
This gets old pretty fast as you have to go through the whole button mashing routine just to clear an obstacle. The whole gimmick feels like an afterthought. You can purchase Nick tickets in the shop, which allows you to perform special combos using Nick’s head. Juliet will shoot Nick’s head from her blaster or whirl around with the head to stun all zombies in range. Again, the usage is pretty limited as you need tickets to execute these combos and they really don’t do much damage, especially not against bosses.
The frequent loading screens are quite irritating, especially since they last a good 15-20 seconds. It doesn’t help loading screens have scrolling tips like, “Hey! Could you not look up my skirt, please!” There is no option to refocus the camera with a single button push, which makes things tight when you are fighting a whole bunch of zombies. The animations are strictly so-so, made even more unimpressive by the kind of visuals studios are throwing at us these days. The zombies are caricatures, which I think is intentional given the whacky setting of the whole game, but a little more variety in the design would have been nice because apart from the clothes, all the zombies end up looking more or less the same.
This game is definitely not for kids, as apart from the up-skirt and cleavage shots, the entire game is peppered with sexual innuendo and foul language. Juliet sounds like your clichéd high school girl, high pitched squeals et al. The squealing is funny at first, but you’ll soon wish you didn’t have to hear any more of it. The campaign lasts around 6-8 hours on normal difficulty. There’s an online leaderboard too, and every time you complete a chapter, you are scored on time taken, number of kills, number of medals, and number of retries. If you are the competitive type, you can replay a particular chapter in Ranking Mode to better your score. Once you finish the game, harder difficulties and more goodies are unlocked.
Lollipop Chainsaw starts off with bang a with its over-the-top action, rock ‘n’ roll music and the weirdness of everything around you, but apart from the boss fights, the game quickly becomes clichéd and boring, which will put off all but the hardcore Trophy hunters.